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College Football Overtime: Orange Bowl Matchup Has Marquee Names But Lacks Enthusiasm

It's the continuing story for what was once the premier bowl game in the world of college football

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Come December 30, the 89th edition of the Capital One Orange Bowl will feature two of the bigger names in the history of college football: a top-10 battle between the Clemson Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers that looks good on paper.

It's also going to be a matchup of teams that had higher expectations than this game and one that will have the Orange Bowl working extra hard to convince the fan bases in orange on both sides it's still worth it to come to South Florida.

When it comes to the level of talent that will be on the field inside Hard Rock Stadium, there is no doubt it will be amazing if both teams bring all their star players. It's a Clemson team who won the ACC for the seventh time in the last eight seasons and a Tennessee team who at one point this season was the top ranked team in the country.

Heck, back on November 18 it looked like the Tigers had a chance to make it into the College Football Playoff and the Volunteers were on their way to the Sugar Bowl. In that case, the Orange Bowl would have been left with two teams that may not have been ranked as high but would've looked at the game as a welcomed end to the season.

Instead, thanks to each team losing to South Carolina in the final two weeks of the regular season, its a battle of teams in orange who may look at a bowl game named Orange as a letdown for what could have been. Instead of being one of the four teams playing for a national title, they are playing for the right to hoist a container of fruit.

It's the continuing story for what was once the premier bowl game in the world of college football. There was a time when, during a 17-season period between 1981 and 1997, the national champion was crowned to the winner of this game a total of nine times.

Since the Bowl Championship Series started in the 1998 season and the College Football Playoff took over in the 2014 season, the national champ has been crowned just twice in the game and just three additional times when the bowl was a sponsor of the additional game played in the 2008, 2012 and 2020 seasons.

Would it have been better for the Orange Bowl to have had a game between teams who would've viewed it more as a reward, such as schools like Florida State and Penn State? Maybe. Will there be some fans of Clemson and Tennessee who won't come to the bowl game because it isn't a playoff game? Likely.

That's not the Orange Bowl's fault. That's what happened when college football tried to turn bowl games into an afterthought in favor of a playoff system that may work in basketball and pro football, but isn't what college football has been traditionally all about.

I hope I am wrong on this one, but this year's edition of the Orange Bowl feels like it will leave plenty to be desired from the fanbases of the teams taking part.

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