Tennessee vs Clemson
Tennessee +173 over Clemson

Posted at 1:00 PM EST odds are subject to change.

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Tennessee +173 over Clemson

Orange Bowl - Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL

Streaming: ESPN

7:00 PM EST. There is so much to unpack here, but we have to start with Mr. “NIL” William Christopher "Dabo" Swinney. In the landscape of college football coaches, which is loaded with slime balls from Urban Meyer to Lane Kiffin to the king himself, Nick Saban, Swinney stands out like a sore thumb. His “aw shucks,” clean cut style resonates with the market and the media. He’s one of the “good guys,” who preaches about staying in school and being a model member of your community. Hell, Swinney has built his entire program around his “NIL Philosophy,” which is a play on the NCAA’s game breaking “Name, Image and Likeness” program.

The NIL program allowed for college players to finally be compensated for their name, image, and likeness in a number of business ventures from jersey sales to video games. It’s the rule that paved the way for EA Sports to renew its famed college football franchise after nearly a decade of being dormant in light of the Ed O'Bannon case that ruled the NCAA and EA Sports could no longer profit off of the players on their products and in their games without providing those athletes compensation. EA Sports didn’t have to shut the game down, but they did because it would no longer be as profitable as it had been, although that didn’t stop O’Bannon from taking all the heat for the NCAA Football franchise being canceled.

Back to Dabo, who cutely uses that “NIL” moniker when describing how he builds his program, which is in the “Name, Image and Likeness” of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There is a reason they say you should never discuss religion or politics, and this case is no different. We’re not going to rip on Swinney or anyone else for their beliefs, just as we’d expect from anyone else, however, dude is the one that brought it up, so we’re going to discuss it.

Enter soon-to-be former Clemson QB, DJ Uiagalelei, who has decided to enter the transfer portal after being casually cast aside in favor of freshman pivot, Cad Klubnik, who was just fourth on the depth chart when the Tigers season began. As for why we are focusing on a player that is not going to play in this game, we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell Uiagalelei’s story, as it is hard not to feel bad for him after he was sold a bill of goods from Swinney.

The former 5-Star recruit is going to land on his feet, likely at Oregon State, and his career is in no way over, but the Beavers of OSU are obviously not the Clemson Tigers. To that point, after Uiagalelei became the starter for Clemson, he signed deals with Dr. Pepper and Bojangles restaurants to endorse them. Those are opportunities he would obviously not have gotten if not at Clemson or another high profile, playoff contending program. When you hear, “Name, Image and Likeness” when it comes to recruiting, that’s what’s being talked about. Follow the money.

If it was just the loss of potential earnings, we wouldn’t even be discussing Uiagalelei, but it wasn’t the Tigers prestige that led him to Clemson (he could have named his landing spot coming out of high school), it was his faith, and specifically, Swinney building his program around his Christian values. Uiagalelei led the Tigers to a 10-3 record as a sophomore last season (his first as the starter) and even won the Cheez-it Bowl, but at Clemson, that isn’t good enough. With the pressure on this season, Uiagalelei struggled and was eventually pulled in the Tigers last game of the season, where Klubnik stepped in and led the Tigers to a 39-10 victory in the ACC Championship. If you are still doing all the math in your head, we’ll sum it up for you. Swinney ran off his prized five star recruit for a freshman that played one decent half of football against a Tar Heels team that nobody would call elite.

It’s taken a while, but we are going to talk about an elite football team, and that is the Volunteers of Tennessee. The big knock on the Vols coming into this Orange Bowl is that they will be without star quarterback Hendon Hooker, who tore up his ACL against South Carolina on November 19. While the loss of Hookers matters, it does not matter as much as the media or the market would have you believe. The market is pounding the Tigers in light of Hooker being hurt, but in doing so, they are backing a fourth stringer. Ironic, don’tcha think?

Hooker isn’t the only player the Vols will be missing, as WRs Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman have declared for the NFL Draft, although defender Byron Young and OL Darnell Wright, who are both draft eligible will play today and then get ready for April. Even before the efficient market took a side, there was tremendous value on the Volunteers. Despite the missing pieces, Tennessee is the superior team, and it’s not close. Keep the points, Vols outright is the call.

Our Pick

Tennessee +173 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.46)