Clemson bowl game locked in: Tigers headed to Florida to play SEC foe

Clemson football will finish its season in Florida.

The Tigers will play the Kentucky Wildcats in the Dec. 29 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, the ACC announced Sunday afternoon as part of college football’s selection day.

It’ll be Clemson’s 10th appearance in the Gator Bowl, which is played at TIAA Bank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, and annually pits an ACC team against an SEC team. The Gator Bowl is considered one of the ACC’s upper-tier bowls.

The Tigers went 8-4 and 4-4 in the ACC this season, falling well short of the national championship expectations everyone from coach Dabo Swinney down embraced this offseason but ending the regular season on a four-game win streak, including wins over ranked Notre Dame and UNC teams and rival South Carolina.

Kentucky finished 7-5.

The Gator Bowl, played four days after Christmas, will offer Clemson an opportunity to end 2023 on a high note after its worst start to ACC play since 1998. The Tigers can also remind fans of the excitement they should have for 2024 with quarterback Cade Klubnik and a number of talented underclassmen back in the fold.

This will be Clemson’s second non-New Year’s Six Bowl in three seasons after the Tigers played in one of those games every season from 2015-20 while making six straight College Football Playoff appearances and winning two national titles.

Clemson played in the Cheez-It Bowl in 2021, beating Iowa State, and the Orange Bowl last year as the ACC champion, losing to Tennessee. That slippage from the top tier of the sport has in part prompted Swinney to make staff changes for a second straight season. Clemson parted ways with two assistant coaches Thursday.

The 2023 Gator Bowl will be played on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023, at noon. ESPN will broadcast the game from Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field.

This is a developing story and will be updated.