MORGANTOWN - When final exams are over this week and coaches return from recruiting, West Virginia's football team can dive head first into preparation for Clemson and the Jan. 4 Orange Bowl.
Needless to say, the Mountaineers will prepare for a Tigers team that began the season 8-0 and ended it with a 38-10 rout of Sugar Bowl-bound Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game.
When it comes time to actually play the game, though, WVU would probably prefer to face the Clemson bunch that in between that fast start and stunning finish went 1-3.
Dana Holgorsen was asked about the up and down nature of the Tigers last week and didn't flinch.
"Well, they didn't look too bad in their last game,'' the West Virginia coach said. "And they played a pretty good team.''
Indeed, No. 14 Clemson (10-3) played some good teams throughout the season and beat most of them. During that 8-0 start, the Tigers faced ranked teams three straight weeks at one point and beat then-No. 21 Auburn, 38-24; then-No. 11 Florida State, 35-30; and then-No. 11 Virginia Tech, 23-3.
Toss in three more wins the next three weeks over Boston College, Maryland and North Carolina and the Tigers were riding high, climbing to No. 6 in the Associated Press poll and entering the national championship discussion.
But then came the skid. Road losses to Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and South Carolina - by a combined score of 102-43 - were interrupted only by last-play, 31-28 home win over a so-so Wake Forest team.
The difference, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, was easy to pinpoint.
"The biggest thing for us was the first eight games of the year we had six total turnovers and were one of the least penalized teams in the country. And when you're talented [combined with few turnovers and penalties] you're going to give yourself a really good chance to win,'' Swinney said. "And then the last four games of our season we had 12 turnovers and we lost three of those games. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.''