The Rootability Index helps you, the uninvested neutral viewer, who to root for in bowl games. Tonight's fox of the hunt: The Orange Bowl, featuring Jon Gruden versus Mike Tirico in a Running Man-style fight to the death live on national television. Text 382 to our hotline if you want to see this instead of the game! Charges will apply, and they will bankrupt you.
ROOTABILITY FACTORS. Authorities regretfully inform you there are no easy villains in this game. Words of praise first for Dana Holgorsen, the coach who guided the Mountaineers to the Orange Bowl despite a series of factors we all seem to have forgotten about.
- That he was supposed to be interim this year, and was in the middle of a stormy tussle over that arrangement with Bill Stewart, the former head coach who leaked stories of Holgorsen's casino adventures to a local paper. When Stewart was outed as the source, Stewart was ousted, and Holgorsen left to keep a divided staff and team together.
- That he did this, and then went skydiving.
- That West Virginia is seventh in the nation in passing offense despite playing two lineman with severe cases of vertigo and having little in the way of rushing offense to keep defenses honest.
- The Mountaineers got to a BCS bowl game four short months after being down at the half to FCS Norfolk State, and generally looking like a distant coal slag fire smoldering in the hills of West Virginia.
Perhaps Holgorsen is more than a pretty face and a rocking skullet, but extend the same courtesies to Clemson's Dabo Swinney. Dabo did what you did a long time ago when you finally gave up and hired someone else to cut your hair, mow your grass, or do your taxes: he admitted defeat, and hired help. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris became the Gus Malzahn of Clemson, but remember that the talent scout who took the recent high school coach and elevated him to college OC was the Chizik of Clemson, and did what CEO coaches do in their finest hour. Dabo won the first two quarters of the ACC championship the minute he hired Morris, and may have placed a down payment on future titles by making him one of the highest paid offensive assistants in college football.
Both offenses are pretty much what you'd run in video game football. Holgorsen's pure Air Raid mixed with his own vertical passing attack, meaning it's like Mike Leach's scheme, but even more aggressive. ("Mom, we brought home a dog! We think it's part pit bull, but there may be some komodo dragon in there too AAAHHH MY FACE--") Geno Smith spends a lot of time running for his life, but he's done it well enough to get them this far.
Morris, meanwhile, is a Gus Malzahn disciple whose mutant single wing attack uses endless play-fakes and option looks out of spread sets. Tajh Boyd has been ridiculously efficient--their third and shorts are just sadistic to watch, but you as the viewer are on the right end of the evil. Everything is a play-fake, and everything is going to the best offensive freshman football player in the nation, Sammy Watkins, or to their superb tight end, Dwayne Allen.
Neither defense will do much, but if you are not used to this yet, you have not been watching football this bowl season.
As for the intangibles? West Virginia's mascot has a gun, but Clemson's is a narcotics-addled tiger. That's a push in our book. The uniforms are mutual eye-scorch, but if Clemson comes out in the Barney Purps, you have our permission to ignore everything we've said and go full Mountaineer. Clemson's famous alumni include the President of Hooters. West Virginia can claim Don Knotts, who was in The Incredible Mr. Limpet, The Andy Griffith Show, Cannonball Run 2, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and Three's Company.
LEAN: WEST VIRGINIA. Honestly, this was close until we got to Don Knotts' amazing resume of legendary films and television. Given the choice between two equally compelling teams with charm to spare, Barney Fife will have to settle the tie, preferably while bugging his eyes out and looking flustered at all the attention.