NOV. 5 • AT NOTRE DAME • NOTRE DAME STADIUM, NOTRE DAME, IND.
Two historic programs will look to add another chapter to a series that has produced a number of memorable moments in recent years. The Tigers are 4-2 all-time against the Fighting Irish, and the programs split two meetings in 2020 in Notre Dame’s lone season of ACC membership.
Clemson won the teams’ most recent matchup, a 34-10 win in the 2020 ACC Championship Game, avenging a 47-40 double-overtime loss at Notre Dame earlier that season in which several key players, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence and linebacker James Skalski, were unavailable. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards in Clemson’s last trip to South Bend, the most all-time by any player against the Irish.
There are those games and then there is the game. That completely describes this battle between two titans of the sport. The Tigers will travel to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Both teams could easily be in the Top-10 and the winner could be headed to the College Football Playoff. It’s not an understatement to say, for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers, this is most likely to be the toughest game of the season.
Longtime head coach Brian Kelly left in the offseason to take the head coaching job at LSU and Notre Dame had an interesting decision to make. It decided to promote rising coaching star Marcus Freeman from defensive coordinator to head coach.
Freeman is known as an excellent defensive coach with a passion for recruiting. That is already paying off, as Notre Dame brought in a good recruiting class for 2022. As usual, the Irish are loaded with big linemen on both lines of scrimmage. This is a point of concern for the Clemson offense.
Like any team with new leadership, The Irish and The Tigers will both have many questions to be answered and by this time in the season, the answers, good or bad for both programs will be known. The key matchup I’ll be watching is Clemson’s offensive line versus Notre Dame’s defensive line. As I see it, this is where the victory will be won.
If the Clemson offense progresses as expected, this should be a great game. As mentioned in every other game breakdown, the Tigers’ defense is the ultimate game changer. This game will be hard fought and will go deep into the fourth quarter, possibly overtime for a winner to emerge.
NOV. 12 • VS. LOUISVILLE • MEMORIAL STADIUM, CLEMSON, S.C.
Clemson will enter its 2022 home date with Louisville on Nov. 12 boasting a 7-0 all-time record against the Cardinals, one of two FBS programs against whom Clemson has won its first seven games. A year ago, Clemson overcame a 24-17 deficit after three quarters and earned a win with a dramatic goal-line stand in the final minute. Including a comeback win a week earlier against Florida State, the victory at Louisville gave Clemson fourth-quarter comeback wins in back-to-back games for the first time in the Swinney era.
Going into his third year, head coach Scott Satterfield has overseen an impressive turnaround in the culture and relative success of his program. One of the top offensive minds in the country, Satterfield’s Cardinals boast a hybrid ground/air attack that is capable of piling up the points, but has been undone by a defense often unable to hold its own.
Last season, QB Malik Cunningham had 20 rushing touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder is an elite rushing threat on top of having a cannon for an arm, and Satterfield knows how to use him perfectly.
In this one, my main focus will be the Clemson’s ability to contain and overwhelm Cunningham, and I believe they will. He does remind me a little of Lamar Jackson. He can be dangerous. However, the porous Cardinal defense is ripe for the picking and that’s what I expect the Tigers to do, pick it apart.
Like many games in 2022, this one will be interesting until late third quarter. Then the talent superiority of Clemson and a rabid Death Valley crowd will prove too much.
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