Tigers in Sunshine State of mind

First-team ACC has Palmer, McDaniel, Spiller - though not as running back

pstrelow@thestate.comDecember 1, 2009 

CLEMSON - Win or lose Saturday in Tampa, No. 25 Clemson may well be spending a major holiday back in Florida.

Beat No. 12 Georgia Tech in the ACC championship, and the Tigers go to the BCS' Jan. 5 Orange Bowl in Miami.

But if the Tigers (8-4, 6-2 ACC) stumble to their second consecutive loss, odds favor them being skipped over by the ACC's next two bowl tie-ins.

There is sentiment that the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta will choose No. 11 Virginia Tech regardless of who loses the ACC title game.

Next in line is the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., which was believed to prefer North Carolina over a return trip by Clemson. But the Tar Heels (4-4) were upset by N.C. State and are unavailable to the Gator if the Tigers are an option because tie-ins must select a participant within one win of the top available team.

That would leave Miami and Boston College, both 5-3, as the other options.

And that's where things get interesting.

Miami is generally treated with reservation because of its traditionally low ticket sales. But bowl insiders said Monday they believe the Gator is seriously weighing taking the Hurricanes so long as West Virginia remains the attractive Big East opponent by beating Rutgers this weekend.

Gator president Rick Catlett would only say that Clemson, Miami and Boston College would be in the mix if the Tigers lose Saturday.

"The ACC side is a mess, that's my update," Catlett said with a laugh.

"A lot of times you don't want to take a championship game loser, but I think Clemson is different as it relates to fan travel."

Which is where West Virginia comes into the picture.

The Mountaineers' fervent traveling fan base would take care of the ticket sales concerns, and a Miami/West Virginia match-up is viewed as potentially better for grabbing TV ratings.

That would drop Clemson to the Dec. 27 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., the lowest it could fall in the ACC tie-in order per league rules. Northwestern and Wisconsin are the Big Ten opponents under consideration, with Northwestern expected to get the nod because Wisconsin has been to the Champs three of the past four years.

If Clemson reaches the Orange Bowl and Texas wins the Big 12 title, the Tigers' potential opponents figure to include Boise State, the Big East champion (Cincinnati or Pittsburgh) and possibly Iowa if the Fiesta takes TCU. If Texas loses the Big 12 title, the Longhorns could be be available to the Orange.

The list

Three Clemson players made first-team All-ACC - C.J. Spiller, senior tight end Michael Palmer and junior safety DeAndre McDaniel.

But Spiller, long viewed as a Heisman Trophy candidate, did not make first-team as a running back. He fell to second-team running back by being one vote (63 to 62) behind Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams. Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer was the leading vote-getter at running back.

Spiller, who has four kickoff return touchdowns this season, made the first team as a specialist, tying Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan for most voting points.

Four other Tigers made the second team: senior receiver Jacoby Ford, junior left tackle Chris Hairston, senior left guard Thomas Austin and senior end Ricky Sapp.

Five were honorable mention: senior corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor, junior defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins, sophomore linebacker Brandon Maye and freshman safety Rashard Hall.

Numbers game

Clemson is beating Georgia Tech in one category - ticket sales for the ACC championship.

The school has exceeded its initial allotment of 10,000, ticket manager Travis Furbee said, and has sold more than 11,000 through Monday.

Georgia Tech was within 500 of selling out its allotment as of Monday afternoon as well.

Extra points

Hairston said he expects to start at left tackle, with sophomore Landon Walker remaining at right tackle. Hairston moved to right tackle for the second half of these teams' previous meeting after Morgan, the front-runner for ACC defensive player of the year, tallied three first-half sacks with Cory Lambert at right tackle. ... Austin has accepted an invite to play in the East-West All-Star game, held Jan. 23 in Orlando. ... Rob Spence, fired as Clemson's offensive coordinator when Dabo Swinney took over as interim coach last year, was reportedly let go Monday as Syracuse's coordinator.

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