Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Orange Bowl keys
By Heather Dinich
Here are three keys for Clemson against West Virginia in tonight’s Discover Orange Bowl:
1. Pressure quarterback Geno Smith. West Virginia depends on its passing game, and whatever Clemson can do to disrupt that will be a difference in the game. Smith has only thrown seven interceptions this season, so he’s not mistake-prone, and he ranks seventh in the nation in passing average (331.5 yards/game) and ninth in total offense (326.58 ypg). Clemson ranks No. 38 in the country in pass defense and No. 64 in sacks.
2. Control the tempo. West Virginia has had 23 drives of 10 plays or more this season, marking the most since 2001. The difference is in the first downs, where the Mountaineers rank No. 30 in the country with 22.5 per game and are averaging 6.4 yards per play. The majority of their touchdowns (22) have come on first downs. They don’t need a lot of time to score in the spread offense, and running the ball isn’t a strength (3.8 yards per carry), but Clemson needs to control the tempo of the game and get the Mountaineers' offense off the field.
3. Field position. West Virginia is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to punt returns (No. 16) and kickoff returns (No. 26). Clemson must be leery of Tavon Austin, who had two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, and is No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yards. He has a single-season school record 2,294 yards and averages 191.2 yards per game. He is No. 5 in punt returns (14.1) and No. 18 in kickoff returns (26.5).