Clemson Tigers (11-2) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (10-2)
Game Info: Friday, December 30, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. EST (Hard Rock Stadium)
Betting Odds: Clemson (-5) / Over/Under (63.5)
Pick: Clemson (-5)
This year, the Orange Bowl will feature two teams that at some point in the year could've been destined for a CFP berth if it not were for a few upset losses that derailed their seasons. Having both been ranked inside or near the top 4 all season, coming up short and landing just outside of a playoff game will certainly be seen as a disappointment for some. In saying that though, this should still be a stellar matchup between two historic schools as they meet in Hard Rock Stadium after dark trying to clinch a New Year's Six bowl win.
The big news surrounding the Tigers in recent weeks is the fact that former starting quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei, has put his name in the transfer portal which means he will not play in this game. Thankfully for Clemson, they have had over three weeks to prepare for this one and his replacement, Cade Klubnik, was able to play in the ACC Championship game where he looked cool, calm, and collected all night in route to a dominant win versus the North Carolina Tar Heels. Being that Klubnik is a freshman and will be playing in the biggest game of his career so far, Clemson will most likely give their star running back Will Shipley more of a role in this one as they try to keep the Vols offense on the sideline. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards this year and has added in a whopping 15 rushing touchdowns to go with it. On the other side of the ball, they bring in a vaunted pass-rush that will look to get in the backfield as often as possible against Joe Milton. Adding on to this, they won't have to worry about stopping two of Tennessee's biggest weapons, Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, as they have both opted out of participating in this one. Dabo Swinney and his bunch will attempt to win and cover in 4 out of 5 of their last games in this one, as they hope to bring an Orange Bowl back to Death Valley.
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The Vols will hope to end the season on a good note after once being ranked number 1 in the CFP rankings, before they got dominated on the road against last year's champions. Just as Clemson has recently made a QB change, Tennessee has been forced to do the same as Heisman hopeful, Hendon Hooker, got injured late in the season. Making it worse for the Vols, as I previously mentioned, they will be without their two best wide receivers on offense, so Josh Heupel will have to come in with a great game plan in this one to break down the Clemson stout defense. Looking on the bright side, they will have their two-headed backfield in Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright, who have amounted over 1,400 rushing yards on the year combined. They have helped the Vols' astounding offense all season as they scored over 40 points in 8/12 of their games played in the regular season. There isn’t much to talk about on the defensive side of the ball for them in relation to the pass game as they rank 127th in pass defense, so if Clemson has enough confidence in Klubnik, the Vols defense could be in for a long night. They have covered the spread in 6 out of 8 of their last games, can they stay on this stellar run and make it 7 out of 9?
Betting trends to consider in this matchup:
— Clemson opened as a 4 point favorite, but it has since jumped up 1-3 depending on what sportsbooks you are operating on
— Clemson is 4-2 ATS this season when favored by 7 or less points
— Tennessee is 2-6 ATS and 2-6 S/U as an underdog with Heupel as head coach
As two powerhouses clash against one another, it comes down to the small margins that will decide this game. And, as we take a deeper look at both sides of the ball on each side, more and more you will see that the majority of boxes tick with Clemson. Milton has been underwhelming in his whole career, and against a defense that the Tigers bring in, he will be forced to make difficult plays all night, which I don’t think he is capable of. Furthermore, Clemson should be able to bring in a low-risk game plan for Klubnik and co. to dominate this porous Vols defense. Give me Clemson big in this one.
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