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The Daily Sweat: Five Friday bowl games kick off an amazing weekend of football

One of the best football weekends of the season is upon us.

While New Year’s Eve features the College Football Playoff, New Year’s Day is Week 17 of the NFL season and Monday has the Rose Bowl and one of the best NFL games of the year with the Bills and Bengals, things get going on Friday with five bowl games.

The biggest game of the day is the Orange Bowl (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). And the name of the game hasn’t been more appropriate in decades. No. 6 Clemson is a 6-point favorite over No. 7 Tennessee as the line has ticked toward the Tigers in the days before kickoff.

It’s a matchup of backup quarterbacks too. Joe Milton will start for Tennessee after Hendon Hooker suffered a torn ACL in the penultimate game of UT’s season. Cade Klubnik is making his first career start for Clemson after taking over as QB during the ACC title game. Klubnik was so good in that game that it was indisputable that he’d get the start in the bowl game before the game ended. And two-year Clemson starter D.J. Uiagalelei has already announced his transfer.

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 03: Clemson Tigers quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) during the ACC college football championship game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Clemson Tigers on December 3, 2022, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Cade Klubnik is set to make his first college football start for Clemson in the Orange Bowl against Tennessee. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tennessee is an underdog because it’s missing more than just Hooker. Star WR Jalin Hyatt isn’t playing and neither is Cedric Tillman. Linebacker Jeremy Banks is missing the game too. We like under 63.5 as the play in this one.

The day gets started with either NC State’s Dave Doeren or Maryland’s Mike Locksley getting threatened with a bath of mayonnaise in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. NC State is a 1-point favorite even though it’s unclear who will start at QB for the Wolfpack. With injured starter Devin Leary transferring to Kentucky, Doeren hasn’t revealed if freshman M.J. Morris or Ben Finley will start the bowl game. Morris took over as NC State’s starter late in the season before he was injured and Finley started the season-ending double-overtime win over North Carolina.

The second game of the day is UCLA and Pitt in the Sun Bowl (2 p.m. ET, CBS). The line has shifted dramatically toward UCLA in this one as the Bruins are now favored by 7.5 points. Pitt is missing a lot of key players including QB Kedon Slovis, RB Izzy Abanikanda and a host of its top defensive players. UCLA has most of its roster available, including QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. If you can tease down UCLA to a 6.5-point favorite, we recommend you do that.

Notre Dame is a 3.5-point favorite in the Gator Bowl over South Carolina. The total has moved significantly in this one after opening at 53.5 in many spots. It’s down to 50.5 at BetMGM. Notre Dame’s Tyler Buchner is set to start after missing most of the season with a shoulder injury. Spencer Rattler is playing for South Carolina but will be missing some key offensive pieces. The under could be the right side here even as the total keeps getting lower and lower.

The lowest-profile bowl of the day is the Arizona Bowl between Wyoming and Ohio (4:30 p.m. ET). The Cowboys are 2.5-point underdogs as they don’t have their top four running backs for this one. Throw in the absence of star Ohio QB Kurtis Rourke and it’s understandable why the total is just 41.5.

Two Premier League games

The English Premier League is back in action after a Thursday off. The EPL resumed its season on Monday and is in the midst of a fixture crunch through next weekend.

West Ham is +105 to beat Brentford at home while the Bees are +250 to win and a tie is also at +250. Liverpool is -375 as a home favorite against Leicester City. The tie is +500 and an upset by the Foxes is at +1000.

Eight NBA games on tap

Over half the Association is playing on Friday night and the closest game looks to be in New Orleans. Joel Embed and the Philadelphia 76ers are 1.5-point underdogs vs. Zion Williamson and the Pelicans. The Warriors are 2.5-point underdogs at home against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets are 4.5-point favorites at home against the Miami Heat.

Who cashed tickets Thursday?

The Cowboys and Titans pushed in Dallas’ 27-13 win. Tennessee sat numerous key players and started Josh Dobbs at QB as it prepares for a winner-take-all Week 18 game for the AFC South with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Oklahoma covered in a 35-32 loss to Florida State in the Cheez-It Bowl and Washington beat Texas 27-20 in the Alamo Bowl.