The Gator Bowl kicks off this upcoming December, 29th. We’ve got the latest updates on lines, injuries, departures and weather right here:
Things have quieted down in terms of the Clemson players heading into the transfer portal with safety Lannden Zanders the most recent player to hit the portal. Zanders last played for Clemson in 2021 and was on the roster in 2022.
However, all the player movement for Clemson has resulted in a Gator Bowl line that opened with the Tigers favored by seven points now sitting at 4.5. The Moneyline went from -275 to -185 for Clemson and moved from +220 to +160.
Many of the prominent former Clemson players have already found new schools with safety Andrew Mukuba committed to Texas, receiver Beaux Collins headed to Notre Dame and cornerback Toriano Pride on his way to Pittsburgh.
An injury will keep starting cornerback Sheridan Jones out of the Gator Bowl while fellow starter Nate Wiggins has opted out and it has been reported that Clemson will be starting true freshmen Avieon Terrell and Shelton Lewis at cornerback.
The defense will also be without linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and defensive lineman Ruke Orhorhoro. The good news is that linebacker Barrett Carter, the only one of Clemson’s top three tacklers expected to play in the Gator Bowl, announced that he is returning to Clemson for the 2024 season.
Kentucky tight end Jordan Dingle is no longer in the transfer portal. However, edge rusher Keaten Wade remains in the portal.
Running back Ray Davis (the third-leading rusher in the SEC) and cornerback Andru Phillips are slated to suit up for the bowl game even though they are headed to the NFL.
The total for the game opened at 48.5 but it has dropped to 44.5.
Clemson is making a record 10th Gator Bowl appearance with the Tigers 4-5 in the previous nine matchups. Clemson is associated with one of the most infamous moments in bowl history as Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes struck Clemson defensive lineman Charlie Baumann as he ran near the sideline after making the game-clinching interception in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Hayes was fired by Ohio State not long after the incident.
Kentucky returns to the Gator Bowl after winning the 2021 game against North Carolina State. The most recent appearance for Clemson came in a Jan. 1, 2009 loss to Nebraska.
Now, check out the rest of the Gator Bowl preview, originally published on December 8.
Transfers and Opt-Outs Could Impact Clemson’s Hopes of Winning the Gator Bowl
When the season began, defending ACC champion Clemson had its sight set higher than an appearance in the Gator Bowl. Four conference losses has Clemson heading to Jacksonville with the Gator Bowl betting odds listing Clemson as a seven-point favorite.
Clemson’s disappointment might explain why that number is down from the opener of 7.5 as early bettors are backing the Wildcats and the under. The opening total of 48.5 has since fallen to 47, suggesting markets aren’t keen on the Tigers offense.
When making NCAA bowl predictions, bear in mind that Clemson will be playing in a bowl game for the 19th season in a row. That included four appearances in the College Football Playoff. This will be Kentucky’s eighth straight college bowl appearance. The Wildcats topped North Carolina State in the 2021 Gator Bowl.
Coming into the season, Kentucky was priced at -125 to go over seven wins during the regular season. The Wildcats landed right on that number. Those who went with the -110 odds of Clemson finishing under 10 regular-season wins were rewarded as the Tigers are 8-4 heading into the college bowl game.
When looking at the NCAAF scores, this will be the first meeting between the teams since Clemson defeated Kentucky 21-13 in the 2009 Music City Bowl with the Tigers covering as 6.5-point favorites.
The NCAA football bowl odds have an almost identical line 14 years later.
Clemson is 22nd in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Tigers are just outside the top 25 in both national polls. A loss could result in Clemson not cracking the top 25 in least one the national polls for the first time since 2010. Kentucky is not in the CFP rankings, the Associated Press poll or the American Football Coaches Association poll.
Location: EverBank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL
Streaming: ESPN, ESPN+
Tigers Look To Finish Strong
Clemson has certainly not been saving the best for last during a disappointing season – by their lofty standards.
Clemson ranks 107th out of 131 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in fourth-quarter scoring. Clemson is putting up 5.2 points per game and allowing six points in the fourth quarter. Keep that in mind when looking at the Gator Bowl betting odds.
The Tigers were outscored 25-0 in the fourth quarter in losses to Duke, Florida State and Miami. Clemson lost those games against Florida State and Miami in overtime. The NCAAF season would have had a different feel to it had the Tigers won those two contests.
Clemson has covered against the college football lines in four of its last five games.
Departures & Injuries
Safety Jalyn Phillips (25 tackles in eight games) and offensive lineman Marcus Tate is questionable for Clemson. Tight end Sage Ennis, running back Jay Haynes, receiver Brannon Spector and offensive lineman Walker Parks are out.
Receiver Beaux Collins (38 catches) and safety Andrew Mukuba (42 tackles, six pass breakups) are in the transfer portal while cornerback Toriano Pride has transferred to Missouri.
For Kentucky, tight ends Jordan Dingle (11 catches) and Josh Kattus (eight catches) are questionable while offensive lineman Ben Christman and running back Jamarion Wilcox are out.
Cornerback Jalen Geiger (nine tackles) is in the transfer portal while former Georgia quarterback Brock Vandagriff committed to Kentucky on Dec. 4.
Can Kentucky Get Passing Grades?
With a six-point loss to Tennessee and a three-point defeat at the hands of South Carolina, things could have been much different for Kentucky this season.
One of the major issues has been an inconsistent passing game.
Former North Carolina State QB Devin Leary was thought to be the ideal replacement for Will Levis, now the starting quarterback for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. However, only Vanderbilt’s Ken Seals and A.J. Swann have lower passer ratings among SEC quarterbacks than Leary.
Leary’s passer rating is 25 points higher in the seven wins compared to the five games lost by Kentucky. That could be a factor when it comes to the Gator Bowl betting odds.
Kentucky is 2-5 against the spread in its last seven games.
Will Favored Clemson Lose More Impact Players?
Clemson has already lost its second-leading receiver and third-leading tackler to the transfer portal and keep an eye on other NCAAF players either transferring or opting out to prepare for the 2024 NFL Draft.
Clemson has had a strong 1-2 running back tandem of Will Shipley and Phil Mafah over the last three weeks with Shipley running 44 times for 283 yards to go with nine receptions while Mafah has run 59 times for 269 yards.
Kentucky does have the No. 3 rushing defense in the SEC.
Kentucky’s Ray Davis has four touchdown runs in the last three games.
Clemson defensive tackle Tyler Davis (3.5 sacks) and receiver Troy Stellato (34 catches) are the biggest names among the Florida natives heading home to play in the Gator Bowl.
Both NCAAF teams are 6-6 against the spread this season. Kentucky has had eight games finish over the total with the total set at 46.5 for this matchup after opening at 48.5. The total has gone under in six of Clemson’s last nine games.
The Wildcats have covered in just one of five games this season when listed as the underdog while the Tigers are 5-5 against the spread as the favorite.
For NCAAF betting news, odds analysis, and more, visit Point Spreads Sports Magazine.