MIAMI(WCIV) - Clemson is set to take on Ohio State in the Orange BowlFriday night in a stadium that Tigers fans remember all too well.
The Sun Life Stadium is theplace where Clemson has won its only national title in 1981. But it's also hometo a bit of history that does not shine nearly as bright. Just two years ago,Clemson was blasted by West Virginia, 70-33, a score that makes Tigers cringe.The memory is still fresh for many Tigers fans and they are looking to put itaway Friday night.
"We got to move on, can't dwellon the past. We have in the back of our minds that we have something to prove,"said Clemson defensive back Robert Smith. "We've had 31 wins since then. Wedeserve to be there."
Of course, the history between Ohio Stateand Clemson dates back to the 1978 Gator Bowl. That was Danny Ford's first gameas Clemson's head coach and the final game for legendary Ohio Statehead coach Woody Hayes.
Clemson won that game 17-15,but it may be better known as the game Hayes punched Charlie Bauman.
Clemson comes into this year'sOrange Bowl at No. 12 in the country. They are 10-2, and their two losses arebad ones to South Carolina and Florida State.
OhioState was on the fast track to thenational title game before being tripped up by Michigan Statein the Big 10 title game.
Both teams have been in Miami for a weekpracticing for this year's Orange Bowl showdown. So much will be talked aboutwith this quarterback matchup, too. Clemson's Tajh Boyd is arguably the best toever suit up for the Tigers. He runs, throws, leads and wins.
But Ohio Statehas a pretty good quarterback in junior Braxton Miller. He's very similar toBoyd and can rack up a lot of yardage. He averaged almost 300 yards per game inBig 10 play.
"Going into the season, wewere tow of 10 or 11 teams that could be in Pasadena," said Clemson's chief, DaboSwinney
"To get there, we need towin this type of game. I'm asked about the season; it's part of the season.We're 12-1. 12-2 is different than 13-1. Winning a BCS bowl is big," said OSUhead ball coach Urban Meyer.
For the Tigers, it's been aseason of ups and downs. One man who has been along for the ride since the verybeginning is Post and Courier Clemson beat writer Aaron Brenner.
The season started with a bangon national TV. The whole country watched in primetime as two title contendersand geographic rivals, Clemson and Georgia, faced off. The Tigers prevailed,38-25.
"It was a huge openingstatement. They did outlast UGA at that time, a full strength team. They hadn'tunraveled like they did on the injury front, the way that Tajh performed inthat moment showed he's a top short yardage quarterback," Brenner said.
The Tigers rolled through South Carolina State, North CarolinaState, Wake Forest,before coming up against their next big opponent - Syracuse.
"There was all the hype for Syracuse. It was thefirst ACC game, really loud in there. Clemson came out and smoked them. Theyplayed very much like the No. 3 team in the country should on the road in thatenvironment," Brenner said. "At that time everyone was thinking, 'CouldPasadena be in the Tigers' sight?'"
They had the game of the yearto start the season. But the 6-0 Tigers took on Florida Statein the Valley, a game that could have been the game of the century.
"I don't want to say they werescared, but they weren't ready for the moment. FSU came out with a swaggerabout them. They came out, ignored the rock and the pageantry," Brenner said.
And the Noles dealt somedamage, downing the Tigers 51-14. The Tigers were hurt and their homes anddreams took a beating.
"I do think the air was let outof the team, especially heading into the Marylandgame because they did have dreams of Pasadena,"he said.
There was a fork in the roadfor Clemson. With Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia Tech on the horizon,they had to decide what team they would be. They chose victory.
"The next three after FSU, theyaveraged 50 points. In the Marylandgame, they had 40 on the road," Brenner said.
The season was looking eerilysimilar to one in the past. The Citadel game was a given, but the Gamecockswere looking. They had four straight rivalry losses coming into the USC game -and five going out.
"You can't fumble the ball sixtimes and not get one take-away yourself and expect to beat anyone," Brennersaid of the USC game.
That left Clemson at 10-2, notexactly where they wanted to be. Sure, Miami isn'ta bad place, but it's not Pasadena.