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The fIrst New Year’s Six showdown of this postseason headlines the Friday bowl game schedule as No. 6 Tennessee and No. 7 Clemson meet in the 2022 Orange Bowl. The Volunteers were very much in line for a College Football Playoff berth deep into November, but a blowout loss to South Carolina ended those hopes. The Tigers returned to the top of the ACC thanks to the work of backup quarterback Cade Klubnik, who was named the MVP of the ACC Championship Game win over North Carolina.
Simply put, this is a fascinating postseason matchup. Despite the late-season struggles, Tennessee still has plenty of hope for the future. Meanwhile, Clemson could set the tone for a return to the CFP by getting its youngsters some experience on a big stage.
So how will things shake out inside Hard Rock Stadium on Friday? Let’s break down this New Year’s Six battle between the Volunteers and Tigers.
Follow along LIVE as the Tigers and Volunteers square off in Miami Gardens here.
Date: Friday, Dec. 30 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Hard Rock Stadium — Miami Gardens, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
The Klubnik factor: The Tigers freshman quarterback was tremendous in the 39-10 win over North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game when he threw for 279 yards and a score while tossing just four incompletions. Fans have been clamoring for the former blue-chip recruit after another disappointing season from two-year starter DJ Uiagalelei — who has since announced a transfer to Oregon State. Now that Klubnik is entrenched as the starter, and coach Dabo Swinney has had some time to work with him after the end of the regular season, it’ll be fascinating to see how much of the playbook Swinney gives his likely 2023 starter.
Josh Heupel hype: The second-year coach of the Volunteers orchestrated one of the most remarkable turnarounds of the season but will be without starting quarterback Hendon Hooker (injury) and star wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (opt-out). However, expect Heupel to let quarterback Joe Milton to air it out due in an effort to show off his system to recruits not only in South Florida but around the country.
Swinney’s success: The head coach of the Tigers has two national championships under his belt, but his bowl record overall has been vastly overlooked. Counting national title games and CFP semifinals, Swinney has won 10 of his last 14 postseason appearances including last season’s Cheez-It Bowl. The veteran coach knows how to get his team prepared and, more importantly, keep his team motivated even in games that aren’t within the playoff rotation.
This one will be a shootout, and while Clemson might get the win, expect Klubnik to make a couple of mistakes that will allow Tennessee to have the ball late with a chance to win. Will the Vols get the job done? Maybe. Don’t underestimate Heupel’s ability to draw up some plays that take advantage of backup quarterback Joe Milton’s incredible arm strength. Prediction: Tennessee +5.5
Which college football picks can you make with confidence during bowl season, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $2,500 in profit over the past six-plus seasons — and find out.
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