West Virginia University will play Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl. The game is set for 8:30 on the evening of Wednesday, January 4. The matchup hasn’t drawn much interest nationally. In fact, when the topic of the Orange Bowl comes up you are likely to see somebody roll their eyes, or shake their head, and lament the point that their may be other teams more worthy of a Bowl Championship Series berth than the pair of three-loss teams that are in the Orange Bowl.
Like it, or not, the BCS rules provide for the champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East to play in a BCS game. In the case of the ACC champion that bowl is designated as the Orange Bowl. The Big East has no bowl designated, so the Big East champion is put into the pool of eligible at large teams.
This year the Orange Bowl got the last pick of the BCS bowls to fill their at large berth and had no choice, but to take the Mountaineers. There was some discussion that the Sugar Bowl could take the Mountaineers based on their reputation of selling tickets. The Sugar Bowl, normally the home for the SEC champion, had two at large selections this year since the two teams in the national championship game are both from the SEC, and chose Michigan to face Virginia Tech.
Those choices caused some calamity among the talking heads. The selection of Virginia Tech, a two-time loser to Clemson last season, was widely criticized since picking the Hokies caused Kansas State and Boise State to miss out on a BCS game. Of course the thinking was that those schools were more deserving than Tech. Word is Tech was included because they travel well.
In any event, the selection of the Hokies deflected a lot of the usual scorn reserved for the Big East representative to the BCS party. So we have two three-loss teams in a BCS bowl, but this game could develop into a game with plenty of offensive fireworks. Going into the game quarterbacks Geno Smith of WVU and Clemson’s Taj Boyd will likely get top billing. Both put up gaudy numbers during the season. Boyd’s were good enough to receive the offensive player of the year award. Smith’s numbers are slightly better, but the Big East coaches chose Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead as their recipient of same award.
An interesting side note that WVU recruiting buffs will certainly recall is that Boyd was a WVU verbal commitment for several months leading up to the 2009 signing date. Sometime late in the process Boyd changed his mind about attending WVU. That is when former West Virginia assistant coach and current Marshall head coach, Doc Holiday, was able to pluck Smith out of Miramar High in Miami at virtually the last minute.
One thing that isn’t holding up well two weeks before the game is West Virginia’s reputation and a ticket buying well travelling fan base. West Virginia is responsible for selling 17,500 tickets and as of this week sales were pretty much stalled in the 6,500 range. Aside from the obvious economical circumstances, the mid-weeknight game hasn’t helped matters.
Another element muddying the water is the proliferation of third party ticket sellers like Stub Hub. The cheapest ticket available from WVU was a $99 nose bleed seat. Someone searching on line could get that seat for about half the price and a good seat for $100. So, WVU will likely have many more than 6,000 fans in attendance, but the athletic department will still be on the hook for unsold tickets.
WVU does not set the ticket prices; the Bowl does; yet the secondary market is flooded with cheaper tickets. This is something the bowls and schools need to figure out.