The Sweep

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Underappreciated Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz will have a chance to shine on a national stage against Clemson.
Josh Wolfe/Icon SMI

Clemson (7-5) vs. Nebraska (8-4)
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, CBS


Reason To Watch: A singular sense of nostalgia, maybe? The only other time these two teams met, in the 1982 Orange Bowl, the Tigers and wideout Perry Tuttle won their sole national title (and earned their lone SI cover in the process). And if it's a unique Gator Bowl remembrance you're looking for, well, this was the game in January 1978 in which Ohio State coach Woody Hayes punched Clemson middle guard Charlie Bauman, thus ending the coach's long and storied career.

Besides that, however, there's a very real chance that an offensive shootout could be ... how do you say? ... in the offing. Bo Pelini's first year as the Nebraska head coach was supposed to mark the return of solid defense to Lincoln. But while the Huskers' D has been better than in the recent past, the fact remains that the unit gave up more than 30 points in six of its last nine games, ranked 65th overall in Division I-A and 84th in scoring.

This year's Blackshirts, in other words, are a bit worn and raggedy, while the Clemson offense, though inconsistent, is full of playmakers. Quarterback Cullen Harper leads the ACC's best passing offense, keyed by wideout Aaron Kelly. And running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller form a potent backfield tandem.

While Clemson's defense ranks 10th in the country in scoring, the Tigers really haven't faced an attack as prolific as Nebraska's. The Cornhuskers scored more than 36 points per game in 2008 primarily because quarterback Joe Ganz was one of the most underrated passers in the country, throwing for more than 3,300 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Add to all this the fact that both teams come into this game playing some of their best football of the season. The Tigers won four of their last five games, the Huskers, five of their last six. With all the yards that are likely to be rolled up in this one, the outcome of this year's Gator Bowl might come down to who gets tired first.

Keep An Eye On: Clemson safeties Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons. The duo combined for eight interceptions this season, and they lead one of the stronger secondaries in the ACC. Along with cornerbacks Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler (who merely combined for seven picks themselves), this group will be tested by Ganz and the Cornhuskers' wideouts. Clemson's D has faced some tough running attacks this year -- playing both Alabama and Georgia Tech -- but the Tigers haven't faced anything close to the passing game of Nebraska.

Ganz is extremely accurate, completing 69.3 percent of his passes in 2008. If the Tigers are unable to get pressure on him, it's going to be a real struggle to keep him from picking the secondary apart. That puts the onus squarely on the shoulders of Hamlin, Clemons & Co.

Did You Know?: Both teams are .500 in bowl games. Clemson is 15-15, while Nebraska is 22-22.

Final Analysis: This is a game between two flawed teams. Clemson, however, which only went 5-5 against opponents from Division I-A, would seem to be the more unsound of the two. In addition, the Tigers will be missing defensive end Ricky Sapp, who has a team-high 10 tackles for loss. If they try to blitz to make up for his absence, Ganz could have a field day. The pressure will be on the Clemson secondary to hold him in check. I think that may be too much to ask.

The Pick: Nebraska 34, Clemson 20

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