Kentucky Wildcats (7-5) vs. Clemson Tigers (8-4)
- Game Time: 12:00 pm ET on December 29th
- Location: EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.
- TV Channel: ESPN will have today’s TV broadcast.
- Announcers: Wes Durham, Tim Hasselbeck, and Taylor Tannebaum will call the action.
- Online Stream: Stream the game online with WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Jeff Piecoro will have the UK Sports Radio Network call.
- Satellite Radio: XM Channel 203; Sirius Channel 98; Internet Channel 966
- Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | CLEM
- Stats To Know: UK | CLEM
- Advanced Stats
- Oddstrader.com Weather Forecast:
- Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Clemson -4.5 with an over/under of 45. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Tigers a 65.9% chance of victory.
- Predictions: Pickwatch.com, which rounds up predictions from across the net, has Clemson garnering 85% of the predictions. DRatings.com has Clemson winning 26-21, while OddsTrader.com is projecting a 30-25 victory, Kentucky!
How do you see today’s game playing out? Send us your predictions in the comments section!
Last one, best one— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) December 28, 2023
Arrive early. Be loud. GO CATS! pic.twitter.com/b2KiHaUzlq
The last time the Wildcats took the field was in late November against in-state rival and top-10 foe Louisville. Despite trailing by 10 multiple times in the second half, Kentucky was able to rally for the victory thanks to a Ray Davis touchdown with one minute left, then got a pick in the end zone to seal the victory.
A lot has happened since then. Mark Stoops nearly left for the Texas A&M opening. More than a dozen players have transferred out, while a few staff changes occurred, and Kentucky secured a standout high school and transfer portal recruiting class.
Now, Kentucky has a chance to end its season with a second straight victory over a top-25 ACC club after being 6-5 amid what looked to be a lost season.
There’s no question Clemson has had a down year by their standards, including their streak of double-digit victories ending for the first time since 2010.
Even so, Kentucky has an opportunity for a marquee win over a top-25 opponent.
The two programs have met 13 times all-time, with Kentucky holding an 8-5 edge. However, Clemson won the most recent matchup in the 2009 Music City Bowl. That was Dabo Seinney’s first season as the program’s head coach, as well as Rich Brooks’ final season at Kentucky before retiring.
The two programs also played in the 1993 Peach Bowl, which saw Clemson escape with a 14-13 win.
This will also be the third time Kentucky has played in the Gator Bowl, all under Mark Stoops. The Wildcats fell to Georgia Tech in 2016, then beat North Carolina State in the COVID-impacted 2020 campaign.
Here is what to watch for when Kentucky takes on Clemson.
This year’s edition of the Gator Bowl will feature two vastly different-paced offenses. Kentucky, the slowest team in the country, will look to slow down the second-fastest in the country in Clemson. The contrast is stark with the Tigers averaging more than 20 more plays per game.
That said, more isn’t always better as Clemson ranks toward the bottom of the country in yards per play and middle of the country in yards per game. Then again, Kentucky doesn’t have the most efficient offense either, but could we see a new facet of the offense?
Since the end of the regular season, Mark Stoops and Liam Coen have both talked about wanting to play with a faster pace next season. You have to imagine they’ve been working on that extensively during bowl practices, so perhaps we’ll see a more efficient offense down in Jacksonville.
With draft decisions and the transfer portal, the first thing to look at anymore when discussing a bowl game is who is and is not going to play.
Clemson has three opt-outs, including two potential first-round picks, and more than a dozen players enter the transfer portal. The worst of these departures are key defensive players in linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., cornerback Nate Wiggins, and defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro.
As far as Kentucky, they have just two opt-outs, but both are on the offensive line, which lacks depth. Right tackle Jeremy Flax and left guard Kenneth Horsey will be out.
In addition, the Wildcats have had more than a dozen transfers of their own, but only a handful of significance. The biggest is edge defender Keaten Wade, which is an area Kentucky is already thin at.
Kentucky will have a lot of continuity, but Clemson has five straight top-10 recruiting classes, meaning they have more depth and are better prepared to survive opt-outs and transfers.
That said, Kentucky, under Mark Stoops, has never feared more talent and has often shown more desire in their wins.
Clemson Through the Air or Kentucky on the Ground?
Look at the stats. Clemson is good at defending the pass, but not the run. Kentucky is good at defending the run, but not the pass.
One would think the opposing team will look to take advantage of the other’s weakness.
Going back to the opts-outs, Kentucky will have all their skill position players available, including running back Ray Davis who was a First-Team All-SEC selection. The Clemson defense has struggled specifically against counter and man-blocking run concepts, which are signatures of Kentucky’s run game.
The Tigers will be looking to pass but will be without one of their best-receiving targets in Beaux Collins. Even so, Kentucky’s pass defense has given up an average of 36 points and 275 yards per game against ranked opponents this season.
It doesn’t help that Clemson QB Cade Klubnik is the kind of duel-threat passer who can extend plays with his feet and scramble for big gains or find holes in the defense, something we saw Kentucky get burned by in several games this season.
Brad White’s unit will have to find a way to step up its game to have any hope of winning this game.