Dabo Swinney’s Tigers continue their push for a spot in the College Football Playoff, as Clemson travels to Notre Dame, for a much anticipated matchup.
The way things look to be playing out, the Tigers will need to win out to get in, meaning there is no margin for error. Coming off a bye week, Clemson has had extra time to prepare, as well as heal up from the normal wear and tear from the season.
This is also a team, that despite being unbeaten, has yet to play its best football. We’ve seen flashes, but not a full four quarters. If there ever was a time to put a complete game together, this is it.
With the Tigers debuting at No. 4 in the initial CFP Playoff Rankings, the naysayers have been out in full force. This Clemson team has an opportunity this weekend to at least quieten some of that down to degree.
The key to doing that? Doing what Clemson does best, stopping the run. Despite the terrible run defense against FSU and first half lapses against Syracuse, this is still one of the best run defenses in the land, allowing just 88 YPG and 3.0 YPC.
The Irish have three capable RBs and an OL that is probably the best the Tigers have seen all year. After starting the season 0-2, Notre Dame has now established an identity under QB Drew Pyne, and that is to run it and run it some more. And they aren’t going to be really fancy about it, they are going to run it right at you.
Make Pyne beat you with his arm. Outside of TE Michael Mayer, none of those pass catchers really scare you, and more importantly, neither does Pyne, who is averaging just 170 passing yards per game.
On the flip side, the Tigers need to get Will Shipley and Phil Mafah going early, to help take some of the pressure off DJ Uiagalelei, who is making his first start since being pulled against Syracuse.
While the Notre Dame defense has been very good for the most part, the one area they are weak at is on the backend. Freshman Benjamin Morrison has had his share of struggles, so don’t be surprised to see the Tigers try and pick on him early and often. This could be the perfect time to get freshman Adam Randall going.
At the end of the day, though, this one all comes down to who can defend the run the best, and who can run it best. With rain expected earlier in the day, damp and windy conditions are expected Saturday night, possibly making it a little tougher on both QBs.
This game will be won or lost along the line of scrimmage and this is the game that Clemson defense finally puts together a complete game. It won’t be easy, and it will be close, but the Tigers leave South Bend victorious, leaving the Irish feeling lugubrious.
Clemson 24 Notre Dame 20
Clemson and Notre Dame have released depth charts ahead of this weekend’s matchup at Death Valley.
For the second time this season, Clemson will be an underdog at home.
Despite Clemson’s astonishing loss to Miami, the Tigers will head to Raleigh next week favored over NC State.