Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics
The sixth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers learned their bowl destination on Sunday afternoon, as the Vols are headed to Miami to take on No. 7 Clemson in the Capital One Orange Bowl.
Tennessee finds themselves in a New Year’s Six Bowl game after putting together a 10-2 season in year two of the Josh Heupel era, finishing second in the SEC East and with the second-best overall record in the conference.
This postseason marks the first time that the Vols have made a New Year’s Six bowl game in the CFP/NY6 era, a telling sign of how much progress Josh Heupel’s program has been able to make in a short time.
When looking beyond the Vols’ absent representation in the New Year’s Six since its creation, Tennessee hadn’t made a bowl game in the Bowl Championship Series since 2000. In their last appearance in the Orange Bowl, Tennessee faced off against Nebraska in South Florida in 1998, losing 42-17 in Peyton Manning’s final game as a Vol. The win gave the Cornhuskers the No. 1 spot in the Coaches Poll and a share of the National Championship. The 1997-98 college football season was the final year for the Bowl Alliance. The following season saw the debut of the Bowl Championship Series–a season that ended with Tennessee as National Champions.
Tennessee’s Orange Bowl appearance in January of 1998 was their fourth in program history and first in 30 years. Doug Dickey’s Vols went to the prestigious bowl game in 1968 as the second-ranked team in the nation and lost a close contest to third-ranked Oklahoma, 26-24.
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The Vols made the Orange Bowl two more times before 1968, both times with General Neyland as head coach. Tennessee split those games, knocking off Oklahoma 17-0 in 1939 and losing 8-0 to Rice in 1947.
UT’s 1-3 record in the Orange Bowl contrasts that of their 2022 opponent Clemson, who holds a 4-2 record in the game’s history.
The Tigers have played postseason ball three times in Miami since Tennessee’s last appearance, going 2-1 in the contests. The Tigers defeated Ohio State and Oklahoma in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and lost to West Virginia in 2012. Clemson’s win over Oklahoma in 2015 allowed the Tigers to reach the National Championship, a game they lost 45-40 to Alabama. Clemson’s other appearances came in 1951 (win), 1957 (loss) and 1982 (win).
As for Tennessee’s postseason history with Clemson, the Vols and Tigers have met once. The Tigers defeated Tennessee 27-14 in the 2004 Peach Bowl to cap Dabo Swinney’s first season on Clemson’s staff.
Swinney reflected on the nearly 20-year-old game when talking to the media Sunday evening.
“I remember first of all it was a great finish to our season,” Swinney said.
“I remember Tennessee was a very good team, a very talented team. But we were really playing our best ball there. Charlie Whitehurst was hot, the receivers. Chad Jasmin I think was the MVP of that game. It was just an electric atmosphere in the Peach Bowl there. A fun way to finish the year.
“It was a big win for us, huge win for sure. Tennessee I think was a highly ranked team, maybe a top 10 team, in that game. It was special ’cause, again, it was a good way to start off my first year there at Clemson I guess 20 years ago now,” Swinney added.
The Vols will look to even the postseason record against the Tigers on December 30, when Tennessee battles the ACC Champions in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida.