The biggest question West Virginia University fans are asking themselves as their beloved Mountaineers prepare to take on a heavily-favored Clemson team at 8 p.m. today in the Orange Bowl isn't whether WVU will win, but rather which WVU team will show up.
Let's face it, experts trying to analyze this year's team have had to step back on more than one occasion and scratch their heads in wonderment as they attempt to predict what Geno Smith and company are going to do on offense as well as how many points and yards Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 stack will allow in the contest.
On paper the Tigers present one of the stiffest tests the Mountaineers will have faced in Dana Holgorsen's first season as head coach.
But is the ACC champ better than the then-No. 2 LSU squad that came to Mountaineer Field and surrendered 533 yards of total offense (463 through the air) and 21 points?
"You know, I think we've played some pretty good defense as the year goes on this year," said receivers coach Shannon Dawson. "Their DBs are probably a little bigger than some of the guys we've played. I mean, probably a lot like LSU's were, bigger guys."
Then, there is the flip side to this coin-WVU's defense.
Looking at the numbers, the Tajh Boyd-led Clemson offense is far better than the Syracuse unit that put up 49 points and 408 yards of total offense against the Mountaineers and is also better than the Louisville squad that tallied 38 points to hand WVU its second Big East loss of the season. But it also pales in comparison to the LSU team that scored 47 points at Mountaineer Field.
Remember, this is the same defense that was supposed to be blown out when West Virginia took on then-No. 3 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and the Mountaineers ended up on the winning side of a 48-28 score thanks to a defense that limited the Sooners to 177 yards rushing while the Mountaineers' offense pounded their Big 12 opponent for 349 yards on the ground.
Casteel has shown time and time again that-given time-he and his staff are capable of coming up with a scheme that will give WVU a fighting chance to win in a major game like the Orange Bowl.
And this isn't Holgorsen's first time on the dance floor either. If he and his staff can find a away to keep Smith upright then his junior quarterback has enough weapons to cause any defense fits. Just ask Les Miles at LSU.
There is no proven method for picking winners and losers when it comes to the postseason bowls. The only time that I was able to correctly pick all 22 games in The News and Sentinel's poll was when my then-8-year old son C.J. helped me and his method was based on the team's colors and their mascots.
The realist in me says to go with the "experts" who say that Clemson has too many weapons on offense and that the Tigers' defense is the best the Mountaineers will see this season. But, whoever said I was a realist.
WVU 48, Clemson 35