The Tigers weekend matchup in South Bend is a big one, no doubt about it.
However, it is a little bigger for one team than it is the other. That team is in fact Notre Dame, not Clemson, despite all the recent losses the Tigers have experienced.
Top-ranked Clemson heads to South Bend without the services of starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence. On top of that they are also once again going to be missing Tyler Davis, Mike Jones Jr and James Skalski on defense. Three key pieces to Brent Venables unit. That isn’t even mentioning that Xavier Thomas is out the first half and Justin Foster has yet to suit up.
Still, all the pressure is on Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish. While Clemson is already established as one of the alpha-dog programs in the country, Notre Dame has been stuck in the second tier of teams fighting to crash through that glass ceiling and join the ranks of the elite.
Saturday night, at home, the Irish have a chance to prove this team is different. That they aren’t the pretender they were in 2018 or the years prior to that.
Lose, and their playoff hopes take a big hit, as they would likely have to face this Clemson team at full strength once again in Charlotte. Clemson can survive a loss here, as long as they get healthy and take care of business the rest of the way.
Notre Dame comes in having just won one of their past 20 games against Top-5 competition going back 20 years. They haven’t won a major bowl game since 1994. Even Kansas has a major bowl win over that time frame.
So, no they aren’t elite. They can not even take the first step towards being elite until they win one of these games. And they aren’t even the favorites in this one, even with Clemson missing some of the most important pieces of their team, including their Heisman caliber starting quarterback.
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