Outside the Region Friday Bowl Special: Notre Dame, South Carolina face off while Clemson and Tennessee battle with backups

Nov 19, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joe Milton III (7) throws a pass against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Outside the Region Friday Bowl Special: Notre Dame, South Carolina face off while Clemson and Tennessee battle with backups


No. 21 Notre Dame vs. No. 19 South Carolina

Game Time: 2:30 p.m. CT

TV/Radio: ESPN, Sirius XM 129 & 190

Both of these teams are coming off seasons where they improved dramatically since the start of the year. Notre Dame had some crushing losses early in the year, including a five-point loss at home to Marshall. They were 3-3 through the first six weeks before finishing the season on a five-game winning streak before eventually losing to USC. Now, after an 8-4 season, Marcus Freeman and the Irish have to find a way to win a bowl game without several star players. The Irish will reportedly be without star tight end Michael Mayer and pass rusher Isaiah Foskey as they prepare for the NFL Draft. However, the most impactful absence will be quarterback Drew Pyne following his transfer to Arizona State. That likely means former starter Tyler Buchner will be taking the snaps under center for Notre Dame on Friday. Buchner started the season as the starting QB before injuring his shoulder and handing the job over to Pyne. In only two games this season, Buchner put up a 56% completion percentage with two interceptions and without a touchdown pass. However, he ran for two touchdowns on 24 carries this season. Look for Notre Dame to heavily favor the run in this game and try to control the time of possession by pounding the rock. If Notre Dame’s strong pass defense can slow South Carolina enough to force them into the run, the Irish can take home a victory in a bowl game.

Perhaps no team in college football finished the season stronger than South Carolina. With wins against Tennessee and Clemson, the Gamecocks had people second-guessing what they thought of this program from the start of the season. People started looking at their schedule and suddenly found out their losses were not necessarily bad losses. Georgia and Arkansas were top 10 teams in the first month of the season, and Florida, when right, were one of the more explosive teams in the SEC. Led by former Heisman favorite quarterback Spencer Rattler, South Carolina can be seen as having the edge over the seemingly gutted Fighting Irish. The Gamecocks will be without defensive back Cam Smith and leading rusher MarShawn Lloyd, but outside of those two, this is a relatively put-together roster set for the bowl game. If the momentum continues for South Carolina, where Rattler has thrown eight touchdowns in the last two games, this offense will take advantage of a defense missing its top pass rusher.


No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 7 Clemson

Game Time: 7 p.m. CT

TV/Radio: ESPN, Sirius XM 84 & 190

I do not remember if this has ever happened in history, but the Orange Bowl features two teams that are actually very orange. That may be how people will pick who will win the game based on whose orange they like better. That said, both teams were disappointing after having mostly stellar seasons — one due to injuries, one just due to poor play.

Tennessee was once the top team in the country before running into Georgia and getting smacked by two touchdowns. On top of that, a couple of weeks later, their season presumably died once Heisman candidate quarterback Hendon Hooker went down with a torn ACL, essentially taking the Volunteers down with him. Now the team puts their bowl game fate in the hands of Joe Milton, who played reasonably well in Hooker’s absence. He threw seven touchdowns without an interception while completing 63% of his throws. He can run this offense, especially with the star wide receivers that Tennessee has in Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy. Even with Hooker hurt, Tennessee found a way to hold on as the top-scoring team in the country. One of the advantages Tennessee has is the strength of its run defense. Clemson likes to run the ball and may need to, given the nature of their quarterback situation. Tennessee’s season got flipped upside down when Hooker went down, but they can redeem their season with a big bowl win.

Clemson won the ACC with relative ease, but it still was not enough to earn them a spot in the playoff as a two-loss team. They had fallen out of favor after losing to Notre Dame and then completely out of the running after losing to South Carolina. They had most of their success when quarterback DJ Uiagalelei came out hot to start the season before eventually falling like he had his previous two seasons. Now, with Uiagalelei headed to Oregon State, the Tigers will turn to Cade Klubnik, who thrived when given the opportunity. Klubnik has completed 67.4% of his throws with two touchdowns and one interception in limited action. Klubnik replaced Uiagalelei in the ACC Championship game providing a much-needed offensive jolt. The key for Clemson will be if they can run the football against Tennessee and limit the mistakes. Klubnik has been less careless with the football since we have seen him and can run the offense as it is designed. This game may not see the big plays as we may have expected with two explosive quarterbacks, but it should be a hard-fought battle between two teams who likely wanted more from their seasons than they got.

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