Capital One Orange Bowl Preview: Volunteers vs. Tigers


Miami, Florida – This year’s Orange Bowl features the No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers and No. 7 Clemson Tigers in the latest battle between the SEC and ACC. Part of the New Year’s Six, this will be the bowl’s 89th edition. What makes this matchup very interesting is the two teams will not be using their starting quarterbacks. The Vols finished runners-up in the SEC East after a very successful season beating ranked opponents such as Pittsburgh, Florida, and LSU. In addition, their biggest victory of all was a 52-49 thriller over the Alabama Crimson Tide at home. Their playoff hopes were dashed late into the season with a road loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks which also saw Hendon Hooker go down to injury. Joe Milton III is now the starter. Tennessee finished 2022 10-2.

On the other side, we’ve got the ACC Champion who completed the year 11-2. Coincidentally, both teams lost to South Carolina back-to-back. Their other loss was at Notre Dame with victories over Wake Forest, NC State, Syracuse, North Carolina, and of course our own Miami Hurricanes. DJ Uiagalelei was Clemson’s QB1 until he was benched in the conference title game versus UNC.  Cade Klubnik took over and the true freshman made his presence known in the 39-10 win over the Tar Heels. For those keeping count, Milton has had three starts. This will be Klubnik’s first. Here are the players to watch:

Tennessee Volunteers

Joe Milton (QB) – So Milton has a small sample size, however, it’s pretty impressive. He’s completed 34 of 54 passes for a cool 63% completion rate. Producing 720 yards in the air, the senior from Pahokee, Florida has recorded a perfect ratio of seven touchdowns without any interceptions. A transfer from Michigan, Joe Milton was the starter at that program for five games. He was also once the starter for the Vols. Another chance has arrived.

Jaylen Wright (RB) – The signal caller will likely be getting ground support from Jaylen Wright. The capable sophomore has generated 786 yards with 10 touchdowns. Averaging 5.8 yards a carry, Wright’s best game of the season was actually his last one. Getting only five carries, the running back made the absolute best of his opportunities producing 160 yards and two TDs. They’re going to need this kind of performance against the Tigers if the Vols hope to keep pace against a formidable front that will be without some pieces.

Bru McCoy (WR) – Tennessee will be without wide receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman (Opt-Outs for the 2023 NFL Draft) but they still have Bru McCoy. The redshirt junior had the second most receptions (48) totaling 619 yards and three scores. Consequently, McCoy’s hands will certainly be needed to boost the offense under Milton. In the absence of the aforementioned playmakers of the WR Corps, the California native will probably get the most looks as the Vols drive up the field.

Clemson Tigers

Cade Klubnik (QB) – His time has come. Armed with athleticism, a strong arm, and a quick release to hit his receivers Cade Klubnik is more than ready to take center stage. The true freshmen from Austin, Texas illuminates the confidence to churn out some memorable seasons. This will be both his first start and bowl game appearance making it a very remarkable experience for the young man. He’s thrown for 377 yards achieving two touchdowns during his nascent college career.

Will Shipley (RB) – While Klubnik takes care of things in the air, all eyes will be on the talented Will Shipley when it comes to the rush. In other words, Shipley will be leading the effort after wracking up 1,110 yards including 15 TDs on 193 carries. Averaging 5.8 yards a go, the sophomore is regarded as one of the best running backs in the country.  He also goes out there and catches a few passes too making him a theoretical threat in any play.

Jeremiah Trotter Jr. (LB) – I’ll be looking at this talented youngster. In his freshman year, Jeremiah Trotter Jr recorded 15 tackles and a sack. Fast forward to now and his numbers have skyrocketed to a team-leading 80 tackles. 45 of them are solo with 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and two interceptions. That’s a force to be reckoned with. Furthermore, in the ACC Championship game, Trotter came up with three sacks and three tackles for loss.

Prediction

It’s going to be Klubnik’s night to shine and the Tigers will pull away with a hard-fought win. Undoubtedly, without the arms that brought them to this stage, each team’s defense will be key in this bout with the edge going to Clemson. Shipley will be hard to stop. Therefore, the ACC Champs will bring on a balanced and effective attack. This year’s Orange Bowl between the Volunteers and Tigers will end by a score of 35-20.

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