Clemson (8-4) is one of a few teams around
the nation that had high hopes heading into the 2006 season, but faltered late in the year. The Tigers rose to as high as No. 10 in the country before losing three of their last four and falling into the Music City Bowl where they will face Kentucky (7-5) on December 29th.
So what's been the problem with Clemson after they started 7-1? How about their rushing attack.
The team averaged only 156.8 yards on the ground in their last four games, which is more than 100 below what they had been averaging. The Tigers reached the end zone 31 times on the ground, but only four of them came in the team's final four games.
Two promising young running backs led Clemson on the ground, as sophomore James Davis and freshman C.J. Spiller combined for 2,048 yards and 27 touchdowns. The good news for Clemson? They are facing the worst rushing defense in the SEC this year, as Kentucky gave up 189 yards per game.
The defense has been the reason why Clemson is even in a bowl game, saving the Tigers from losing one or two more games. The group ranks 15th nationally in scoring defense and passing defense.
Kentucky has certainly much to celebrate, as they will be venturing to their first bowl game since 1999 when they played in the Music City Bowl and lost to Syracuse 20-13.
So the question becomes, how did the Wildcats get there this year? It's their offense; especially QB Andre Woodson. UK is putting up 26.6 points per game and 372.5 yards per game in offensive production. It was also an upset win against Georgia and reeling off four straight wins that got them to this point against Clemson.
Kentucky leads the SEC in passing at 274 yards per game and after committing 25 turnovers a year ago, the Wildcats only committed 15 in 2006. They've also created 28 turnovers on defense, which leads the conference, and the plus-13 turnover ratio is fifth in the nation.
One has to think that there will be some sort of conference pride on the line in this game, as there is anytime you put an ACC team on the same field with a team from the Southeastern Conference.
Clemson will try to win its fourth straight bowl game against the Wildcats.
Doug Kroll is an independent contributor to College Football Poll.com.