What Happened: One of the biggest embarrassments in bowl game history, for starters. Already out of the game by halftime, the Clemson Tigers fell in a fashion never seen before in a BCS game, 70-33 to the West Virginia Mountaineers, in the Discover Orange Bowl. The Mountaineers, who had scored 75 points total in their previous three games, racked up nearly 600 offensive yards against Clemson’s historically porous defense in this one. WVU Quarterback Geno Smith tied a bowl record with six touchdown passes and the team also set a new record for points in a postseason game. Leading just 28-20 with five minutes to go in the first half, West Virginia delivered an early knockout blow, with three touchdowns to close out the period. Their first-half output alone eclipsed the total points scored in yesterday’s Sugar Bowl. Most damning for Clemson is that it could have been so much worse had their opponent not taken their foot off the gas by late in the third.
Who’s to Blame: Pretty much anyone associated with the Clemson football team, honestly. West Virginia was a good team this season, but not stellar by any stretch of the imagination — and surely not the worldbeaters we saw tonight. Head coach Dabo Swinney did not have his defense prepared for the speed at which the Mountaineers could score, and he still has yet to differentiate the offense. In this contest specifically, running back Andre Ellington was moving the ball very well (10 carries for 116 yards), but then everything switched gears to quarterback Tajh Boyd. Failing to connect with his receivers (star Sammy Watkins recorded just five catches for 66 yards and a score), the offense stalled, along with Clemson’s chances during the wild second quarter in which WVU scored 35 points.
It Was Over When: West Virginia scored their fifth touchdown of the second quarter with just four seconds left on the clock — a Shawne Alston scamper from the one-yard line. The 29-point lead was more than enough for West Virginia, who’d tack on another 14 to the deficit later on. Try as they might, College Gameday tried to drum up interest in a comeback at half, but to no avail.
Game Ball Goes To: The electrifying Geno Smith, the ringleader of a record-setting night for the West Virginia offense. Though he was truly playing at full speed for about three quarters, he still managed 401 yards and six touchdowns on 31 of 42 passing, with no turnovers. If he had an equal in this game however, consideration could also easily be given to his top target, Tavon Austin. The junior equaled his touchdown output from the first 12 games of the season, catching 11 passes for 117 yards. He’d also rush for another 46 yards.
Predictions Update: My loss dropping me to 4-4 on the postseason is irrelevant when considering the horrific consequences for the ACC. Now at 2-6 in bowl games, the conference is about as close to worst-case scenarios as you can get, with just one remaining game on the slate (Pittsburgh‘s trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl). In the Orange Bowl, not only did the league lose to arch rival in futility, the Big East, but they solidified sentiments that two ACC schools should not have been invited to BCS games. Similar to its East Coast brethren, the ACC battles a perception problem. It only changes as results do, and this wasn’t a great way to accomplish that.