Posted by Chip Patterson
CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They maintain a balanced offensive attack. Before the ACC Championship Game, CBSSports.com's Travis Sawchik suggested that Clemson had strayed from a run/pass balance late in the regular season. He told me in the moments leading up to kickoff that if they brought that balance back against the Hokies, Clemson would win. The Tigers threw the ball 30 times and ran 45 times, led by Andre Ellington's 125 yard performance, and ran away in the second half of a 38-10 win. So heading into another primetime battle with a potent opponent, I'll piggy back Travis' key. Ellington will play a huge role in keeping West Virginia's defense honest. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 scheme has given quarterbacks as talented as Sam Bradford trouble in bowl games, and the best way to open up the passing attack is make them fear the run. With Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Dwayne Allen all healthy there should be opportunities for mismatches with the coverage. But you lessen the chances of getting those matchups if the opposition doesn't respect your ground game.
WEST VIRGINIA WILL WIN IF: The offensive line can protect Geno Smith from the Clemson pass rush. With leading rusher Dustin Garrison sidelined earlier this week with a knee injury, the Mountaineers will rely on the offensive line and backup running back Shawne Alston to keep Clemson's pass rush at bay. In the ACC Championship Game, the Tigers held All-ACC running back David Wilson to a season-low 32 yards on 11 carries. Once the Tigers had neutralized Wilson and forced the Hokies to become one-dimensional, defensive end Andre Branch explained it was time to "pin our ears back" and get after Logan Thomas. Branch, Brandon Thompson, and the rest of the Tigers' pass rush terrorized Thomas throughout the second half. The onus will be on the Mountaineers offensive line to give Smith enough time to check through his progressions and find a receiver in space. With Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Ivan McCartney on the outside Smith should be able to find an open man against a secondary that has given up at least seven combined touchdowns and at least 200 yards in their last three contests.
X-FACTOR: Dwayne Allen. Arguably West Virginia's worst loss this season came at the hands of Syracuse in a 49-23 blowout loss in the Carrier Dome. The Mountaineers defense was burned by all-conference tight end Nick Provo, who had a team-high six catches for 61 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Jeff Casteel's unit will see a similar threat to Provo in Clemson's all-conference tight end Dwayne Allen. At 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, the Mackey Award winner has used the time off to recover from a nagging toe injury that limited him late in the regular season. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris moves Allen around the formation, and he is one player the Mountaineers cannot lose track of anytime he is an eligible receiver.
For all the latest on Clemson and West Virginia up until kickoff, check out the Orange Bowl Pregame
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Keys to the Game: Orange Bowl
Posted on: January 3, 2012 10:49 am
Tags: ACC, Andre Branch, Andre Ellington, Big East, Brandon Thompson, Bruce Irvin, CBS Sports Orange Bowl, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Coty Sensabaugh, Dabo Swinney, Dana Holgorsen, DeAndre Hopkins, Devon Brown, Discover Orange Bowl, Dwayne Allen, Geno Smith, Ivan McCartney, Najee Good, Orange Bowl, Orange Bowl Keys, Orange Bowl Predictions, Orange Bowl Preview, Orange Bowl Projections, Sammy Watkins, Stedman Bailey, Tajh Boyd, Tavon Austin, Tyler Urban, West Virginia