2023 Gator Bowl – Clemson vs Kentucky

2023 Gator Bowl – Clemson vs Kentucky

posted December 27

The Game

Let’s head down to Jacksonville and take in a battle between a pair of teams that are motivated to end the year on a positive note despite having seasons that didn’t live up to expectations. Clemson (8-4, 4-4 ACC) lost their opener vs Duke and were actually 4-4 at one point before rattling off four consecutive wins to end the regular season. Kentucky (7-5) started like a HOUSAFIRE but have dropped five of their final seven games. At least they took down their hated rivals from LUA-VUH in their final regular season contest.

The Details

Clemson -5 Kentucky (45)


“Vegas” Implied Projected Score: Clemson 25 Kentucky 20

Clemson offense vs Kentucky defense

The Clemson offense has been bogged down for most of the season (#36 FBS rushing, #63 passing) thanks in large part to a lack of explosiveness and a plethora of red zone miscues. QB Cade Klubnik has been mediocre to say the least (19-8 TD to INT) but it’s not like he’s surrounded by elite THROW GAME weaponry (6.1 YPA; Team 9.9 yards per completion). Klubnik does a good job of spreading the ball around to the WR/TE/RB doods but the real strength of the offense is the 1-2 punch at RB in Phil “He’s a Bad” Mafah ** and Will Shipley who’ve combined for close to 1,600 rushing yards and 14 TDs. The Wildcats have been decent vs the run for the majority of the campaign (114 YPG, #27 FBS) but very sketchy vs the pass (#94 pass efficiency D, 20-10 TD to INT, 67%) and we think that Clemson will be able to have some success thru the air, especially if their RB duo can get rolling.

** Kudos to RG3 for that gem

Kentucky offense vs Clemson defense

We’ve chronicled the struggles of QB Devin Leary quite extensively on these pages in 2023 (23-10 TD to INT, 56%) and he’s been plagued by puzzling inaccuracy and all kinds of drops from his talented WR group. Leary will have his top three wideouts available (Key/Robinson/Brown) and they’ll definitely present problems for a Clemson stop unit that’ll be missing a bunch of starters. It also appears as of press time that 1,000-yard RB Ray Davis will be playing in this game and he’s a TACKLE-BREAKING MACHINE and a fine receiver out of the backfield. Clemson has been rock solid on defense (again) this year (#7 total defense, #26 run D, #4 pass efficiency D) but as noted above, the Tigers will be without a number of key starters.

Trends, Intangibles and More!

Kentucky HC Mark Stoops is 4-3 SU in bowl games and had won four in a row before Iowa took them down 21-CACK in last year’s Music City Bowl…..Clemson HC Dabo Swinney is 11-8 SU in bowl action but has lost 3L4 including the 2022 Orange Bowl vs Tennessee…..Weather looks clear and crisp as we get closer to game day….Wind gusts could hit up to 20mph but it doesn’t appear that the elements will have a significant impact on Friday……Clemson is +10 in net sacks and +3 in t/o margin whilst Kentucky is +7 and +1 respectively.


This game looks like it’s lined pretty well. As noted on our last appearance with the legendary Ken Thomson on SportsXRadio our preferred position on the game is the ‘under’ but it’s a bit tougher to take now that we’ve moved from 47 down to 45. As far as the side goes, we prefer the Tigers but don’t have a solid feel in terms of how much they’ll miss the quitters/opt-outs on defense. If we have something on the game it’ll be posted by late-afternoon on Thursday. For now, it’s no dice.


No leanage.

‘Official play’ implies this pick is one of our favorites of the week (perceived value, match-up, coaching, trends, etc.). We’re currently playing these picks for the same amount as the leans but it’s up to you how you want to manage your bankroll. Please see the Week in Review posts for more detail.

‘Lean’ implies we are placing a wager on the game.

‘No leanage’ implies we won’t have any action on the game.

Team totalsWe list the implied number based on the point spread and total when our analysis is posted. If a team total ends up being an official play we will post a widely available number at the time of pick release.