Frankie V’s Prediction: Can Notre Dame Win Rematch With Clemson, Steal Conference TItle?

We’re hours away from kickoff in one of the most anticipated Notre Dame football games in recent years. The Irish have a chance to win their first ACC Championship in their first – and likely last – year as a full member of the conference. All that stands in their way is a Clemson team that is much healthier now than they were six weeks ago when the Irish knocked off the then top-ranked Tigers. Can the Irish pull it off again and knock Clemson out of the playoffs? Let’s dig in.

Can Notre Dame generate a pass rush and force some turnovers?

The key to this game will come down to whether or not Notre Dame can generate a pass rush without sending a ton of blitzes and whether or not that pressure leads to some turnovers. The difference in the game last time was the turnovers Notre Dame generated in the second quarter to build their lead.

This time around, Notre Dame has Trevor Lawrence to deal with. Because of that, the pass rush will have to be more effective this time out. Notre Dame didn’t get to DJ Uiagalelei until the 2nd overtime. If it takes that long again, it will be too late for the Irish.

If Lawrence has time to sit in the pocket, he will make Notre Dame pay. If Notre Dame sends the house and it doesn’t get home, Lawrence will make them pay even more. Clark Lea made North Carolina’s Sam Howell look average. It’s doubtful anyone can scheme something up to make Lawrence look average. Still, if Lea can generate pressure on Lawrence without committing too many extra blitzers while keeping him guessing on coverages, Notre Dame has a shot.

Will Ian Book continue to look like one of the nation’s best QBs?

All of the attention is on Lawrence today since he did not play last time, but one way to neutralize the benefit Clemson is getting from Lawrence’s return is for Book to continue his late-season surge. Tommy Rees has the unenviable task of facing Brent Venables a second time in less than two months in his first year as an offensive coordinator. The one bit of good news in that for Rees is Venables hasn’t ever played a team a second time in the same season before, so this is uncharted territory for him as well.

The challenge for Rees today will be balancing trying to play ball-control offense to keep Clemson’s offense off the field while still being aggressive and taking shots down the field to keep the Clemson defense honest. Enter Ian Book.

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Notre Dame does not need Ian Book to be better than Trevor Lawrence today. However, Notre Dame needs Ian Book to be the same Book we saw against Clemson last time and North Carolina a few weeks ago.

Can Notre Dame have early success running the ball again?

Kyren Williams’s 76-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the last game was huge for Notre Dame in so many ways. It showed the Irish they could run on Clemson. It gave them the confidence that they could play with the Tigers early. And it forced Venables to respect the run.

It is doubtful that Notre Dame rips off another 70+ yard run on their first drive today, but they don’t have to. If they can consistently pick up 3-4 yards every carry while limiting negative plays, they’ll be in a position to string drives together again. As long as Williams, Chris Tyree, and C’bo Flemister are consistently getting positive gains on the ground and not getting stopped behind the line of scrimmage, it keeps the playbook open.

With Clemson getting several starters back on defense, this will be a much more significant challenge this time – especially with a new starter at center for the Irish.

Will Clark Lea’s eventual departure be a distraction or a rallying point?

Lea leaving for Vanderbilt could either serve as a distraction or a rallying cry for the Irish defense. Based on player interviews this weekend, I am inclined to think it will be the latter. Lea deserves his shot as a head coach, and his players seem to understand that and be happy for their coach. This isn’t a head coach at a MAC school leaving for a P5 job sticking around to coach a bowl game.

I expect Notre Dame’s defense to play better today than they did in November against the Tigers – even with Lawrence back on the field.

Trick play watch

Clemson tried a few trick plays last time out, while the Irish stayed mainly in their base offense much of the night. We haven’t seen many trick plays at all from Rees in his first year as the offensive coordinator, but if he’s been saving any, today might just be the day. While many think Notre Dame is in the playoffs already, wouldn’t it be a lot nicer to just eliminate Clemson today instead of having to potentially face them a third time in a couple of weeks?

Rees did work Braden Lenzy back into the mix against Syracuse, albeit unsuccessfully. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw plenty of misdirection off of those jet sweeps/pop-pass type plays that Lenzy was so effective at last year.

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On the Clemson side of the ball, getting Lawrence back doesn’t mean the Tigers won’t go to their bag of tricks today. If anything, it could make them more likely to since they know they have Lawrence back to potentially mitigate any risks on trick plays. Notre Dame has to be disciplined in their assignments to avoid getting burned.

Can Notre Dame play the disrespect card successfully?

Ian Book told ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit on Thursday that they’ve heard a lot already about the players Clemson has coming back. In the official WatchND hype video, they superimposed a bunch of tweets and quotes about Notre Dame being over-rated. It seems like the Irish are leaning into the disrespect card. It’s an ea easy card to play here – especially when the Irish are a double-digit underdog to a team they just beat six weeks ago.

The question is whether or not they can play the disrespect card successfully. Last year, heading into the Michigan game, Notre Dame released a hype video acknowledging how they came up short in big games before only to fall flat on their faces in Ann Arbor last October. This team has come a long way since then, and they haven’t given any indication that such a performance is possible, but playing the disrespect card and executing are two different things.

Prediction Time

I have waffled back and forth on this game a lot. Like almost hourly. I’ve gone from Notre Dame could lose big to thinking that if Notre Dame just eliminates their mistakes from the last game, maybe they could win reasonably comfortably. Some of those positive thoughts have come in the evenings after indulging in a few strong double-IPAs, but so what.

Notre Dame is a confident team with veteran leadership up and down its roster. They know what’s at stake, and they see the opportunity in front of them. If Brian Kelly’s attitude in his presser yesterday is any indication of where his team is at mentally today, I like Notre Dame’s chance quite a bit.

I have not picked against Notre Dame all season – including the last Clemson game – so why start now?

Notre Dame 31, Clemson 30

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53 Comments

  1. Ugh. Notre Dame is perpetually stuck in place. We’ve progressed to the point that we are just an above average CFB team. For some schools that might be good enough. If we were say, Northwestern, or Vanderbilt, being above average may be great. But ND fans want more. We want championships. And we’re not going to get them.
    I’ve said before that ND is probably good enough to beat 90 to 95% of the teams out there. And on a rare occasion we might surprise someone and beat a top 10 team during the season. But when it’s all on the line those top 10 teams come prepared to put it all on the line, and ND is not.
    The problem is in CFB there is an upper tier of elite teams, maybe 4 to 5 teams that are the cream of the crop. And there is a huge chasm between those elite teams and the rest of CFB. And ND has not found a way to break into that group. I think there are 3 things you need. An elite quarterback, at least a solid defense and a top of the line coach.
    We sometimes have one of those 3 things, a good defense. But we have had how many QB’s go bust? Book is solid, he’s not horrible, but he’s not elite. And BK is not an elite coach. He’d be a great coach for some schools. A school that wants to make it to bowl games most years and even win them, and I’ll be generous and say on occasion your school may even surprise now and again by beating a better team. But we need to face it, he’s not an elite coach.
    The problem for us fans is the PTB’s at ND are perfectly satisfied with the way things stand. As long as the money keeps coming in nothing will change. Also, ND is not going to pay the exorbitant salary to get a Saban level coach. And you need top assistants, which ND notoriously doesn’t like to pay good money for.
    So this is where we are at, and this is where we will stay. As fans we have 2 choices. Either we just get used to the way things are, or we move on, either stop following CFB altogether or find another team. Because we are never going to win another NC again. It saddens me to think that, but it’s time we faced it. I still love ND, warts and all, so I don’t have the heart to not be a ND fan. But it’s time I faced the facts. I’m a fan of a team that’s not elite, and never will be again. At best, maybe we win an upper tier bowl game, and if I’m really lucky, maybe, just maybe they get a good NY Day 6 Bowl matchup that they might actually win.

  2. What did Clemson do. They challenged Book to throw downfield. Book cannot and did not throw downfield. Too easy for Clemson.

    And for you all to think Lawrence wouldn’t have made that much of a difference in that last game. LOL. Learn the game

    1. Book can’t see over the line when he’s in the pocket. It’s why from a purely body makeup, a short QB is a liability. Jurkovek now at BC is a better proto type. Ian Book is an amazing play maker. But given his height, the Offensive scheme needs to clear out so he can see.

  3. Ugh. Here’ the old familiar Notre Dame we’ve come to expect the last 10 years. When it counts the most, when everything is on the line for the season ND falls flat and embarrasses themselves in front of the nation.
    Before the game the general consensus was ND was in the playoffs unless they got embarrassed. Well, they are getting embarrassed and there will not be a playoff spot. Perhaps that’s for the best.
    I really had hoped that they had turned a corner this season. They looked good for much of the year. But it is all for naught if you can’t finish out the year. Nobody is going to remember those games. All they will remember is ND got embarrassed again.
    How? How can they be so poorly prepared to play these kinds of games? This is the 3rd or 4th time this has happened in the last 10 years. 2012 they go undefeated against one of the toughest schedules in the nation behind a top 5 defense and then they get embarrassed in the title game. Then it happened again, and now again.
    Sadly I’m more convinced than ever that I will never get to see ND win a football championship.

  4. This is a sad end to probably the last chance for Notre Dame to win a National Championship with student athletes.
    Congress is going to likely pass a bill to pay players and have revenue sharing. While fair to the players it effectively is going to make college sports especially football a professional league with free agency.
    I won’t watch.

      1. Been married for 24 years David. Sorry to burst your bubble. I’m not available for you. I know this is hard for you to understand, but I only ever went for women. And once I met my wife, just her. The idea of her is obviously a foreign concept to you. And by your comments it’s obvious you really do have a thing for men, or little boys. I’m sure you’ll find them in Columbus. Just have to leave your Mom’s basement.

  5. Let’s see if Kelly and his staff can make some decent halftime adjustments and get Notre Dame back in the game. Well maybe not we know that’s not going to happen never has with Kelly

    1. Just pathetic I almost started to believe just do us a favor don’t put us in the playoffs Alabama will make it even worse than 2012. Also please I can’t take another year of Book

  6. Please, ND apologists, no talk of POs and getting embarrassed again on national TV! Unfortunately, the Irish will probably have to face a tough team in the NY6 bowl game that will make them shit their pants again!

    ABC is definitely a jinx for ND.

    I’m turning to Plan Z right now.

    First time in my whole life I’m turning off a ND game before the final whistle. But I can’t endure this humiliation any longer!

      1. Back at you, Jeff.

        But no Merry anything after this game!

        Just another proof that what “david” says is spot on. ND only cares about making it to big games to cash in but doesn’t really care about winning anything.

        BK will never win a championship. The talent level at ND is also still not close to elite status.

      2. I know I would have gladly eaten crow and have ND shock me with winning this game. It’s really so sad. I guess the only plus is the way this year shaped up, with schedules all shot to hell, whomever ends up winning the NC will always have a bit of a question mark. Had ND somehow went all the way we all know the haters would be saying “Well, ND is technically the NC, they wouldn’t have won it if they had to play their normal schedule so it doesn’t count….blah, blah, blah”.
        It’s not really any consolation I suppose, but there’s that.

  7. Let the ass whipping begin!

    The narrative will go like this: ND can’t win the big one. They were over-rated. They beat Clemson’s B team, basically proving “david” right. Don’t hate on “david.” Hate that’s he’s right because ND football is wrong on the big stage.

    Clemson’s fans will soon start the “Over-rated!” chants and so will the ABC booth. This will get tough to endure here soon!

    1. AAAAAANNNNDDDDD this is what I was worried about, we beat Clemson Lite the first time, and now we see what we are, not at Clemson/Alabama/Ohio St level. A rung below the top.

  8. That 4th down play right there is why the ND O isn’t elite. An elite QB makes that throw. An Elite WR makes that catch. In fact, it wasn’t really all that tough a throw or catch.

    Clemson scores a TD here and not only is it close to game, set, match, it might be an old-fashion beat down of the Irish like we have become accustomed to.

    IF ND loses big, please no talk of POs. That would be ridiculous.

    GO IRISH!

    BEAT CLEMSON!

    1. Just last week, the puff pieces on Ian Book’s “underappreciated greatness” were in surplus.
      The fact is he’s always been an inaccurate passer, and without a cannon for an arm.
      And when you are more dependent on dink-and-dunk type passes, and relying on YAC more than other teams, accuracy and hitting people in stride is important.

      1. Only the kiss asses on here don’t recognize that, “david”.

        Ian Book isn’t an elite QB. Plain and simple.

        He’s a poor man’s Johnny Manziel, and Johnny Manziel was over-rated as history proved.

        But Book has a chance to do something historic and make a case for himself by leading a comeback. Probable? No. Possible? Probably not. But we can hope against hope.

  9. I guess they didn’t practice Red Zone O!

    The game might have well been lost on that Red Zone trip. Mind my words at the end of this game.

    Doerer is like Bramblett, just plain old unreliable.

    GO IRISH!

    BEAT CLEMSON!

  10. As much as I want to believe, I just don’t think ND still has the talent level to match Clemson punch-for-punch.

    But like last time, get the crow stew ready!

  11. The idea that ND should make the playoffs even if they were to lose this game is simply outrageous.
    Beating the Clemson B team at home in the regular season….barely….is not as relevant as losing to its A team at a neutral site in a season-ending championship game. Case closed.

    A critical failure of the college football system is the eternal controversy created by a lack of head-to-head competition in deciding who gets to be named champion…..the idea that 2 teams could end up in the already-inadequate 4 team playoff after playing each other twice already is just plain stupid. There are plenty of other teams with one loss who might beat Cl;emson.

    It’s only merit is that ND means more eyeballs will watch than for any other team. And more eyeballs means more money.
    And money wins. Praise God.

  12. If Notre Dame beats Clemson for a second time in one season, they will be well deserving of a conference title; this would not be a steal. Go Irish.

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