It may be one of the most “orange” Orange Bowls of all time. Outside of their school colors, though, both teams will look quite different than they have for much of the season when they walk onto the field at Hard Rock Stadium.
Key players out on both teams
Florida sports betting is still an unregulated, illegal market. . The issue is tied up in the D.C. Court of Appeals after being briefly legalized last year. Optimists believe that wagering on sports will again be legal in the Sunshine State by next year’s Orange Bowl. However, legalization could come in 2024 through a ballot initiative if the Seminole Tribe doesn’t prevail in court.
The No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers and its top-ranked offense will be looking for some new playmakers to catch the ball when it takes on the No. 10 Clemson Tigers on Friday, Dec. 30. That’s because the Vols’ best receiver — also the best WR in the country — won’t be playing in the ESPN primetime game. Biletnikoff Award winner Jalin Hyatt announced he is entering the NFL Draft and will miss his final game as a college player.
Tennessee’s second-best receiver, Cedric Tillman, will also forego the game. The senior announced he won’t be playing just a couple of days before Hyatt said the same. Other key players from both squads will also be missing in action.
Both teams will start new QBs
And this all comes after Tennessee (10-2) already lost starting quarterback Hendon Hooker to injury in its surprising blowout loss to South Carolina last month. That leaves 2021 season-opening starter Joe Milton III to take over under center. (For what it’s worth, South Carolina also beat Clemson in the regular season.)
Clemson will have a new QB starting the game, too. Freshman Cade Klubnik, who came off the bench to lead Dabo Swinney’s squad over North Carolina in the ACC title game, is replacing season-long playcaller DJ Uiagalelei, who decided to enter the transfer portal after his benching in that game.
So, it’s two former backups vying to guide their teams to victory in the season finale for the two top-10 teams.
Two top defenders out for Tigers
The Tigers defense will look a bit different as well. ACC champs Clemson (11-2) will be down two of its top defenders against Tennessee. It’s just the fourth matchup between these two highly respected football schools over the last 75 years.
Tigers star defensive end Myles Murphy — the top-ranked DE in the upcoming draft — announced that he is skipping the Orange Bowl as he, too, prepares for the NFL Draft. Murphy is Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 10 overall projected player ahead of the April 2023 draft in Kansas City, expected to be chosen in the first round.
“It really came fast. Three years ago today, I was getting ready to head to Clemson. It was a really fast transition. Now, there’s a transition to the next level and next chapter of my life. Every big decision that I make, I go back to the family and make it a family and team decision. We all agreed on and thought it was the best decision.”
Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson, who got hurt in the ACC Championship game against North Carolina and was speculated as likely to miss the Orange Bowl already, has since declared for the NFL Draft and will definitely not be playing. He is ranked as the No. 3 linebacker in the draft by Kiper.
Despite lower ranking, Clemson is the favorite to win Orange Bowl
These changes could affect the betting line some more, although Clemson has already expanded its favoritism with the betting public by 2 whole points since the line opened at BetMGM.
Since starting out with a line of -4.5 vs. the Vols, Clemson has now moved up to 6.5-point favorites. That 2-point swing came in the first 24 hours of the line opening — before the two Tennessee wide receivers and Clemson’s stars opted out — and has sat steady ever since Dec. 5.
Perhaps the betting public foresaw these announcements coming before they were formal, but to expect the line to move much more in the aftermath doesn’t seem impossible. The immediate reaction has not been much movement, though.