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The ghosts, turnovers of Orange Bowl past still haunt Clemson

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney speaks in the final press conference before Friday night's Orange Bowl. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney speaks in the final press conference before Friday night's Orange Bowl.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney just can't escape the questions about the Tigers' last appearance in the Orange Bowl.

Two years ago, the Tigers lost to then-Big East team West Virginia in one of the most lopsided victories in BCS history. 

It's clear the 70-33 loss still hangs in the memories of Swinney as he takes his squad back to Miami for the match up against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

"But as far as that game, I mean, the biggest thing, if we could take care of the ball, that's the one thing you'd change," said Swinney. "If I could have ol' [Andre] Ellington, if I could get him back from the [Arizona] Cardinals and have him squeeze that ball in for about six more inches and not have that ball go 100 yards the other way, and just do a little better job of taking care of it, I think maybe – although we couldn't really stop them, I think it would have been a little different type of game."

In all, the Tigers totaled four turnovers in the loss that left a black eye on the program for eight months.

But despite all the negativity, Swinney maintains the last trip was a great experience.

"Every coach, every player in the whole county wants to have a chance to be in the Orange Bowl," said Swinney. "That was a wonderful experience for us, outside of the result."

Swinney and Clemson will get a chance at redemption here in Miami, and maybe they'll have a shot at putting up plenty of points of their own against a questionable Ohio State secondary, which has given up over 1,000 yards in their past three games.

"We really focus more on what we do. I love our guys at our position at receiver. They're dynamic players. But they've got to play well. They're going to have to -- with what Ohio State does defensively, they challenge you, and you have to go make plays," said Swinney.

Swinney, however, says his team needs to play at a high level against the Buckeyes front seven, whom he called a "very physical bunch."

"I think they will pressure us and challenge us on the perimeter," said Swinney. "I think that they're confident in their guys."

Despite Swinney's confidence in his own guys, turnovers have plagued the Tigers during big games like the previous Orange Bowl and recent games with South Carolina and Florida State. That's something not lost on the head coach.

"That's just a common thread for us in all of our losses, and the reason for that is we've got a good football team, and when we take care of the ball, there's usually a good result for us because we're talented and guys play tough," said Swinney. "But that ball is 12 ounces of gold, man, and when you put it on the ground, I mean, it affects everything. It affects momentum. It affects field position. It's sometimes very hard to overcome."

And overcoming appears to be the storyline heading into this game for Clemson.  But can they overcome two years ago, make a national statement, and send likely future NFL players Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins out on a high note?

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