Tennessee vs. Clemson: 5 things to know about the Vols' Orange Bowl opponent
The Vols, who finished the regular season 10-2, will face off against the ACC champions, Clemson, at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
There should be very few fans upset with that decision. Sure, the Sugar Bowl may be slightly more attractive on paper, but the Tigers are a better opponent than Kansas State and present a much more appropriate regional matchup than the Wildcats would have. It feels like there’s always been an unspoken, subtle rivalry between the 2 schools in recruiting battles, the January 2004 Peach Bowl, regionality and so on. One thing is for sure – it should be a lot of fun.
So to get you ready for Dec. 30, here are 5 things to know about Tennessee’s Orange bowl opponent, Clemson.
Cade Klubnik will likely be the man under center
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had starting quarterback DJ Uiagalelei on a very short leash in Saturday’s ACC Championship win over North Carolina. Uiagalelei attempted just 5 passes, completed only 2 and was benched for freshman backup Cade Klubnik.
And Klubnik, a former 5-star recruit and the No. 6 overall player in the 2022 cycle, looked the part against the Tar Heels. He threw for 279 yards and a touchdown, completing 20-of-24 attempts. It’s surprising that Klubnik didn’t get the nod earlier in the year as Uiagalelei has struggled to live up to his high-potential ceiling. Oh, did we mention Klubnik, in his first legitimate action all season, won ACC Championship MVP?
Your 2022 ACC Championship game MVP.
Cade Klubnik. pic.twitter.com/m38iiYWYAb
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) December 4, 2022
Sports betting in Tennessee officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest sportsbooks are live and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is only one of a handful of SEC football states with legalized sports betting.
Klubnik is more of a threat to Tennessee defensive backs despite having less experience than Uiagalelei. That may be a problem considering the Vols’ woes at that position, especially as of late.
How the Tigers got here
Clemson is 11-2 on the year, of course having beaten North Carolina to earn the Orange Bowl bid. The Tigers likely would have been in the conversation for the College Football Playoff had they not lost to South Carolina in the final week of the regular season. Hmmm, sounds familiar.
The Tigers have been above average both offensively and defensively, holding a slight advantage on defense. The Tigers are top 25 in yards allowed and defense. Their run defense is especially stout and has helped them on their way to yet another 10-win year in the ACC.
And to be honest, they’ve done it all with a bit of a handicap on offense. As Tigers fans well know, Uiagalelei is not Trevor Lawrence or Deshaun Watson and this Tigers offense is far less potent, too. Perhaps Klubnik could solve that problem just in time for the Orange Bowl.
Swinney provides some bulletin board material …
Need a little extra motivation, Vols fans?
Swinney made some interesting comments following Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina, saying the team was too focused on where they would be in the CFP field rather than the Gamecocks. Hear it for yourself below.
Dabo Swinney had some thoughts on Tennessee last night pic.twitter.com/ln0I1GxvXT
— zach ragan (@zachTNT) November 22, 2022
The irony is, Swinney and Clemson went on to lose to South Carolina as well. He later walked back his comments, but it is clear that Swinney’s comments ruffled some feathers in Knoxville.
Will Josh Heupel and Co. be ready to make them answer for it?
Will Shipley is a beast
As much as Clemson’s passing game has struggled — 7th in the ACC — the rushing game has more than pulled its weight.
The Tigers have rushed for 30 TDs this season — 2nd in the ACC — and Shipley accounted for exactly half of them.
A 5-star recruit in the 2021 cycle, Shipley ranks 2nd in the ACC with 1,110 yards.
He’s versatile, too, reliable between the tackles and shifty in the open field. He’s also the Tigers’ 3rd-leading receiver with 34 catches for 221 yards.
All-time series history, January 2004 Peach Bowl
The Vols and Tigers are regional powers that seemingly have tried their best to avoid each other.
They have not met since January 2004, when Clemson downed Phillip Fulmer and the Vols in the Peach Bowl, 27-14.
Tennessee, nearly 20 years later, will be looking for revenge from that year. Tennessee has won 7 of 8 and owns the all-time series 11-6-1, with the series dating to 1902.
Before 2004, the last time Tennessee matched up with the Tigers was 1976. If nothing else Dec. 30 will be a much-needed matchup for 2 regional powers separated by just 200 miles.