Clemson vs. Kentucky: Prediction & Odds (12/29/23)

Clemson vs. Kentucky kicks off Friday (12/29/23) at noon EST in Jacksonville, Florida as the host site for the Gator Bowl. Get Clemson vs. Kentucky predictions and best bets below as our best bet is on under 46.5 in what should be a defensive slugfest against two struggling offenses.

Clemson vs. Kentucky Prediction

It may be called the Gator Bowl, but this game should be labeled as the severely disappointing bowl as both teams underwhelmed per their preseason expectations. Clemson more so than Kentucky as the Tigers were widely considered to be one of the two teams to battle for the ACC Championship. The Tigers sputtered from the start, failing to find any sort of offensive consistency and explosiveness which eventually led to a 8-4 record.

Their struggles largely hinged on their quarterback Cade Klubnik, who played rather conservatively under center. Their offensive metrics echo that as the Tigers finished the year ranked 48th in Pass Success Rate and 133rd in Pass Explosiveness. Klubnik will now potentially be without one of his top two targets Beaux Collins who opted into the transfer portal. For a more comprehensive list of transfer portal updates, opt outs, and injuries, you can read it all here.

Losing Collins strips a key piece to how Clemson’s offense operates. They live with the short throw. By having a backup slot into his role, that hurts their level of consistency which makes them more prone to stalling out in the mid-field. That also helps Kentucky’s secondary which has struggled defending this area of the offense, while already excelling as a top-25 unit in Def Pass Explosiveness.

The Wildcats remain largely intact in terms of missing production from opt outs and the transfer portal. As of this writing, the only starter who will be missing in this game is edge rusher Keaten Wade, who opted into the transfer portal and is not on the depth chart. That means their defensive metrics will be more concrete heading into this contest, especially with their front seven, which ranks 47th in Def Rush Success Rate, 31st in PPA and 12th in Explosiveness against a more conservative Clemson offense.

Speaking of starters, the Wildcats retain star running back Ray Davis who has been the focal point of their offense. While that may spell trouble initially for the under, production will be tough to come by against an elite Clemson defense which excelled at stuffing the run. The Tigers head into the contest ranked top-10 in Def Rush Success Rate, limiting opposing rush production at the line by bottling them up in the backfield. Their lack of ability to limit the big gain on the ground may be a cause for concern, but hardly an area to back any sort of consistency in.

Clemson vs. Kentucky Prediction: Under 46.5

Clemson vs. Kentucky Best Odds

Oddsmakers originally had this as the Tigers game to lose, opening Clemson as a -7.5 favorite against the Wildcats. Bettors believe that was an overreaction, backing Kentucky down to as low as +4.5. Kentucky retaining Ray Davis is also massive for their chances of keeping it tight, being their lone source of consistent success on offense.

As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 48. Bettors believe points will come at a slightly slower pace as they have bet the under down to 46.5 in some shops. With both defenses being largely intact from opts-outs and transfers, expect both units to excel at limiting each other’s anemic offenses in what should be a defensive slugfest.

Clemson vs. Kentucky Key Matchups

Can Clemson’s backup corners slow down the Kentucky pass attack?

Clemson Secondary vs. Devin Leary

While Clemson remains largely unaffected from the transfer portal and opt outs, one area of concern is at the cornerback position as they will be without both their starting corners. Sheridan Jones is out due to injury while Nate Wiggins decided to opt out of the contest, now featuring backup corners Avieon Terrell and Shelton Lewis.

Terrell saw a heavy dose of action this season while Lewis is more of a true backup. Both corners are in a great position to maintain Clemson’s top-10 marks in Def Pass Success Rate and EPA as Devin Leary failed to elevate the Kentucky pass attack. Production through the air was a rarity for the Wildcats, ranking 91st in Pass Success Rate and 68th in Pass EPA.

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Kody is a sports betting writer here at Lineups. He specializes in college sports as well as the NFL and NBA. He won’t quit believing in the Lions Super Bowl chances even when they are eliminated.

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