Clemson Will Cover Against Tennessee In The Orange Bowl

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The No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers (10-2) face the ACC champion No. 10 Clemson Tigers (11-2) Friday for the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium for an 8 p.m. ET kickoff.

Despite another conference title, Clemson had a down-year by its sky-high standards. Tennessee won 10 games for the first time since 2007 under second-year head coach Josh Heupel. But, these programs are trending in the opposite directions entering the Orange Bowl.

Volunteers QB, and Heisman finalist, Hendon Hooker is sidelined with an injury and UT is 2-4 straight up (SU) and ATS over the last four games.

Tennessee Volunteers QB Hendon Hooker scores a TD against the Missouri Tigers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Tennessee Volunteers QB Hendon Hooker scores a TD against the Missouri Tigers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Donald Page/Getty Images)

The Tigers are 3-1 SU and ATS in their last four games with three 15+ point victories. Ironically, both teams lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks over that span.

That said, Clemson has jumped out to a 6-point favorite even though there’s been one-way betting traffic toward Tennessee. Also, I trust Tigers coach Dabo Swinney to re-tool and prepare for a bowl game more than Heupel.

Betting Details (DraftKings)

  • Moneyline: Clemson (-210), Tennessee (+180)
  • ATS: CLEMSON -6 (-105), Tennessee +6 (-115)
  • Total — 63 — Over: -110, Under: -110

Two First-Team All-SEC Tennessee players will miss the Orange Bowl. Along with Hooker’s injury-hiatus, WR Jalin Hyatt and the SEC-leader in TD receptions (15) opted-out to “prepare” for the upcoming NFL Draft.  

Clemson also had two significant opt-outs for the Orange Bowl. Tigers First-Team All-ACC DE Myles Murphy and Third-Team All-ACC LB Trenton Simpson are both sitting out this game. 

Clemson Tigers defensive linemen K.J. Henry and Bryan Bresee come together to sack Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets QB Jordan Yates at Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina.
Clemson Tigers defensive linemen K.J. Henry and Bryan Bresee come together to sack Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets QB Jordan Yates at Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina. (John Byrum/Icon Sportswire)

However, Clemson has 10 other all-conference players on the roster and Tennessee has just two. Clemson’s football program has been an NFL factory over the last decade.

Vols coach Josh Heupel feels like an elite coach but it’s only his second season in Knoxville. It’s going to take time for Heupel to build up a program like Dabo Swinney’s in Clemson.

Also, the betting market is saying …

Tigers QB D.J. Uiagalelei’s transfer is ‘addition by subtraction’

Uiagalelei is a five-star recruit that never quite lived up to the billing at Clemson. For whatever reason, he just wasn’t a fit and maybe will be at his new home in Oregon State.

Tigers freshman five-star QB Cade Klubnik waited in the wings all season and finally got his opportunity in conference title game. Klubnik’s first-career start was in the ACC Championship and he led Clemson to a 39-10 victory over UNC.

Clemson Tigers QB Cade Klubnik throws a pass against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Clemson Tigers QB Cade Klubnik throws a pass against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Swinney didn’t ask him to do much but Klubnik completed 20-of-24 passes for 279 yards with 1 TD, 0 INT and a 194.7 QB RTG in the ACC title game. Furthermore, Klubnik doesn’t have to keep up with Hooker so he can be a game-manager in the Orange Bowl as well.

The Volunteers had the highest scoring offense in college football this year at 47.3 points per game. But their defense was mediocre. UT beat Alabama in a shootout but allowed 49 points. The Gamecocks hung 63 on the Volunteers.

Tennessee’s run game has struggled vs. good run defenses. The Pittsburgh Panthers held the Volunteers to 96 rushing yards and Georgia held them to 94 rushing yards.

Clemson’s defense holds opponents to 3.2 yards per rush and 99.0 rushing yards per game, both ranked eighth nationally.

On top of that, there are a few …

Clemson-friendly trends

Dabo gets his guys up for bowl games. Clemson is 12-6 ATS in bowl games under Swinney. Since 2017, the Tigers are 8-2 SU and ATS as favorites in neutral-site games with a +5.7 spread differential.

Clemson Tigers defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee dump Gatorade on head coach Dabo Swinney during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Clemson Tigers defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee dump Gatorade on head coach Dabo Swinney during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Over that span, Clemson is 10-4 ATS has favorites of -7 or less, 3-1 ATS as favorites in bowl games and 14-6 ATS with a +5.2 ATS margin in games with totals of 60 or higher.

Finally, there’s a saying in sports betting that goes …

‘Public ‘dogs get slaughtered’

Per Pregame.com, more than 70% of the bets placed are on Tennessee, making them a “public ‘dog”. But, the Orange Bowl betting opened with Clemson favored -4.5, 1.5 points below the current price. 

Since generally the public likes to bet favorites, the sportsbooks “need” the underdogs to cover. It’s rare when the House is rooting for the better team hence the expression: “Public ‘dogs get slaughtered”.

Orange Bowl Best Bet: Clemson -6 (-105) at DraftKings Sportsbook

The Clemson Tigers' odds vs. the Tennessee Volunteers in the Orange Bowl from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday, December 29th at 11:45 a.m. ET.
The Clemson Tigers’ odds vs. the Tennessee Volunteers in the Orange Bowl from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday, December 29th at 11:45 a.m. ET.

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Written by Geoff Clark

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