The Clemson Tigers erased a mostly futile second half of the season by beating Virginia Tech for the second time this year in the SEC Championship Game to earn a trip to the Orange Bowl, while West Virginia did what it had to do by winning its last three games following a loss to Louisville, thus earning this spot by finishing as the highest ranked Big East team in the final BCS Standings, which turned out to be the tiebreaker in a three-way tie.
That being said, the Mountaineers lost both of their games this season vs. teams in the Sagarin Top 30, while Clemson went 3-1 vs. those said teams. Clemson is the (-3½) favorite here with the total set at 60.
ODDS: OPEN: CLEMSON -3.5 | CURRENT: CLEMSON -3 | O/U: 61
1. Why Clemson will cover the spread: Clemson will cover this spread if they can outrush West Virginia. The Tigers outrushed their opponents in only seven of their 13 games this year, but they were a perfect 7-0 straight up in those games as opposed to going 3-3 when getting outrushed! Clemson went off for 217 rushing yards vs. a normally good Hokies’ run defense in the ACC Championship Game, and we like the Tigers’ chances of winning the rushing battle here as they are averaging 156.8 rushing yards on 4.1 yards per carry this year, compared to 117.8 rushing yards per game on just 3.8 yards per carry by West Virginia.
2. Why West Virginia will cover the spread: West Virginia will cover this spread if quarterback Geno Smith continues his fine season in his first year in the Dana Holgorsen West Coast offense and takes advantage of every opportunity. Smith threw for almost 4000 yards while averaging 8.24 yards per attempt with 25 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions, and the Mountaineers may have to strike quickly to score, as we see Clemson using its running game like a defense by shortening the game and limiting West Virginia’s possessions.
A second key for a West Virginia cover would be to counteract that Tigers’ strategy by containing the Clemson running game and forcing some three-and-outs.
3. Total Talk: This is an interesting game of cat-and-mouse, but this total is posted high enough to where we do like the ‘under’. We do not think that the Virginia Tech game was a total fluke, and we think that Clemson will achieve its goal here of controlling Time of Possession, especially since the Clemson defense can key on the pass as the Mountaineers have a questionable running game that is not even totally reliable on third and short situations to extend drives.
Now Smith is a great fit for his offensive scheme, but if he doesn’t get some help from the running game, West Virginia may not score as many points as usual given its expected limited opportunities.
4. Betting Trends for the game: Big East Bowl underdogs are just 10-14 ATS since the 2000 Bowl season, and West Virginia itself is 1-4 ATS in its last five bowl appearances. Clemson is 7-3 ATS in it last 10 games after winning its last game by more than 20 points, as well as 4-1 ATS in its last five games after rushing for more than 200 yards in its previous game.
5. WVU-Clemson Orange Bowl Prediction: Clemson 31 – West Virginia 24
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