With the Tigers ACC Championship victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels, Clemson punched a ticket to the Orange Bowl. Following conference title game losses by USC and TCU, fans are left wondering “what if,” but those feeling are mostly overshadowed by the excitement of a new era for Clemson football. With the exception of the NC State win early in the season, this was the first time Clemson looked like their elite selves since Trevor Lawrence departed after the 2020 season. Coach Swinney has already announced Cade Klubnik as the starter for the Orange Bowl.
This will be Clemson’s seventh trip to the Orange Bowl. The Tigers last played in the Orange Bowl in 2015 as a semifinal game against the Oklahoma Sooners. Clemson beat the Sooners 37-17 and played for their first National Championship under Coach Dabo Swinney that year, a loss to Alabama.
In the 2013 season, the Tigers also played in the Orange Bowl. In that contest they defeated Ohio State 40-35. QB Tajh Boyd threw for 378 yards and ran for another 127. He finished with 6 TDs (1 rushing) and 2 INTs. Clemson also lost the 2011 season’s Orange Bowl to West Virginia making Clemson 2-1 in Orange Bowls under Coach Swinney.
Prior to Swinney, Frank Howard went 1-1 in Orange Bowl contests beating Miami 15-14 in 1951 and losing to Colorado 27-21 in 1957. In 1981, Danny Ford led Clemson to an 11-0 record earning them a trip to the Orange Bowl to face Nebraska. They upended the vaunted Cornhuskers to win Clemson’s first National Championship.
The Tennessee Volunteers will oppose Clemson. The Vols are 1-3 all-time in the Orange Bowl and will be making their first trip since the 1997 season when they lost to Nebraska. Clemson and Tennessee have only played once in the last 20 years. They faced off in the Peach Bowl to cap off the 2003 season and the Tigers earned a 27-14 win. Clemson is 6-11-2 all-time against Tennessee and 1-2 since the end of WWII (1945).