Scouting the Tigers: Clemson seeks first BCS win with 2014 Orange Bowl

The Clemson Tigers enter Friday night’s 2014 Discover Orange Bowl with an overall mark of 10-2 and finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division with a 7-1 record in league play.

Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson Tigers drops back to pass during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson Tigers drops back to pass during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Tigers are led by head coach Dabo Swinney, who’s in his fifth full season and is 50-23 overall. He has guided Clemson to its only two BCS bowl appearances in school history, the Orange Bowl in 2012 and 2014.

After spending three seasons as a walk-on wide receiver at Alabama, Swinney spent the next two years in Tuscaloosa as a graduate assistant for the Crimson Tide. Swinney was eventually hired full-time by then-head coach Mike DuBose to coach Alabama’s wide receivers from 1996-2000.

But after DuBose was let go by Alabama after the 2000 season, Swinney was out of coaching for the next two years while working in real estate. In 2003, Swinney was hired by Clemson head coach Terry Bowden to be his wide receivers coach.

In five-plus seasons as the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Clemson, Swinney was named interim head coach after Bowden resigned six games into the 2008 campaign on Oct. 28, 2008.

With no head coaching or coordinator experience before, Swinney guided to Tigers to a 4-2 record in the final six regular season games to become bowl-eligible and was rewarded the job full-time with a five-year contract agreement.

In his first full season at the helm, Clemson was 9-5 overall, losing to Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship game but defeated Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. In 2010, the Tigers were just 6-7 and lost to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Since 2011, though, Clemson has won at least 10 games with one ACC title.

As for the Tigers first appearance in the Orange Bowl, Clemson lost in epic fashion to West Virginia 70-33. In that game, nine different bowl records were either tied or broken. For the Mountaineers, quarterback Geno Smith tied the record for any bowl game with six touchdown passes, wide receiver Tavon Austin tied a record for any bowl game with four touchdown catches, and West Virginia set a bowl scoring record.

This season, the Tigers rattled off six-straight wins to start the campaign before losing big to then-No. 5 Florida State 51-14, and concluded the regular season with a 31-17 loss to South Carolina.

Through 12 games in 2013, Clemson is eighth in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in scoring offense (40.2 ppg), 11th in total offense (502.0 ypg), 60th in rushing offense (172.7 ypg), and 11th in passing offense (329.3 ypg).

Senior quarterback Tajh Boyd has completed 252-of-373 (67.6%) of his passes for 3,473 yards with 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Boyd’s favorite target is junior wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who has 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 TDs. Junior Martavis Bryant is second in receiving with 39 catches for 800 yards and five scores.

Toting the rock, senior running back Roderick McDowell leads the team in rushing with 956 yards on 177 carries and five touchdowns. Boyd is second with 273 yards in 134 attempts and nine TDs.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Tigers are 17th in FBS in scoring defense (21.1 ppg), 22nd in total defense (350.8 ypg), 50th in rushing defense (152.6 ypg), and 17th in pass defense (198.3 ypg).

Junior linebacker Stephone Anthony leads the team with 120 total tackles. Junior defensive end Vic Beasley tops the roster with 12 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Junior defensive back Bashaud Breeland is the Tigers’ best cover corner with four interceptions and 13 pass breakups.