Clemson University

Tigers look to close on high note

Sometimes Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker thinks about what might have been had the Tigers held on and beaten Auburn when they had the now-No. 1 team down back in September.

“It would have been a lot different. Who knows if we’d beaten them if they’d be where they are and we’d be where we are,” Parker said.

While Auburn preps for its national championship game, Clemson faces South Florida today at noon in the Meineke Car Care Bowl at Bank of America Stadium, intent to putting a happy ending on an inconsistent season.

The Tigers are 6-6, and there’s an undeniable level of frustration among many fans and a sense that next year can’t arrive soon enough.

“We haven’t had the season we’ve wanted, but it doesn’t have to end badly,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s all we can control and make the best of it.”

Swinney can tick off the negatives: Costly turnovers in a loss to Miami. Penalties in a loss to North Carolina. A 57 percent conversion rate on field goal attempts.

But he also can point to good things, particularly a defense that ranks ninth nationally in points allowed (17.8) and 23{+r}{+d} in total defense (323.8 yards per game).

South Florida (7-5) isn’t much different than the Tigers. They’re a win away from playing in a BCS bowl but like Clemson, the Bulls’ aggressive defense wasn’t always enough to make up for an offense that ran hot and cold.

South Florida coach Skip Holtz was playing coy Thursday when asked if he had picked a starting quarterback. Holtz said he expects sophomore B.J. Daniels and freshman Bobby Eveld to play but said he wouldn’t tell the players who was starting until closer to game time.

In 2005, South Florida played its first-ever bowl here, losing a tight game against N.C. State 14-0. Since then, the Bulls have been in a bowl every season as they have continued to build their national profile.

“Bowl wins do a lot for you,” Holtz said. “They allow you to finish on a positive note and you have eight months to live with that good feeling.

“For us, the opportunity to beat a team like Clemson would be huge. It would do as much for our outside reputation as it would for our inside reputation.”

Whichever team wins, it likely will do it with defense. Anyone headed to Bank of America Stadium anticipating an offensive show is likely to be disappointed.

“It’s going to be a defensive game,” Swinney said. “If you play to your defense’s strength, it’s all about field position. Points will be at a premium.”

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