Capital One Orange Bowl gets SEC Tennessee vs. ACC Clemson in clash of offense, defense

The Capital One Orange Bowl will fittingly be a very, very orange Southeastern Conference vs. Atlantic Coast Conference battle at 8 p.m. Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Tennessee (10-2, 6-2 SEC), the SEC East Division runner-up and No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings, will meet ACC champion and No. 7 Clemson (11-2, 8-0), it was revealed Sunday.

“We’re incredibly excited about the historic matchup in the 89th Capitol One Orange Bowl,’’ Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms said. “It is the highest-ranked non-Playoff Capitol One Orange Bowl matchup we’ve hosted in the College Football Playoff era — No. 6 vs. No. 7. ...A tremendous matchup.”

The Tennessee Volunteers, who wear orange and white and are coached by Josh Heupel, are 11-6-2 all-time against the orange-and-regalia (looks purple to us) Clemson Tigers, dating to 1901.

Their last meeting: the 2004 Peach Bowl after the 2003 season, with Clemson winning 27-14.

The Vols are No. 1 nationally in scoring offense (47.3 points a game) and No. 1 in total offense (538.1 yards a game). However, their offensive coordinator, Alex Golesh, was announced on Saturday as being hired as South Florida’s new head coach. Golesh is one of five finalists for the Broyles Award that goes to the top college football assistant. Golesh will not coach in the bowl game, and Heupel said he was still deciding how he would fill that gap.

Tennessee also lost national star quarterback Hendon Hooker, an expected Heisman finalist, when he tore his ACL in a 63-38 loss at South Carolina on Nov. 19. Six-time national champion Tennessee’s other loss was 27-13 at current CFP No. 1 Georgia on Nov. 5. Michigan grad transfer Joe Milton started in the regular-season finale 56-0 Tennessee rout at Vanderbilt. Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt has 1,267 receiving yards this season, 32 shy of a new school record.

“I’m really proud of our program, the steps that we’ve taken in the last two years,’’ said Heupel, who won a national title in the 2001 Orange Bowl (2000 season) against FSU as the Heisman runner-up quarterback for Oklahoma. “This season was a really unique one. It’s truly a team that has connected, that competes extremely hard.

“...I know, having played in [the Orange Bowl] and coached in it two previous times, this bowl game is as good as it gets. I know our fans, Vol Nation, are going to show up in droves.’’

Three-time national champion Clemson, coached by Dabo Swinney, lost 31-30 to South Carolina on Nov. 26 and 35-14 at Notre Dame on Nov. 5. Clemson beat North Carolina 39-10 on Saturday for the ACC title. Swinney said that backup true freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik, who took over for usual starter DJ Uiagalelei after Clemson’s first two possessions Saturday ended in punts, will start in the bowl game.

“First of all, the history of the Orange Bowl is amazing,’’ Swinney said. “I mean, some of the greatest games ever in college football have taken place at the Orange Bowl. It’s a big-time experience, it’s a big-time bowl.’’

Swinney said Klubnik “did an amazing job” Saturday night. Hopefully, [he’ll] pick up where he left off. He was accurate, made good decisions outside of maybe one or two in the run game. He extended some plays. He did some things with his legs.’’

The Volunteers are “as explosive an offense I’ve seen in a long, long time,’’ Swinney said. “Unbelievable tempo. Incredibly fast. Receivers making plays. This is a team that you can tell just has fun playing.’’

Clemson is No. 4 nationally in team sacks (40), No. 6 in tackles for loss, No. 17 in scoring defense (allowing 20.1 points a game) and No. 24 in total defense (allowing 331.3 yards a game).

This will be Clemson’s seventh appearance (previously 4-2) in the Orange Bowl and Tennessee’s fifth appearance (1-3). The Tigers’ last OB appearance was at the 2015 CFP Semifinal, where they defeated Oklahoma 37-17 and then went on to lose in the national championship to Alabama. The Vols’ last OB appearance was in 1998 (1997 season), when Nebraska won 42-17.