CLEMSON - There is a reason the ACC's top bowl tie-ins typically have treated the league championship game loser like a leper.
If Clemson isn't still feeling blue, it will be seeing plenty of it come the Dec. 27 Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.
Ticket sales for the Tigers and their opponent, Kentucky, paint the picture for why a team's momentum has climbed near the top of the list of a bowl's selection criteria.
In the week since the announced pairing, Clemson has sold 4,000 tickets - just more than half of its minimum 7,500 allotment per the ACC's contract with the Music City Bowl.
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Kentucky has sold close to 16,000, rifling through its initial allotment of 12,000 within one day. Those figures don't take into account the nearly 4,000 tickets the bowl sold in the four-day window before the selection was announced when media reports surfaced that the Wildcats were the likely choice.
Both totals are in the ballpark of what bowl officials expected.
"We knew some things would be factors that would merit keeping expectations reasonable," Music City Bowl president Scott Ramsey said Monday.
"In all due respect to Clemson, it's tough being in the ACC championship in Tampa, then turning around and expecting as many fans as normal to support you by going to a bowl game, especially after the added expense (of the ACC title trip)."
The Chick-fil-A, Gator and Champs Sports bowls all passed on the Tigers after their 39-33 loss to Georgia Tech in the Dec. 5 ACC championship, leaving the Music City Bowl to fulfill its contractual obligation as the safety net for the title-game loser.
Ramsey said the bowl figures to sell between 55,000 and 57,000 tickets to the game, which would trump last year's attendance despite the awkward date, on a Sunday two days after Christmas - another presumed reason for slow Clemson ticket sales. LP Field, home to the NFL's Tennessee Titans, seats roughly 64,000 excluding luxury suites.
The Music City Bowl generally has been held Dec. 30 or 31, but a clause in its eight-year television deal with ESPN permitted the bowl to move the date this year so it would be the only bowl shown in prime time on Dec. 27.
With many folks returning to work the next morning, Ramsey suggested that was a factor in the discrepancy in ticket sales between the schools; the Kentucky state line is a 30-minute drive north from the stadium.
Clemson also lost to rival USC to end the season on a two-game skid, but Ramsey doesn't believe that is as big a factor as one might think. The Tigers lost to USC in 2006 before playing in the Music City Bowl against Kentucky, and Clemson sold more than 10,000 tickets that year.
"We knew with the game date, there was limited probability of maximizing the fans that can come," Ramsey said. "But we're pretty pleased right now. Our local fans and Kentucky fans are really excited about seeing C.J. Spiller and the ACC's runner-up in this matchup."