TV, odds, 2022 game facts for Clemson-Tennessee

Welcome to Orange Bowl week.

No. 6 Tennessee and No. 7 Clemson arrived in greater Miami over the weekend to begin preparations for what may very well be the most enticing non-College Football Playoff matchup among the sports’ New Year’s Six bowls.

Coach Josh Heupel’s Volunteers and Dabo Swinney’s Tigers were ranked No. 1 and No. 4, respectively, in the initial CFP Top 25 rankings through nine weeks of regular-season play.

But both teams fell on shaky ground after losing the following weekend — Tennessee to Georgia, Clemson to Notre Dame — and fell out of the CFP picture entirely after inopportune losses to South Carolina.

Those late-season struggles have, understandably, added a tinge of frustration for both teams. But this is still a matchup easy on the eyes: a modern-era ACC power, a resurgent SEC program, an intriguing quarterback duel and, fittingly, orange. Lots and lots of orange.

The rankings back it up. Excluding national championship games and CFP semifinals, no Orange Bowl has featured two teams ranked as high since No. 3 Iowa and No. 5 Southern Cal in 2003. Tennessee and Clemson finished sixth and seventh in the final CFP Top 25.

“To me, this is a playoff game,” Swinney said. “And in a couple of years (after the CFP expands to 12 teams in 20), it will be a playoff game. Both of these teams have been in the mix for the playoff all year. And both have had great years.”

Here’s a first look at the matchup.

2022 Orange Bowl game, TV info

Who: No. 6 Tennessee (10-2) vs. No. 7 Clemson (11-2)

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.


Vegas odds: Clemson-Tennessee point spread

Clemson is currently a 5.5-point favorite against Tennessee, according to the consensus line that factors in multiple sportsbooks. The line opened at Clemson -6.5.

Clemson was 7-6 against the spread this season and 1-1 against the spread when they were favored by six or fewer points, per Odds Shark. Tennessee, meanwhile, is 9-3 against the spread this season and 4-1 against the spread as an underdog.

Bettors are picking up on those trends. As of late last week, Tennessee had picked up 66% of the bets and 66% of the money on against the spread bets, meaning a majority of bettors trust Tennessee to stay within five points of Clemson or beat the Tigers outright.

Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik throws a pass during the second half of the team’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game against North Carolina on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman) Jacob Kupferman AP

Quarterback carousel

Entering Week 9, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker was one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy and Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei was playing the best ball of his career.

But, by virtue of an injury and a transfer, that’s not the quarterback matchup fans will see Friday. Instead, it’ll be Joe Milton III vs. Cade Klubnik — which is in a pretty interesting matchup in itself.

Milton, a graduate transfer from Michigan, was Tennessee’s No. 2 quarterback all year but took over the starting job when Hooker suffered a season-ending ACL injury late in a Week 11 loss to South Carolina.

Milton was 4 of 8 for 108 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter against South Carolina and went 11 of 21 for 147 yards and a touchdown in a Week 12 blowout of Vanderbilt.

On the Clemson side, the Tigers are going all in on Klubnik as their quarterback of the future after his scintillating performance in the ACC championship game against North Carolina.

Klubnik replaced Uiagalelei on the third series of the game and never relinquished it. The true freshman completed his first 10 passes — the 11th was a drop — and finished 20 of 24 for 279 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another.

Clemson scored on four consecutive possessions with Klubnik in the game and went from down 7-0 to up 24-10 at halftime before cruising to a 39-10 victory. After the game, Swinney named Klubnik the team’s Orange Bowl starter; Uiagalelei entered the transfer portal two days later.

Now, the former 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas is on track to make history as the first modern-era Clemson QB to make his first career start in a postseason game.

Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (11) runs for a touchdown after catching a pass from Princeton Fant during the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Tennessee Martin Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) Wade Payne AP

Bowl game opt-outs

As big as the Orange Bowl is, and as much as the participating coaches have tried to pump it up, it’s not immune to a growing trend across college football: bowl game opt-outs.

That was clear this month as a number of NFL Draft prospects announced they’d forgo the Orange Bowl to avoid any risk of injury and get a head start on draft prep and training.

Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee receiver Cedric Tillman and Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy have all opted out of the Orange Bowl. Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson is also NFL bound and won’t play in the bowl game due to a short-term ankle injury.

Add in Hooker, who won’t play because of an ACL injury, and that’s a lot of absent star power. Hyatt, a South Carolina native, won the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best receiver after leading the FBS in touchdown catches (15) and finishing fourth in receiving yards (1,267).

Tillman, Tennessee’s second receiver opt-out, led the Volunteers in receiving yards in 2021 but was injured throughout the 2022 season.

Murphy, who’s a projected first-round pick, was a first-team 2022 All-ACC selection for Clemson. He finished second on the team in tackles for loss (11) and tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks as a junior. Murphy also had 45 tackles and eight quarterback pressures.

As for Simpson: He finished second on the team in tackles with 77 behind Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and started every game he played in as a junior.

Murphy and Simpson are two of Clemson’s three most prominent draft-eligible juniors. The third, defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, is projected as a first-round pick by ESPN but will play in the Orange Bowl. Bresee hasn’t publicly announced if he’s going pro or returning to school.

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Chapel Fowler has covered Clemson football, among other topics, for The State since June 2022. He’s a Denver, N.C., native, a 2020 UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus and a pickup basketball enthusiast with previous stops at the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer and Chatham (N.C.) News + Record. His work has been honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, the North Carolina Press Association and the Associated College Press.

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