Tennessee vs Clemson Orange Bowl Predictions, Picks & Best Bets
Dan Kilbridge | 5 mins
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Two teams that once harbored legit national championship expectations will have to settle for a top-10 showdown in Miami, with No. 6 Tennessee taking on No. 7 Clemson in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium.
Tennessee’s playoff dreams went up in smoke in a 63-38 upset loss at South Carolina, during which things went from bad to worse when starting quarterback Hendon Hooker went down with a torn ACL. That game sealed the Volunteers' fate, along with a 27-13 loss at Georgia a few weeks prior. But the Vols faithful storming the field and schlepping the goalposts out of Neyland Stadium after a 52-49 win over Alabama will be the lasting image from the entire college football betting season.
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Clemson fell short of the College Football Playoff for the third straight year, but the Tigers got back to the ACC championship game and destroyed North Carolina after missing the conference title game in 2021. They’ve had big problems on offense and also suffered a brutal upset loss to the Gamecocks in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
The pain is still fresh for both teams and fan bases, but this should be one of the most exciting games to bet all month. There’s a contrast in styles and a lot of pride on the line as two of the biggest brands in the country go head-to-head.
Orange Bowl Point Spread Prediction
The Tigers are favored by nearly a touchdown on sports betting apps in this one, with the line holding steady at Clemson -5.5 ahead of the game. This line would have looked a lot different six weeks ago as both teams are now without their starting quarterbacks.
Hooker is still out of action and rehabbing his knee injury, while Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has decided to hit the transfer portal after another disappointing individual season with the Tigers. Tennessee ran the most explosive offense in the country with Hooker at the helm, while Clemson’s offense could benefit from a changeup at quarterback in this one. Hence, the Tigers as significant favorites.
Tennessee wideouts Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman are sitting out having already declared for the NFL Draft, and they’re huge losses. Hyatt was the best receiver in the country with 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns. Tillman contributed with 417 yards and three scores, so the entire passing game is going to look different.
On the other sideline, true freshman Cade Klubnik will take over at quarterback for Clemson having already filled in for the ACC title game. He looked sharp, with 279 passing yards, one score and no turnovers in a 39-10 win over the Tar Heels. That was Clemson's second-highest passing total on the entire season and fans will be dying to see more from Klubnik, the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the nation in the 2022 recruiting class.
We always lean far more heavily on intangibles and motivation in bowl games than we do during the regular season. From Tennessee’s perspective, the season is essentially over. They came up short and lost their leader in the process. This feels like an obligation rather than an opportunity for the Vols.
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Clemson, on the other hand, is getting ready to debut a guy they hope will be the Tigers quarterback for the next four years. Things had clearly grown stale with Uiagalelei on offense. Both parties needed a change of scenery. A big-time New Year’s Six bowl game against a weak Volunteers secondary is the perfect opportunity for Klubnik to step in and get the program looking ahead to even better days. We think they’ll have a lot of success in the process.
We like Clemson to win the game at -230 and cover the spread at -5.5 on betting sites in a game that could get ugly if the Vols don’t show up highly-motivated and ready to play.
Orange Bowl Over/Under Prediction
Michigan transfer quarterback Joe Milton III will be under-center for the Volunteers in Hooker’s absence – he never quite put it together as a starter in Ann Arbor, and he managed the game in a 56-0 win over Vanderbilt to cap the regular season, completing 11 of 21 attempts for 147 yards and one touchdown. The Vols opted to simply pound the rock and bully the Commodores up front, rushing for 362 yards. That’s not gonna work against Clemson.
This Tigers defense is one of the best in the country against the run, and the Vols are going to have to figure out a way to shuffle things around. But it’s gonna be difficult to get it going through the air with so many new pieces stepping in.
Clemson might take a more conservative approach on offense with the quarterback of the future. They’ll won’t want to put the true freshman in bad spots and we think this game could be more of a slog than some believe, with the total set around 63.5.
We’re on the Under.