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Monday Notes: Headed to Miami

Heading into Saturday I'm not sure I would've been surprised by a final score of 38-10. I just didn't think it would be the Tigers that would be winning in a blowout. Clemson saved it's best half of football for last, dominating the last two quarters of the game to secure their first ACC title in 20 years. Putting up 28 points in a second half is nothing new for this squad (although it is for the last month of the season), but the fact that the defense held the Hokie offense to zero points is pretty astounding. The only way Clemson was winning this game was if the defense put in its best performance of the season, and Clemson didn't turn the ball over. We got both of those. And because of that, Clemson is headed to the Orange Bowl. That feels damn good to say doesn't it?

This win is huge. It's huge for recruiting, it's huge for the fanbase, and it's huge for a program that has constantly been labeled as chronic underachievers. To do it in such dominating fashion, amassing 457 total yards against a Bud Foster defense, and forcing three turnovers on a VT offense that had been rolling all season is quite impressive. What's most impressive is the fact that Clemson held arguably the best running back in the conference to just 32 yards. This defense has gotten it's fair share of criticism from us (and rightly so), for not having any success stopping the run, so hats off to Kevin Steele and his squad for dominating on that side of the ball all night. Their performance was critical, and a large part of why Clemson is headed south in January for a big BCS game.

An embattled Clemson defense got one thing right this season — it figured out the Virginia Tech offense. Not once, but twice. Clemson slowed arguably the ACC’s most dangerous backfield for a second time this season in a 38-10 victory Saturday in the ACC championship game. Virginia Tech entered averaging 199 rushing yards per game. The Hokies ran for 52 yards Saturday night. Clemson became the first ACC team to beat Virginia Tech twice in the same season.

The turnaround following drubbings by NC State and South Carolina was impressive. Clemson had been dominated through most of November, and finally did their own drubbing on Saturday night. A loss would have been catastrophic and Clemson would've finished the season 9-4 after starting 8-0. This team kicked it into high gear on Saturday and deserve this title. Saturday night was the team that was on display the first eight games of the season, the team we had been waiting to see for a month.

So what does all this mean? Clemson is headed to its biggest bowl game in a long long time. The Orange Bowl is a top five bowl, and Clemson will face the Mountaineers of West Virginia, who won a share of the Big East and got the nod. The Skullet's team is fun to watch and they can put up points in a hurry. This could certainly be a shootout if the Clemson offense plays like it did on Saturday.

For a pair of schools with rich tradition and separated by only about 500 miles, they have hardly any history against one another. West Virginia and Clemson have met only once previously, a 27-7 Tigers win in the 1989 Gator Bowl. Chester McGlockton -- the former Pro Bowler who died suddenly last week -- sealed the Tigers' win midway through the fourth quarter of that game 22 years ago by knocking the ball from Mountaineers quarterback Major Harris and falling on it in the end zone for a touchdown. "We look forward to getting back together down there in Miami," Swinney said.

In just under a month, the Orange Bowl will be played. Bowl games are always sort of difficult to get a read on. Some coaches are better at getting their players focused and prepared through the distractions of New Year's and the Holidays. Dabo is 1-2 in bowl games, having won the Music City Bowl and lost both the Car Care and Gator bowls. Perhaps there was a motivation factor involved in those games. There shouldn't be for this game. This is Clemson's biggest postseason game since they were here in 1989. Dana Holgorsen is a bit of an unknown at this point, being in just his first season at the helm in Morgantown. We know his offenses can put up points. They did at Oklahoma State where he was the Offensive Coordinator and they have at West Virginia in his first season there.

This game should be well-attended. Both schools travel very well and this is the biggest bowl for both schools in a while. The next three weeks for Dabo and this squad are going to be important. To finish the season 11-3 with an ACC title and Orange Bowl win would be a damn good season for this program. A January bowl in Miami? Sure has a nice ring to it doesn't it.

Clemson Arrives Back from ACC Championship (via ClemsonAthletics)