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Clemson isn't heading to the CFP, so what bowl will take the Tigers?

COLUMBIA — For the first time in seven years, Clemson isn’t heading to the College Football Playoff.

And with a streak of six ACC titles also broken, the New Year’s Six slate of bowls is out, as well.

So it’s a more eclectic mix of bowls on the table for the Tigers, it seems. Let’s review some of what could be on the table for Clemson when bowl destinations are announced Dec. 5 following conference championship weekend.

Cheez-It Bowl, Dec. 29, 5:45 p.m., Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.

This is the favored designation of CBS Sports’ bowl expert Jerry Palm, who has the Tigers as the ACC tie-in with Kanas State of the Big 12.

Last year, this was a matchup of No. 20 Oklahoma State versus No. 22 Miami, and the Cowboys were able to build off of a 37-34 win and become Big 12 frontrunners in 2021. Clemson, given its youthful roster, could use the Cheez-It Bowl as a similar launch point.

Kansas State just completed a 7-5 season, including wins over Stanford, TCU, and West Virginia. The Wildcats also played Oklahoma to a 37-31 loss, so they can put up points.

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, Dec. 31, 11 a.m., TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.

Wouldn’t it be so fitting for Clemson to finish its first season in years without Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne by spending New Year’s in their new football home?

Bowl projections from ESPN, 247Sports, and Athlon Sports, among others, have Clemson and other ACC schools to a game that’s often Big Ten versus SEC. ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has Clemson matching up with Mike Leach’s Mississippi State squad in the Gator Bowl, but Arkansas and Auburn have been thrown out as potential opponents.

Clemson is often slighted for playing in the ACC. This would allow the Tigers to finish their season with two consecutive SEC opponents — albeit, not the top tier — and see where they fit in that mix in 2021. Kentucky beat N.C. State, 23-21, in the last Gator Bowl.

It would be Clemson’s 10th Gator Bowl all-time and the first since 2009.

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, 8 p.m., Dec. 28, Petco Park, San Diego, Calif.

Because the Tigers have played in the CFP for so many years, it’s been a while since they have matched up with the Pac-12 opponent in the postseason.

In fact, only a handful of opponents have played Clemson in every bowl game dating back to 2012: Ohio State (4 times), Alabama (4), LSU (2), Oklahoma (2) and Notre Dame (1).

This projection, from ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, has the Tigers facing Washington State, which would be the program’s first Pac-12 bowl opponent since Cal in the 1992 Citrus Bowl. Clemson played Colorado in the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, but that was when the Buffaloes were in thig Big 12.

It was a sunny 71 degrees in San Diego on Nov. 27, so there will be few complaints from vacation-seekers, probably, if this ends up being the draw. Last year, No. 15 Iowa beat USC, 49-24, in the Holiday Bowl.

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