Gator Bowl: Clemson (7-5) vs. Nebraska (8-4)

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
2:07
AM ET

Jan. 1, 1 p.m., CBS

Clemson take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: This decision didn't sit well with some folks in Tallahassee, but Clemson's fan base travels well, and the Tigers finished the season with three straight wins, including a big one over rival South Carolina in the season finale.

Clemson will have a partly new coaching staff on the sideline for this game, and coach Dabo Swinney could hire a defensive coordinator after it.

Defense wasn't Clemson's problem this season, and it will be key in this game. In the ACC, Nebraska's 36.2 points per game would look spectacular and lead the conference. In the gun-slinging Big 12, it's merely middle of the pack.

Clemson's secondary, led by safety Michael Hamlin, is tough to beat. But how it reacts to its first game without defensive coordinator and secondary coach Vic Koenning remains to be seen.

Clemson's top offensive players have been more noticeable in recent weeks and that's due in large part to the offensive line finally being healthy and coming together. Nebraska finished the season on a three-game winning streak in Bo Pelini's first season. The Huskers often beat themselves this season, as they have the worst turnover margin in the Big 12 (minus-10).


Nebraska take by Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin: A New Year's Day bowl game might have seemed unlikely for both teams after both were sitting at 3-3 at midseason.

But Bo Pelini and Dabo Swinney both have done nice jobs to help their teams finish strong. Pelini started his year with Nebraska this season and Swinney took over on an interim basis after Tommy Bowden was fired and has since been hired permanently.

The Cornhuskers closed quickly under Pelini, winning five of their last six games to help Nebraska surge at the end of the season. The biggest reason for their success was the heady play of underrated quarterback Joe Ganz, who directed an offense that ranked 14th in passing offense, 12th in total offense and 18th in scoring.

The Tigers will be making a record ninth appearance in Jacksonville and have an intriguing set of offensive weapons keyed by a strong 1-2 punch at tailback in James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Davis needs 112 yards to become Clemson's career rushing leader and Spiller needs 114 yards to earn the school's record in all-purpose yards.

Clemson's defense ranked ninth nationally in pass defense, 10th in scoring defense and 17th in total defense. But it is unknown how the Tigers will react after former coordinator Vic Koenning stepped down out after the season. And Nebraska's balanced offensive attack will challenge them, particularly if running back Roy Helu Jr. is prominently featured.

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