Orange Bowl

No. 1 Clemson to play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson holds a football as coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after Clemson defeated North Carolina 45-37 in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., early Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson holds a football as coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after Clemson defeated North Carolina 45-37 in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., early Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. AP

On Sunday, it was pizza.

Next course on the menu for Clemson: citrus.

No. 1 Clemson earned a date with No. 4 Oklahoma in the Dec. 31 Capital One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium by finishing the season as the nation’s only unbeaten team.

And thanks to an earlier promise made by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, the Tigers celebrated Sunday with a pizza party. An estimated 25,000 hungry Clemson fans showed up to Death Valley, devouring 2,500 pies.

“I know I open my mouth sometimes,” Swinney told the crowd, drawing laughter.

Clemson (13-0) landed the top perch in the final rankings by the College Football Playoff selection committee, not that there was any doubt about that — and little to no disagreement with any of their choices.

No. 2 Alabama will take on No. 3 Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in Dallas on New Year’s Eve. That winner will face the Orange Bowl winner in the National Championship on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Arizona

Clemson cemented the top spot Saturday with a win over North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game. It was the Tigers’ third victory this season over a top-10 opponent.

Oklahoma (11-1) will arrive in South Florida on a seven-game win streak.

“They’re probably playing the best football of any team in the country right now,” Swinney said.

Oddsmakers don’t disagree. The Sooners opened as a 2 1/2-point favorite.

But when the two teams last met, it wasn’t close. Clemson annihilated Oklahoma in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl 40-6. And the Tigers were without the services of quarterback Deshaun Watson for that game. Watson, considered a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, will be calling signals for the Tigers in the Orange Bowl.

“A team that beat us bad just a year ago,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Clemson, which goes into the Orange Bowl on a 16-game winning streak.

What’s more, Clemson has an affinity for the Orange Bowl. The Tigers won their only national title there in 1982, and they routed the University of Miami at Sun Life Stadium 58-0 earlier this season.

But Swinney said point spreads and history don’t matter, not at this stage of the season.

“These four teams are just splitting hairs,” Swinney said of any comparisons involving the four playoff finalists.

Alabama (12-1) is riding a 10-game winning streak.

Michigan State’s (12-1) only loss was by one point at Nebraska.

The Orange Bowl folks were pleased with the pairing they received. The Clemson-Oklahoma game was assigned a 4 p.m. kickoff, and the game is already sold out, as was announced previously.

Oklahoma, no strangers to South Florida, will be making its 20th appearance in the Orange Bowl.

“I don’t think there was a lot of drama compared to the past,” Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms said of the final selections. “But, in the end, we were very pleased. When we saw Clemson vs. Oklahoma, we were ecstatic about bringing two out-of-state teams to South Florida, with their history and tradition.”

Unlike Swinney, Poms wasn’t making any pizza promises.

But he said Clemson and Oklahoma fans probably won’t go hungry during their visit.

“We have a lot of oranges down here,” Poms said. “We’ve got Key lime pie. We have stone crabs.”

And to ring in the New Year, the Orange Bowl has the No. 1 college football team in the country.

“I think it’s going to be a great New Year’s Eve,” Poms said.

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