Orange Bowl: Clemson vs Tennessee Preview and Prediction

It’s not the College Football Playoff, but the Orange Bowl is still a pretty big deal.

Clemson will be making its seventh all-time appearance in the Orange Bowl, a game in which the Tigers hold a 4-2 record. The game was the site of Clemson’s first national championship victory on New Year’s Day 1982, when the Tigers defeated Nebraska, 22-15. Clemson has won each of its last two Orange Bowl appearances, including a 40-35 win over Ohio State to end the 2013 season and a 37-17 College Football Playoff semifinal win over Oklahoma in 2015.

Clemson (11-2, 8-0 ACC) vs. Tennessee (10-2, 6-2 SEC)

TV: ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy, Katie George)

Radio: Clemson Athletic Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)

Line: Clemson by 4.5 (Over/under 63.5)

Series History

OVERALL: Clemson trails, 6-11-2 

HOME: Series is tied, 2-2-1

ROAD: Clemson trails, 3-9-1

NEUTRAL: Clemson leads, 1-0

Stop me if you have heard this before but the key for Clemson is stopping the run. Tennessee’s passing offense gets all of the publicity but the Vols’ running game averages more than 200 yards per game. Without Hendon Hooker, Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, that running game becomes even more important.

With Joe Milton making just his second start of the season, the Tigers need to make every effort to make Tennessee one-dimensional and make Milton beat them with his arm while limiting the explosive plays down the field. Keep everything in front of them.

On the flip side, the Tigers also need to establish the run early to help take some of the pressure off freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik, who will be making his first career start. Clemson has one of the best one-two punches in the country with Will Shipley and Phil Mafah. Feed those guys. Success on the ground also means less time on the field for the Volunteers’ offense.

This feels like a game in which we might see a heavy dose of Shipley, probably upwards of 20 touches. This also feels like an opportune time for freshman wideout Adam Randall to really make his presence felt.

Bottom Line: There feels like a lot of unknowns heading into this game, especially on the Tennessee side. Missing three key pieces on offense and a starting linebacker. Not to mention the departure of their offensive coordinator.

Give me the Tigers, despite the fact they are missing two key defenders themselves and have a true freshman making his first career start at quarterback. Klubnik won’t have it as easy as he did against UNC, but the freshman will play well and help the Tigers clinch their final goal of the season by winning the closer.

Clemson 31 Tennessee 27

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