After a month off, Tennessee is set to play one final game in what turned out to be a pretty special 2022 campaign. The Volunteers are set to take on Clemson tonight in Miami, playing in the Orange Bowl for the first time since the 1997 season.
However, without Hendon Hooker, Jalin Hyatt, Cedric Tillman or Jeremy Banks, this will be a very different looking roster tonight. Can Tennessee keep pace? The picks are in.
Terry: Clemson 31, Tennessee 20
I’m absolutely fascinated to watch Joe Milton tonight. By all accounts, he’s done things the right way since being benched, and the staff and players around him seem to have a ton of confidence that he can get the job done as a starter. But we haven’t seen that yet. Is he the guy that missed wide-open throw after wide-open throw against Pittsburgh in 2021? Or is he the guy that we saw dominate mop-up time in 2022?
He’s got four quarters to show us tonight, and I think it all comes down to him being able to be consistently accurate in the intermediate and down the field. Tennessee will fire away early and hit a couple of big plays, but Cade Klubnik and Will Shipley will be steadier offensively, and I think the Tigers eventually pull away from the short-handed Volunteers.
Clint: Clemson 38, Tennessee 21
The Tennessee team coming into the Orange Bowl game will a far cry from the team that went 10-2 in the regular season. The combination of injuries and opt-outs means that this Volunteers team is missing some of its biggest leaders on both sides of the ball. 2022 was a fantastic season, but I don’t think it’s going to end with a bowl win. Clemson will come out with the QB they should’ve been starting the whole time, and I think they will be able to get a leg up on Tennessee from the start.
Nick: Clemson 41, Tennessee 31
I’d love to predict a Vols’ win here, but I just don’t see it.
The emergence of Cade Klubnik doesn’t inspire much confidence, as Tennessee’s pass defense is rated pretty similarly to that of North Carolina’s — the latter of which Klubnik torched for nearly 300 yards passing and an 83-percent completion percentage.
To make matters worse, I imagine the Tigers will use RB Will Shipley in the passing game to take advantage of Vol LBs who’ve struggled in pass coverage all season.
If Joe Milton looks like the Joe Milton we’ve seen in second halves, then the offense has the oomph to put points on the board and put the team in a position to win, even without opt outs Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman.
But there’s just no getting around the difference in Milton’s stats in games when he starts vs. the games he comes off the bench.
It would be nice to see some production from Tyler Baron on the defensive line, just because if Tennessee can get to Klubnik without needing to send five or six, maybe there’s less chance for a bad UT secondary getting exposed.
I’ve got Clemson winning and covering. But you guys probably already knew that.
Matthew: Clemson 38, Tennessee 24
Tennessee is going to be without their top two receivers, their best lineman, and top defenders. At some point, that adds up as we saw happen to Florida.
Clemson just played their best game of their season last time out. I think the absences will be too overwhelming, and Tennessee will fall to the Tigers.
I’m really excited to see Joe Milton. His growth has been spoken about by many, and we’ve seen it flash many times. Now he’ll get that chance to show out against a top program. That’s where my eyes will be tonight.