Notre Dame Football Primer: Irish face Clemson in the “Game of the Year”

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

Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 10% chance of rain with a high of 70 degrees and a low of 51.

Clemson Details:

  • Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
  • Head Coach: Dabo Swinney
  • 2020 Record: 7-0 (6-0)
  • 2019 Record: 14-1 (9-0)

Clemson Storylines:

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.

Advantage: Clemson

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.

Advantage: Tie

My Prediction:

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

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  1. Let me start by saying this is a fantastic place to read about ND football from writers who are informed, intelligent, fair and well-spoken. I’m very happy every time a new article is posted and pretty much every time come away more informed and in agreement with the analysis.

    On the other hand, some of you usual suspects that comment on the articles are the exact opposite. You are not informed, if you happen to be intelligent your posts sure don’t reflect that and the ability to be fair and/or well-spoken clearly don’t pertain to your posts. You drag the value of the comments section down to unbearable levels with your inflammatory name calling and opinions (which I’m sure you think are facts) that are so juvenile. I would guess these fantastic articles that have the potential to produce SO much more great discussion don’t get more comments because of stupid shit like: calling Brian Kelly “a pathetic loser” or claiming “every time ND goes up against a quality opponent it’s another embarrassment” or you may start out rooting for ND and then change to hoping “Kelly retires and Book graduates”.

    Why can’t you miserable individuals stop bringing this BS to all these threads? What you get out of it, I don’t know. But I’ll say this, it limits what the rest of us get out of it, meaning a nice discussion based on the articles presented to us. Feel like Kelly is a pathetic loser? Great, don’t watch him coach anymore and don’t feel obligated to tell everyone on the internet. You wanna root for ND and then just hope Kelly/Book go away? Great again, do it at home by yourself and keep it to yourself. Fans like you guys are an embarrassment.

    Overall, yes, it can be agreed upon that ND under Brian Kelly desperately needs to take the next step to reach the level we ALL want them to ascend to. Beating Clemson on Saturday night would sure help. And yes, ND under Brian Kelly has suffered some embarrassing defeats in big spots, no denying that, but to say every game versus a quality opponent in his tenure has been an embarrassment is simply wrong and foolish to say.

    This place needs a commenter overhaul or ban policy before loyal readers move along….

    1. Three suggestions:
      1) Start your own website, putz. With a ‘cheerleaders only’ rule.
      2) Don’t read stuff you don’t like….or read it and then get over it.
      3) Be a man. Instead of a deicate little pussy.

      1. 1. More name calling for what reason who knows, must make you feel better I assume, and I can hardly be considered a “cheerleader only”. I just called out the constantly miserable/nasty content of your posts. I’d love to contribute more discussion on wins/losses/expectations/coaching/whatever on this site instead of just lurking, but people like you don’t make it fun for countless readers/would be commentators.
        2. I have no problem reading things I don’t like. I do read things and get over it, as you suggested, but that doesn’t disqualify me from being able to point out insufferable BS.
        3. Be a man? As in model your behavior calling people putz, delicate little pussy or pathetic loser? Come on.

        My original post had nothing to do with attempting to limit the free speech or halting anyone from speaking their mind on this board. If it came across like that originally, I apologize as that was not at all the intent. Using the word “ban” was a poor word choice, I admit. My intent was, as an avid reader who is considering getting more involved in discussion around here, wishing this place could stick to discussion/disagreement without unnecessary inflammatory content over and over and over. It adds nothing. I’m not attempting to dictate anything, plus I’m in no position to do so, just wishing this site could garner more and more participants (overhaul) and expressing my disdain/hesitation on joining more myself based upon the seemingly constant inflammatory name calling type comments from some here.

        Sorry to speak so much for a newbie poster.

        GO IRISH!

    2. The wonderful thing about living in this country is the right to free speech. I might not like what you say, but I respect your right to say it. Your right, however, entails the responsibility to reciprocate and respect my rights to freely speak my mind.

      Your attempt to dictate terms is contrary to the spirit of this site, which has always allowed for dissenting points of view. Now, at times, we could all allow for a bit more charity in our exchanges.

      For what you say above about actual ND football matters, I think most of us agree with you.

      So, you can come back and share your opinions or not. Just realize that we are all entitled to our own thoughts, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. I, for one, hope you do come back and share with us your insights and passion for ND football.

      GO IRISH!

      1. What “Burgy” says above is true, Barry.

        BTW: Don’t confuse me with “david” or “David.” I might well agree with his/their overall take on things, but I try (not always successfully) to be more charitable. So long as I’m treated respectfully, then I usually reciprocate.

        But if you want to start a fight, you can ask some of the old timers on here, I don’t scare easy.

        So, since you’re a “newbie,” why not start off on the right foot and respectfully agree to disagree when the time comes.

        GO IRISH!

  2. Im hoping it’s not another embarrassment, like what we have to endure each and every time a Kelly coached team comes up against a quality opponent.
    Last meeting with Clemson, we offered little in the way of a rush and no concept in how to defend against the pass. Combine those failures with this years ND version of a skittish AB (Book is just Anotherback) and an OL that still cannot protect him, we have a potential disaster looming.
    I’ll watch and I’ll start out rooting for a victory, but then I’m afraid I’ll end up rooting for Kelly’s departure and Books graduation.

    1. Kelly’s departure is at least 5 years away and Book can come back next year if he chooses.
      Secure a different Plan B.

    2. The first step to sobriety is to admit you have a problem. Welcome, brother.
      Next you must recognize symptoms (eg. Ian Book being the starting QB) from the core problem (Brian Kelly).
      Without purging the Kelly from your system, another Book is right around the corner.

  3. “Then they went and blitzed Alabama,” Kelly said of the 2018 Clemson Tigers, “and I didn’t hear anyone saying anything about the talent gap or the coaching gap there.”
    No, that’s right Brian. You didn’t.
    Because that Alabama team saw 12 players drafted in 2018, 5 in 2019, and 9 in 2020.
    ….oh, and the coach is Nick. Fukking. Saban.

    Shut up with the PR spin, do your job, and win a real damn game. You pathetic loser.

  4. MTA,. I doubt Clemson’s DC will run mostly man to man . He would need to spy Book on every play . He will mix it up . It will be great football weather . A true Indian Summer .

    BGC 77 82

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