Part of running a successful program is dealing with NFL departures. Part of dealing with NFL decisions is also dealing with opt-outs during bowl season, which is exactly what we’ve got here with Tennessee. On top of losing quarterback Hendon Hooker to a torn ACL, the Volunteers (as expected) will be without Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt in Miami for the Orange Bowl.
Tennessee’s top two receivers will focus on preparing for the NFL, which will force backup quarterback Joe Milton to play with Bru McCoy, Ramel Keyton and some younger receivers. Nothing against Keyton and McCoy, but that’s quite a bit of firepower to replace on short notice.
Unsurprisingly, those key opt outs are moving the gambling markets. Per DraftKings Sportsbook, Clemson is now a 6.5 point favorite over Tennessee. The Volunteers opened as a four point underdog on bowl selection Sunday.
Clemson will be without future first round pick Myles Murphy, along with linebacker Trenton Simpson.
The Tigers enter with some momentum after winning the ACC Championship behind the effort of quarterback Cade Klubnik. Dabo Swinney finally benched DJ Uiagalelei, and the Clemson offense instantly came to life against North Carolina. Clearly, the oddsmakers think that trend can continue in the Orange Bowl.
Tennessee breezed through Vanderbilt without Hooker, beating what was a hot team entering the game, 56-0. Clemson will be a different challenge though, still complete with a stacked roster full of blue-chip talent. This game will come down to what Josh Heupel is able to get out of Joe Milton. Will we see the Milton that struggled with accuracy in 2021? Or will we see more flashes of the Milton we saw in garbage time this season?
It’s a pretty interesting scenario for Tennessee, and it should be a true preview of what the Volunteers will be working with in 2023.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See DraftKings.com/sportsbook for details.