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Music City Bowl
Kentucky vs Clemson
Both Clemson and Kentucky were planning on being in much bigger bowl games,
but both teams find themselves in Nashville over the holidays. Clemson was one
win away from playing in the Orange Bowl, but they were unable to take care if
business against Georgia Tech in the ACC Title Game, but they still had a solid
year in their first year under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. This has been a roller
coaster season for the Tigers.
They started the year 2-3, but two of those losses were against BCS bound teams TCU and Georgia Tech. They followed that up with a 6 game winning streak with wins over Miami and Florida State, but then finished the year losing to their instate rival South Carolina and again to Georgia Tech. When this team is clicking they are a very good team, but when they arenít they have problems and with a solid SEC team like Kentucky up next they need to make sure they are clicking if they want to end this year on a positive note.
Kentucky all but had their bags packed for the Outback Bowl, which for a program like Kentuckyís would have been a huge achievement, but they were unable to pull out the win over Tennessee and lost 30-24 in OT. This has still been a solid year for a program known for their basketball program, and if they can continue with this momentum this program has the resources to become a solid SEC program.
It is no secret who you have to stop if you are going to beat this Clemson team. It starts and ends with C.J. Spiller. The problem with that is Spiller can beat you in so many different ways whether its running the ball, catching passes out of the backfield, or returning kicks. South Carolina had success with stopping Spiller by stacking the box and forcing QB Kyle Parker to beat them with his arm, and they walked away with a 34-17 upset win. Parker is a solid QB, but he isnít going to put the team on his back and win football games, but Spiller has the ability to change the game in a matter of seconds.
Kentucky is ranked 11th in the SEC in rush defense allowing 183 yards per game and that is not going to cut it. This Clemson offense is a balanced attack that uses Spiller to set up the pass, so if Kentucky is going to win this game they will have to do exactly what South Carolina was able to do and hit Clemson and Spiller in the mouth early and often by stacking the box. Kyle Parker will beat you a few times down the field, but he wonít to the damage that a C.J. Spiller will if he gets some daylight.
THE FINAL VERDICT
This Clemson Tiger football team has been very difficult to figure out all year. Some games they can look so good, and other times they can look so bad. If you look back the majority of the time when the Tigers struggled it was when Spiller struggled. If Kentucky can sell out on the run, like South Carolina did, and just slow down this Clemson rushing attack they have the offensive fire power to get the win. Kentucky has a very effective rushing attack. Kentucky ranks 21st nationally in rush offense averaging 193 yards per game, and that is exactly how you want to attack this Clemson defense.
We donít expect Kentucky to be able to completely stop Spiller, but if they can slow him down and jump out to an early lead they can wear this Clemson defense down and control the clock which is exactly what we expect to happen.
This should be a close game that will be decided in the 4th quarter that could go either way. Throw in the fact that Clemson went from getting ready to play in the Orange Bowl to the Music City Bowl that they might not be 100% ready to play, and that will play right into Kentuckyís hand, and we expect the SEC to start 1-0 for the bowl season.
Also note that as far as schedule strength goes these two shake out dead eve, yet it's Kentucky which has the slightly better numbers. Of note would be Kentucky's defensive yards per point numbers on the road which are 19, compared with Clemson's defensive numbers on the road which are 12.7....not good. Kentucky can win this game. Kentucky +6.5
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