Four skydivers landed onto the field, No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma ran out through flame and fireworks, and the Capital One Orange Bowl — a College Football Playoff semifinal this season — was under way.
Before the 67,615 in attendance charged into Sun Life Stadium — those supporting Oklahoma chanting “Boomer Sooner” and Clemson fans doing their spell-out of “Clemson Tigers” — they enjoyed the four-hour Fan Fest in the south parking lot headlined by American Idol winner Phillip Phillips. At halftime, it was rock legend John Fogerty providing the entertainment.
The presumption that it would be a Clemson-heavy crowd proved to be correct when fans took their seats as the Tigers orange outnumbered Sooners crimson by about a 4-to-1 ratio at the rarely-seen-full stadium in Miami Gardens.
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It was a sharp contrast of the last time the college football team that plays its home games in Sun Life Stadium won a national championship — the Rose Bowl following the 2001 season when Nebraska’s scarlet outdid UM’s orange significantly as the Hurricanes won their fifth national championship.
Fans on both sides voiced their excitement and confidence before the game.
“This is the best game of the bowl season — Oklahoma-Clemson,” said Clemson graduate Josh Osborn, who is from New York. “High-scoring game, amazing quarterbacks. You can’t miss this game. Alabama-Michigan State — no one wants to see that.”
Kyle Roosen, a Clemson grad from Jacksonville, expressed the backing of his prediction, which came true in a 37-17 Tigers win.
“We’re the No. 1 team in the country, playing against a team that lost to Texas. We beat everybody that we could play,” Roosen said.
Oklahoma fan Brent Learned predictably went the other way with his pregame pick. His line of thinking: Baylor, which Oklahoma beat in Big 12 play in the regular season, handled North Carolina 49-38 in the Russell Athletic Bowl while UNC gave Clemson a good game in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.
“Same thing that Baylor did to North Carolina, OU’s going to do to Clemson,” Learned said.
Learned, an artist of Native American motif in Oklahoma City who attended Kansas but describes himself as “an OU fan by heart,” was buying tickets to the Orange Bowl regardless of the teams involved as he has been to multiple previous matchups — ironically none of the Sooners BCS National Championship trips to South Florida in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
When he found out his Sooners would be in the game?
“It was a bonus,” he said.
One fan bravely wore a Texas Longhorns jersey to the Orange Bowl to watch their rival Sooners play. The oddity in that: He had no idea of the blasphemy he was committing.
Ben Duncanson is an Australian touring the United States. He started in Denver and Los Angeles and spent four days in Texas on his way down to Miami. While in Texas, he passed by UT’s Austin campus and bought a jersey.
While on his trip, he simply wanted to attend a football game. Upon finding no NFL game would coincide with his stops, he decided to attend college football’s semifinal in Miami.
“I didn’t realize it before I wore the shirt here, but I got told straight away,” Duncanson said. “I got asked what bowl I’m playing in [Texas, at 5-7, didn’t make a bowl game]. All I could answer was ‘the Australian Bowl,’ which they’ve never heard of, understandably.”
Michigan State garb was seen more than once with Spartans fans apparently so confident they’ll advance against Alabama in the other semifinal that they decided they would scope out the competition for the championship.
There were a few University of Miami fan sightings. They were in for a little bit of a better game than the 58-0 beating their Hurricanes took last time they watched Clemson at Sun Life Stadium on Oct. 24.