Clemson Tigers (8-5, 7-5 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (7-5, 6-5 ATS)
Music City Bowl LP Field Nashville, T.N. December 27th, 8:30PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Clemson -7/Kentucky +7
The Clemson Tigers were on the verge of finally getting their program over the hump of mediocrity in the ACC Championship as they lead Georgia Tech late in the 4th quarter. However, the Yellow Jackets scored a late touchdown with just 1:20 to go in the game from the legs of Jonathan Dwyer foiling the Clemson Tigers from a BCS Bowl Berth. The Tigers who ended the season with two straight losses will know meet up with the Kentucky Wildcats out of the SEC who won 5 of their last 7 games to end at a respectable 7-5 mark on the season in the Music City Bowl.
The interesting aspect to this match is that you have the runner-up in the ACC battling with a team that finished 5th place in the SEC East division. However, do not let that fool you because Clemson was beaten by South Carolina their arch-rival pretty handedly and they finished just 4th in the SEC East. The game will really come down to the Kentucky defense and if they will be able to control the speedy playmakers on the Clemson offense. Also, the Tigers defense will also be under close watch after allowing 556 yards on the ground in their last two contests. The Wildcats offense runs some of the “wildcat” formation with Randall Cobb that has presented Clemson a lot of problems this year, but will that be enough to take down the high powered scoring offense from the Tigers is yet to be known.
As for the Tigers offense, they have some truly tremendous talents that can break open big plays at any given moment. Running back C.J. Spiller rushed for 233 yards in the ACC Championship game and also racked up over 300 all-purpose yards. Spiller also holds the NCAA all-time career record with 7 touchdowns returned off kick-offs as he will be used in many different ways to get his hands on the football. Another exciting player to watch is WR Jacoby Ford who is one of the fastest if not the fastest player in college football.
Ford has posted 735 yards this season through the air with 5 touchdowns which may not be eye popping, but he has the ability to get behind the Wildcats secondary in the blink of an eye. Ford will also share return duties with Spiller in the special teams play making a dangerous combination for the Tigers. QB Kyle Parker will be running the show behind center and he is a proven youngster that can spread the ball around. Parker has thrown for 2,385 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions throughout the year. However, his primary role will be getting the balls in the hands of the previously mentioned playmakers and make plays in the air against the Kentucky secondary.
The Tigers defense is a rather sound unit that gets solid pass rush and owns fairly strong secondary as well. The problem the Clemson defense has had in recent weeks is stopping teams from running right up the middle between the tackles. Running back Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb will most likely add to those troubles. Locke is averaging 5 yards per carry with 843 yards this season. Cobb is a wide receiver that leads the team with 427 yards this season, but has found another home behind center running the wildcat formation which has produced an additional 537 yards.
Some other good news for Kentucky is that QB Mike Hartline may get back in the action. Hartline missed much of the 2nd half of the season with a knee injury, but is reported that he is off crutches and will be participating in practice. If Hartline can play, it will be a big boost for the Wildcats offense in the passing game which will be critical in keeping the Tigers from loading the box. However, the wildcat formation will probably be the way the Kentucky offense initiates their attack and depending on how successful it is may determine if the Wildcats get the win.
Jay’s Pick – This should be much less points than predicted as both teams keep the ball on the ground early. Take the under 52.