Start with lofty expectations. Add a congenial head coach with a fabled last-name; stir. Next, try a dash of success, but be sure not to leave out the double-dose of bitters. Mix, then combine with a crop of exceptional and underachieving talent. If you’re feeling a little frisky, you can even add a pinch of ill-timed reefer (and of course bake for 30 minutes). Your concoction should now resemble the 2006 Clemson Tigers.
If Kentucky greatly exceeded expectations, Clemson’s season has been a polar opposite. The Tiger’s played much of the season with a cleat in the door of the BCS, and looked like a lock to win a puny ACC Championship. Alas, Clemson dropped 3 of their last 4 games, dealing a devastating blow to a squad talented enough for a bowl of more grandeur. Nevertheless, Clemson has a game to play Friday, and they pack some serious punch. The Tigers will undoubtedly hit Kentucky with a heavy dose of running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller. The two combined to average a league-leading 225 yards on the lawn, with Davis’s bruising approach serving as a perfect compliment to Spiller’s track-star speed. QB Will Procter was relegated to clipboard duty his first three seasons at Clemson, and finally got the nod for his senior campaign. Proctor was ok–effectively managing a few of Clemson’s big wins by doing just enough to keep the opposing defenses guessing, and showcasing a pretty live rifle. However, Proctor showed a penchant for the INT, and the jury is still out on whether he is capable of taking over a game. WR Chansi Stuckey has been keyed on by D-coordinators all season and has seen his numbers steadily drop, but this is a guy who can still burn the best of them…if you don’t count Karl Booker. Proctor’s job was not made any easier, when starting TE Thomas Hunter broke his foot in preparation for the bowl game. Keeping Clemson’s stud running backs well-rested, is a defense that ranked third in the ACC. Flanked by all-american DE Gaines Adams who fought through double teams adequate enough to tally 11 sacks, the Clemson D resembles that of a high-level SEC team: speed and more speed.