Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Clemson Tigers: Tale of the Tape

Notre Dame has been one of the most storied programs since the onset of college football, while the Clemson Tigers have begun building their own dynasty since the dawn of the College Football Playoffs. Dabo Swinney is seeking his 3rd national title in just the last five seasons, while Brian Kelly is seeking a historic win that could give the Irish another shot at the playoffs.

Program Comparison

Notre Dame



11 (1988)

National Titles

3 (2018)


Playoff Appearances



Heisman Winners



Records since 2018



Head to Head Victories


Notre Dame and Clemson winning streaks

Multiple winning streaks are on the line for Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish head into this matchup with a 22-game home winning streak and 12-game winning streak overall. The last time Notre Dame fell at home was against a Jake Fromm led Georgia Bulldogs team back in 2017. Georgia would go on to play for the national championship later that season.

Conversely, the Tigers are riding a 36-game regular season winning streak into South Bend. Although Clemson had a close call against Boston College last weekend, the Tigers have destroyed the ACC competition the past several seasons. Most of Clemson’s losses the past five seasons have only come in the College Football Playoffs.

Can the Irish bring back the glory? The last time a team with a 36-game regular season winning streak came to South Bend was Miami in 1988, and the Irish were able to knock off Jimmy Johnson with a 31-30 final score. That matchup was one of the most memorable games in college football history, and who knows how this contest will unfold.

Head Coaching Matchup

Brian Kelly has recorded 3-undefeated regular seasons since 2009. Coach Kelly led Cincinnati (2009) and Notre Dame (2012,2018) to undefeated regular seasons. Although he has yet to win a national championship, try to name the coaches to accomplish that feat.

Many people believed 2018 was the year the Irish would finally breakthrough, and fans are hopeful this may be the season, but we will find out shortly.

Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have 5 playoff appearances punctuated by 2 titles. The Clemson Tigers have only lost a single game in their last 37 matchups, which is astonishing. If it were not for Heisman winner Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers, Clemson would have been back-to-back national champions.

It appears the LSU Tigers were a one-hit wonder for now, and Alabama has fallen off slightly in recent years; Swinney’s Tigers are the standard in college football at this moment. If the Fighting Irish want a shot at the College Football Playoffs, they must go through this juggernaut.

Quarterback Comparison

It is time for fifth-year senior Ian Book to shine. Through 6 games this fall, Book is 92 for 150 (61.3%) with 1,225 yards for 7 touchdowns and one interception. Undoubtedly, not the dark-horse Heisman statistics that fans thought could be the case before this season. He has 51 attempts for 212 yards (4.2 yards per rush) with 5 touchdowns on the ground.

Ian Book has a great record as a starter, but these are the games that truly matter. If he cannot lead the Irish to victory this Saturday, his legacy will be missing a monumental win.

Nothing to lose for true freshman D.J. Uiagalelei. Even if Clemson loses to the Irish this weekend, they will be able to fall back on a probable rematch in the ACC Championship Game with Trevor Lawrence. Uiagalelei is the quarterback of Clemson’s future, and this game will be important but not career defining for the young phenom.

This fall, D.J. Uiagalelei has only one start against the Boston College Eagles but has seen some action late in games. He is 42 for 60 (70%) for 444 yards with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. On the ground, Uiagalelei has 57 yards with 3 touchdowns.

OC Tommy Rees vs DC Bren Venables

This will be the first genuine test for OC Tommy. Coach Rees is only six years older than starting quarterback Ian Book. Rees has established a running attack and control the clock, but his knowledge and play calling will be put to the limit in South Bend. Is the young offensive coordinator ready to face one of the best defensive coordinators in college football? That is a major question.

Veteran DC Brent Venables. The Clemson defensive coordinator is known for his exotic blitzes and aggressive defense. He has been with the Tigers since 2012 and is one of the major reasons for the program’s successes, alongside Dabo Swinney.

Unfortunately for Irish fans, Brent Venables has a clear advantage in this category. But young coaches have been on the rise at all levels of football, and this could be the breakout game for Tommy Rees as a coach.

Final Thoughts

Notre Dame has a storied legacy of beating #1 teams. The Irish have had countless wins over the top team in the country over the last century. In 1957, Notre Dame upset #1 Oklahoma on the road and ended their 47-game winning streak. As mentioned previously, Lou Holtz was able to knock off the Miami Hurricanes in Notre Dame’s most recent championship season back in 1988.

In 1993, in what was referred to as a “Game of the Century,” Lou Holtz beat Bobby Bowden’s #1 Florida State Seminoles at Notre Dame Stadium. It has been a long time since the Irish upset a #1 team, but one might say it is overdue.

Now or never for Brian Kelly and the Irish. Without Trevor Lawrence and a few other key players for Clemson, this is the time for Notre Dame to prove they belong. If the Fighting Irish cannot win this weekend, one would assume that it would be more challenging to bounce back next month in a potential rematch in the ACC Championship game. Before Brian Kelly can think about the College Football Playoffs or national title, all roads go through the Clemson Tigers.

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  1. Did anyone else get a chuckle out of the examples in this article of our “storied” history, 1957 and 1993? That says it all folks.
    I expect to have one more chuckle today, when Kelly puts on that ‘staged for network’ pep talk just before game time. Let’s see, will it be …”you know what you have to do”, or “you have to defend our house”? Way short of Rockne-ish. At first it was cringe worthy, now it’s laughable.

    1. His speeches are truly cringeworthy. I even think it hurts recruiting.
      Though they are allegedly impressed with ND’sfrequent ‘costume change’ games, I’ll bet high school kids are nonplussed with those speeches.

  2. Few would doubt that Clemson has the most talent.
    Many would say they have the coaching advantage.
    Their resume in big games dictates they excel when they most need to.

    Nov. 7th post-game Haiku

    Loaded with talent
    Showing up strong in big games
    How did Clemson lose?

  3. Everyone keeps on saying Ian Book needs to have the game of his life. So true!

    But let me add that our STs need to play like they have never played in the BK era. Bramblett needs to have a career night. Doerer can’t miss (and hopefully he’s kicking extra points and not FGs!). The coverage units need to be air tight. And hopefully the return teams can give the O a short field or two and, why not, a TD. A ST’s score would help ND stay in the game, and, as the Irish sadly have found out over the years, the longer an underdog stays in the game the better their chances to win it at the end of the game!

    ND can only win if they play a near perfect game in all three phases, don’t turn the ball over, get TOs, and keep penalties (especially major fouls) to a minimum.


    1. I believe Clemson would have to go back to ‘Clemsoning’ to possibly lose this game.
      ND would play the best, most complete game it has in many years to even make it close.

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