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Tennessee Football: Three things to know about Clemson before the Orange Bowl

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Tennessee can start preparing for its bowl opponent, Clemson, after it was announced that the Vols would take on the Tigers in the Orange Bowl. However, there is still plenty of unknown about the upcoming opponent even though it is December.

Clemson has an unknown at quarterback and the Tigers have several players that could choose to opt out of postseason play, especially on the defensive line. Participation aside, there are plenty of spicy storylines for Orange Bowl, other than just a lot of the color orange.

Here are three things to know about the Tigers heading into the Orange Bowl:

Quarterback issues

This was supposed to be the season in which D.J. Uiagalelei ascended to become one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. That didn’t happen. Uiagalelei struggled throughout the season before being eventually benched in the ACC Championship Game by Cade Klubnik, who led the Tigers to a 39-10 win over North Carolina. 

As far as a December quarterback controversy, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney put that to rest after the win over the Tar Heels. Swinney said Klubnik will be the starter in the Orange Bowl and in the future moving forward.

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“Cade was ready,” Swinney told ESPN after the game. “You got a chance to see what he can do. He played in rhythm, guys made plays for him. He’s really, really fast. He can really make plays with his legs. It was a great night and a glimpse of our future and what it looks like at Clemson.”

The announcement that Klubnik would be the future quarterback for the Tigers had to be welcome news for Clemson fans. Uiagalelei ranked as the the sixth-best passer in the ACC with a 134 quarterback rating. Klubnik completed 20-of-24 passes for 279 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions against North Carolina. He also ran for 30 yards and a score.

Defensive line doubts

Clemson was supposed to have one of the most dominant defensive lines in college football this season. Things didn’t exactly turn out like that. The Tigers have been solid, but not as spectacular as one would think.  Injuries sidelined defensive end Xavier Thomas (foot) and a non-football medical issue sidelined Bryan Breese during the season.

Breese is considered one of the top prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft. During the announcement of the bowl selection, ESPN made reference to the fact that some players on Clemson’s defensive line may forgo the postseason to focus on their NFL future.

Shots fired?

There is some spiciness to this match up depending on how you choose to read some recent comments by Swinney, who said Clemson was playing football on Saturday while Tennessee was probably “flipping burgers” while watching football since the Vols weren’t in the SEC Championship Game.

Swinney later claimed he was trying to point out the issues with the current College Football Playoff system by saying that the Vols didn’t have a conference championship to play for while the Tigers had to get ready for the ACC Championship Game. 

Some Tennessee fans took that as a shot. Despite trying to clarify his comments, there’s no question that a good percentage of the Vols’ fan base will resurrect what Swinney said in the days before the Orange Bowl.

Whether or not Swinney meant anything derogatory about the Vols remains to be seen. Nevertheless, there is plenty of motivation for the Vols as we pointed our here.

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