WVU, Clemson take the long road

Andrea Adelson looks at the Mountaineers' and Tigers' journeys to the Orange Bowl.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- In the aftermath of a loss to USF in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last season, one player stood up in front of his teammates and spoke.

The room hushed.

DeAndre McDaniel, a senior, was done at Clemson, but he would never quit on the Tigers. He looked around the room. McDaniel saw heaps of talent, and knew with hard work, dedication and a renewed pride in leadership responsibilities, his teammates could go further than any Clemson team had in years.

"That speech motivated the team to really capitalize on the ability we have," safety Rashard Hall said. "Our mentality throughout the offseason was to get to a BCS bowl."

Clemson players began talking about making the BCS right after that game. They believed when nobody else did. And really, nobody did -- Clemson began the year unranked and unloved. Florida State was the popular choice to come out of the Atlantic Division. Clemson was picked second.

A hot start made believers out of many. But Clemson slipped. So did West Virginia, the preseason pick in the Big East. The truth is, nobody knew until the last week of the season that West Virginia and Clemson would indeed make it to the BCS and face each other in the Discover Orange Bowl tonight. So you could say they are the surprise conference reps of the 2011 season, two teams that lost their way before finding themselves when it mattered most.

Read Andrea's full story here.