The most anticipated college football game of the season is finally here. Dabo Swinney leads the Clemson Tigers into South Bend on a 36-game regular-season winning streak, while the Irish look to upset the Tigers and extend their 22-game home winning streak. Something must give Saturday Night when the #1 Clemson Tigers face the #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish under the lights.
Essential Game Info:
- Game Time: November 7th at 7:30 pm ET on NBC
- Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
- Matchup History: The Irish are 1-3 all-time against the Clemson Tigers (Last Meeting 2018: Tigers won 30 to 3)
- Current Odds: Clemson -7.0
The current forecast for GameDay shows a 10% chance of rain with a high of 70 degrees and a low of 51.
- Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
- Head Coach: Dabo Swinney
- 2020 Record: 7-0 (6-0)
- 2019 Record: 14-1 (9-0)
Trevor Lawrence ruled out with COVID-19. The biggest news in the sports world last week was when Lawrence announced he had contracted the virus. The future #1 overall pick and Heisman frontrunner was initially expected to be available for the Tigers. However, following their victory against Boston College, Coach Swinney indicated that Lawrence would not play.
Yes, Clemson will not be at full strength, but the Irish still need this win no matter who is playing quarterback. There is a good chance the two will meet again in the ACC Championship Game, with Trevor Lawrence back under center.
5-Star freshman D.J. Uiagalelei takes over at quarterback. Last week, Uiagalelei went 30 for 41 with 342 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions against the Boston College Eagles. On the ground, he had 6 rushes for 25 yards with one rushing score.
Travis Etienne headlines the running game. The Clemson running back broke the ACC’s all-time rushing record last week and is perhaps one of the best running backs in college football history. Through 7 games, Etienne has 103 carries for 606 yards (5.9 yards per carry) with 9 rushing touchdowns.
Defensively, the Tigers are led by linebacker Baylon Spector and defensive end Myles Murphy. Spector has a team-high 39 tackles and has added 2.5 sacks, while Murphy leads Clemson with 3.5 sacks and has tallied 25 tackles.
Notre Dame Storylines:
Has the Notre Dame Offense improved enough to beat Clemson? Against Georgia Tech, Ian Book went 18 for 26 with 199 yards and 1 passing touchdown. Book completed a pass to 8 different Notre Dame players, while Javon McKinley and Avery Davis both had over 4 catches against the Yellow Jackets.
There is no doubt that the Irish passing attack is gaining momentum, but will it be enough to surpass Clemson? We will find out Saturday night.
Controlling the clock is a major key. Tommy Rees has done a superb job of managing the clock with a top offensive line and stable running backs. The physicality of Notre Dame has stood out this season on both sides of the ball. If the Irish can run the football with success, they can dictate the game, but their ability to do that is a significant question mark.
Ian Book’s running ability has also been effective this season. Last Saturday, Book had 9 rushes for 46 yards, which he will need against the Tigers.
First #1 opponent in South Bend since 2005. Every time the Irish play in these matchups, it has been on the road during the Kelly era. Finally, Notre Dame gets to play a top-5 team in South Bend. Even though the capacity is limited, the Irish will positively draw some motivation from the student body and Notre Dame Stadium.
Head to Head Matchups:
Notre Dame Offense vs. Clemson Defense: The marquee matchup of the night may take place off the field between 28-year-old rookie offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and veteran Brent Venables. Notre Dame possibly has the best offensive line in the country, and the passing attack continues to develop.
On the other side, the Tigers are loaded with young talent and only surrender 16 points per game.
Clemson Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: Clemson likely has the best offense in the country with Trevor Lawrence, but he will not be on the field Saturday.
Clark Lea brings in one of the best defenses in the country. Notre Dame is only giving up 10 points per game, but the unit has yet to face a team with a winning record in 2020. This Saturday will be the first significant test for the Irish Defense.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Special Teams: Clemson’s kicker, B.T. Potter is 10 for 14 this season with a long of 52 yards. Conversely, Jonathan Doerer is 7 for 9 this fall with a long of 48 yards. In a game of this magnitude, Special Teams can play a major factor.
There is no distinct advantage in the Special Teams department.
A rematch two years in the making. Even though the game will not be played in front of 80,000 fans, this game is something the country needs during a pandemic. Certainly, losing the future #1 overall pick in Trevor Lawrence is going to hurt the Tigers, but they will replace him with a 5-Star quarterback and next year’s starter D.J. Uiagalelei.
Regardless of who is leading Clemson, this would be a crucial win for Brian Kelly and the Irish.
Notre Dame is characterized by a strong defense and running attack. But my main concerns are still with the Irish passing attack and turnovers. Clemson looked vulnerable against Boston College, but the Tigers always seem to rise to the occasion in these big games.
Is this the year for the Irish? Notre Dame appears ready to get over the hump this year against Clemson, but I thought the same in the College Football Playoffs in 2018. I have the Tigers winning a close game, but I certainly hope they prove me wrong as a die-hard Notre Dame fan.
Prediction: Clemson 31 Notre Dame 27