Clemson Tigers (5-5, 3-4 ACC) at Virginia Cavaliers (5-5, 3-3 ACC)
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This should be called the "Bowl Bowl" - whoever wins is still in line for one, whoever loses is not. A loss for the home team would also eliminate their hopes at reaching the ACC Championship Game, which CU lost contention for weeks ago. Basically for both teams, this game can save or break what has already been a dissapointment for both programs.
One common theme for the game is that there are questions to be answered on both sidelines for next season. For UVA, Coach Al Groh is in his 8th season as the Cavs coach, and has a serious case of Tommy Bowden syndrome. He has not won the ACC as of yet, but he has had respectable seasons, and took his UVA teams to bowls in 5 of seven seasons to date. He was named ACC Coach of the year in 2002 and 2007, but his teams have done nothing to be remembered by and continuously lose when they really need to win. He will be the coach at Virginia next season, but I guarantee you, at 5-5 in year number 8, his days are very numbered.
On the Clemson sideline, there are two positions that are major question marks. Besides the obvious search for a head coach, the Tigers are also concerned about the make-up of next season's backfield on offense. James Davis will run out of eligibilty (no pun intended), and CJ Spiller is being woo'd right and left by the NFL scouts. The Tigers have two studs in waiting in freshmen Jamie Harper (saw some action this season) and Andre Ellington (red-shirt), but would really love to see Spiller's return. The Florida native would certainly be a legit Heisman candidate if he were to return for his senior season. Spiller said he would return if Dabo Swinney is named the permanent head-coach.
Swinney, who sits at 2-2 (all ACC games) as the interim head man for CU, has made it clear he wants this job badly. So for him, tomorrow is the Super Bowl. Swinney knows he would almost certainly have to beat Virginia (and South Carolina next weekend) to have any shot at being named the permanent coach. He is going up against a nation of fine young coaches, so the odds are aginst him. But a strong finish, complete with a bowl trip, would go a long way in his case for the job.
The game will take place in one of my favorite venues for college football: UVA's Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers have been playing ball here since 1931, but the remodel which was ready in time for the 2000 season kick-off really brought this stadium up to being a beauty. At a capacity of 61,000 fans, Scott Stadium is not the most intimidating structure in all of the land. But what it is is a well-proprtioned piece of architecture that is perfect in functionality and blends in seemlessly with the classical architecture of UVA's campus. The north end of the stadium is enclosed by a 20' tall pergola that reflects the Thomas Jefferson architecture of the campus.
As I mentioned the functionality of Scott stadium, there is not a bad seat in the house. The upper decks do not tower so high into the sky that your nose bleeds and you can't see the players (one complaint I have of our Death Valley). Rather, the seats in the upper deck are comfortably close to the action, and wrap three quarters around the field. The entire facility is nestled in the rolling hills in the all-American city of Charlottesville.
I think you get the point, I like UVA's home field. It is 20,000 or 30,000 folks short of some of the nation's biggest stadiums, but I have seen it rocking (most notably against FSU in 1995), and it is as picturesque as you will ever see. The jumbo-vision and locker-rooms can compare with any in the country. Now if the Hoos could just put a nationally ranked team in there...
Here are their national ranks coming into the match-up:
Total defense - CU 22nd, UVA 50th
Scoring defense - CU 16th, UVA 51th
Total offense (ouch!) - CU 71th, UVA 98th
Scoring offense (ouch!) - CU 59th, UVA 111th
Passing - Verrica UVA 15th, Harper CU 49th
Rushing - Peerman UVA 53rd (73.6 ypg, 7 tds), Davis CU 92nd (56.9 ypg, 8 tds), Spiller CU 98th (56.s ypg, 7tds)
Turnover Margin (ouch!) - UVA 80th, CU 97th
3rd down conversions (ouch!) - UVA 89th, CU 115th
Kickoff returns - Spiller CU 11th (28.7 avg), Minnifield UVA 59th(23.4 avg)
Field goals - Buckholtz CU 36th (12 of 14), Reyering UVA 85th (6 of 11)
After reviewing those rankings, it is easy to see why these are two mediocre football teams. They deserve the .500 records they have. But then again, there is ball to be played. Either team could win today, win next week against their hated rival, and then win a bowl to finish 8-5. Or either team can lose tomorrow, lose next week, and finish 5-7. Stay tuned....
My call: CU 30, UVA 26
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