Dabo Swinney doesn’t mince words when describing how he sees the Tennessee team his Clemson Tigers will face in the Orange Bowl.
While it isn’t one of the semifinal matchups in the College Football Playoff, this might still be one of the more intriguing matchups of bowl season. ACC Champion Clemson comes in ranked seventh in the nation, while the Vols come in at No. 6. Both have just two losses on the season.
“Tennessee is one of the best teams in the country and has had an amazing year, so it should be a great game,” Swinney said. “We’re thankful to be here and represent the league and represent Clemson in a place that’s always been special to our fans and to college football.”
However, this is not the same Tennessee team that was lighting up the scoreboard over the first half of the season. QB Hendon Hooker is out with an ACL injury and backup Joe Milton will have to try and beat the Tigers without the Vols’ top two wideouts, both of who have opted out.
The Tigers also come in missing some key pieces, but off of its defense. DE Myles Murphy has opted out and LB Trenton Simpson is injured. CB Sheridan Jones is also a question mark, as the senior is dealing with a hip flexor.
“He’s been dealing with a hip flexor, so it’s going to be close,” Swinney said of Jones’ availability. “He’s one of those guys that’s played a lot. He’s got a lot of experience but been battling a little bit. We’ll see.”
Despite the fact that Tennessee is missing some key pieces from its offense, Swinney maintains this is still a team capable of posing some issues for the Tigers. For that very reason, Swinney isn’t worried about his team being motivated.
“Both these teams have won 11 games,” he said. “You don’t go 11-2 if you’re a team that doesn’t have good leadership because it’s hard to win. It’s really hard to win. So to win 11 games in today’s world in college football is special. It’s a great season.”
“Then to be able to come to the Orange Bowl and play the sixth-ranked team in the country, you turn on the tape, you get motivated real quick because these guys are competitors. Both teams, you’ve got guys that like to play. That’s why they play football. They don’t play football to whatever — they like to play the game. It’s a chance to go play the game, and not only that you get to do it at a venue like this, at Hard Rock Stadium, and you’re playing one of the best teams in the country.”