Tigers to Face #6 Tennessee

Clemson (8-4) will face Tennessee (10-2) in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, bowl President Gary Stokan announced on Sunday. The contest will be played January 2, 2004 in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. Tennessee is ranked sixth by Associated Press and seventh by ESPN/USA Today Coach's poll. It will be the highest ranked team Clemson has faced in a bowl game since the Tigers faced a sixth ranked Virginia Tech team in the 2001 Gator Bowl.

This will be the first meeting between Clemson and Tennessee since 1976, a game the Volunteers won by a 21-19 score in Knoxville. Overall, Tennessee holds an 11-5-2 advantage in the series that dates to the 1901 season when John Heisman coached the Tigers to a 6-6 tie with Tennessee.

Clemson and Tennessee have met just twice since 1944. The other meeting was a 29-28 Tennessee victory in Knoxville in 1974, a loss that was held on Clemson head coach Red Parker's birthday. Tennessee has beaten Clemson each of the last seven meetings. Clemson's last victory in the series took place at Clemson in 1919, a 14-0 Tiger victory.

This year's game will match two of the top 10 winningest active coaches in Division I football on a percentage basis. Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer is second among winningest active coaches with a 113-27 record for his 11 years, a .807 winning percentage. Clemson's Tommy Bowden is ninth in that category with a 55-28 record for his seven seasons, a .663 winning percentage.

Clemson enters the Chick-fil-A Peach bowl on a three-game winning streak. The Tigers outscored Florida State (26-10), Duke (40-7) and South Carolina (63-17) by a combined 129-34 to close the season. Tennessee won its last six games to close the season, including a 10-6 victory at Miami (FL).

The two teams have had three common opponents in 2003. Both teams defeated Duke and South Carolina, while both teams lost to Georgia. Both teams have two wins over ranked teams. The Tigers defeated ranked teams from Virginia and Florida State, while Tennessee defeated ranked teams Florida and Miami (FL). Both teams also won games in overtime. The Tigers defeated Virginia 30-27 in overtime at Clemson on October 11, while Tennessee won at Alabama in overtime, 51-43 two weeks later and also beat South Carolina in an extra period.

Both teams are led on offense by outstanding quarterbacks. Tennessee's Casey Clausen is 37th in the nation in passing efficiency with a 135.5 rating. He has completed 202 of 357 passes for 2584 yards and 25 touchdowns. Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst is 30th in the nation in passing efficiency with a 138.8 rating. Whitehurst, who has set 26 Clemson records this year, has completed 266 of 425 passes for 3315 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Both teams have three players with over 100 tackles on defense this year. Clemson has been led by first-team All-ACC linebacker Leroy Hill with 133 tackles, including 25 tackles for loss, second best in the nation. John Leake has added 120 tackles and is fourth in Clemson history on a career basis. Jamaal Fudge has added 108 tackles to go with a team best five takeaways.

Tennessee is led on defense by Gibril Wilson and Kevin Simon, who both have 106 tackles. Linebacker Robert Peace has an even 100 tackles, including 12.5 tackles for loss to tie for the team lead.

Tennessee special teams are led by punter Dustin Colquitt with a 45.9 average, the fourth best average in the nation, and punt returner Mark Jones, who is third in the nation with a 15.7 average.

"Meeting Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will be a tremendous challenge and opportunity for our football program," said head coach Tommy Bowden. "We are playing a program that has been outstanding for many years, especially in the last 11 years under Phillip Fulmer. He has won the national championship within the last five years and has been ranked in the top 10 in the nation this season."

"We have played well at the end of the season, but we are playing a team that has won its last six games, including a landmark victory at Miami (FL), a victory that broke a long home winning streak for Miami. To beat Miami at Miami is quite an accomplishment."

"Tennessee is a well coached team that excels in all phases for the game. They have an experienced, efficient quarterback in Casey Clausen, and have a solid running game behind an outstanding offensive line. On defense they rank in the top 20 in the nation in pass defense, scoring defense and total defense. Four of the last five teams have failed to reached double figures (points) against their defense."

"Historically, Tennessee is outstanding when it comes to special teams and that is the case this year. They have a punter (Dustin Colquitt) and a punt returner (Mark Jones) who rank in the top five in the nation."

"Coach Fulmer has won over 80 percent of his games at Tennessee for a reason. He always has his teams well prepared in every phase of the game."

CUTigers.com Top Stories