Weekly Matchups: Notre Dame Faces Challenge of Defeating Clemson in Death Valley

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are coming off their second straight blowout victory but now face a challenging matchup on Saturday against the Clemson Tiger. Dabo Swinney’s squad is reeling at the moment with a 4-4 record and in the midst of a two-game losing streak. However, this clash will take place in their vaunted home, nicknamed Death Valley for the many opponents who have come up on the short end over the years.

The woes of the Tigers help explain why this matchup that’s been a prime-time battle in recent years has been relegated to a noontime start. Yet, despite Clemson’s comparatively hard times, it’s a certainty that Marcus Freeman and his staff will try to make sure that the Irish remain at the top of their game.

Below is a look at some of the important matchups fans will be watching on Saturday:

QB Sam Hartman vs. Clemson Defense

Hartman had some issues during the opening quarter of the Pittsburgh rout, throwing two interceptions and then watching a drive stall out on fourth down. Still, those mistakes quickly became footnotes as Notre Dame proceeded to obliterate the Panthers over the next two quarters. Against Clemson, being in sync with his offensive line in this game is a top goal. That will help avoid the penalty and sack issues that emerged during earlier games with raucous opposing crowds.

Though four losses dot the Tigers’s schedule, only two of them came when the defense struggled. Those came in the opening night upset at Duke and the October 21 loss at Miami. Like Notre Dame, Clemson has gotten pressure on opposing quarterbacks, even if the sack total doesn’t make that clear. However, outside of four interceptions in non-conference action, the Tigers have only managed to pick off a pair of passes during six games of ACC action.

Notre Dame Defense vs. QB Cade Klubnik

Two consecutive games with multiple big plays and playing consistent shutdown defense are why Notre Dame has outscored its past two opponents by a score of 106-27. Safety Xavier Watts has been on fire when it comes to collecting interceptions. However, the defense as a whole barely budged when Pitt made an effort to challenge them last Saturday. One of the main reasons for this dominance is due to the team’s effort in third down situations.

Klubnik took over the starting role late last season and has remained behind center to throw for over 1,900 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2023. He’s thrown five interceptions this season, three of them coming in the past two games and one resulting in a pick-six on Saturday for North Carolina State. Clemson’s offensive line has largely been able to keep him upright, with his mobility being average at best.

MLB J.D. Bertrand vs. RB Will Shipley/Phil Mafah

Bertrand remains Notre Dame’s top tackler and is right behind Howard Cross when it comes to stops behind the line. He’s been the leader of the defense for a while now and is one of the reasons why this unit has been so impenetrable of late. He plays with plenty of emotion, which can sometimes cause issues, such as the personal foul he was assessed late in Saturday’s first half.

The inclusion of both Shipley and Mafah is because the duo makes up a good portion of the Clemson offense, with a combined 954 rushing yards and 35 pass receptions on the year. In addition, Shipley’s status is currently up in the air after he left Saturday’s game and is now in concussion protocol. A decision about whether he’ll play isn’t likely until later in the week. If he’s not able to go, that puts more pressure on Mafah to put a dent in the Irish run defense.

T Joe Alt/Blake Fisher vs. DE Tomarrion (T.J.) Parker

Since Parker will be used as a strongside rusher, both Fisher and Alt will need to be on their toes. In most cases, the pair have helped make Sam Hartman’s life easier. However, the two breakdowns the offensive line has had this season have both come in the type of situation they’ll be facing here. That means making sure their snap counts are on point and that they block out the loud and unforgiving crowd noise.

Clemson has had a number of talented defensive linemen in recent years and Parker is just the latest. As a freshman, he leads the team in sacks with four and is tied for the team lead in tackles-for-loss. He compiled those numbers over a five-game run but has largely been neutralized in the last two games, Alt and Fisher will likely be studying the Tigers’ games against Miami and North Carolina State to see what works best for keeping Parker in check.

You may also like


  1. Let dump “david “
    Just look at all the selfishness
    Taking up all the comments section
    Let’s all report him and have him removed!
    Forum abuse
    Thank you

  2. Oregon lost to Wash. a few wereks back…….entirely because of their HC’s machismo decisions to go for 4th down at two critical points in the game. Those brain farts might be the most consequential in college football this season.

    Wash. now stands ahead of Oregon, but isn’t looking very good. So any missteps would hit UO’s strength of schedule.
    And anyone who’s watched them knows Oregon has the team to do it this year. They finally have a defense, and it’s a damn good one. And Bo Nix is clearly the best QB, but he won’t be the one who wins the Heisman…because his coach lost the Wash. game.

    When you play the very best competition, coaches who can rapidly make the right decisions are almost always the difference between winning and losing. And in awful short supply.

  3. Let’s dump “david”
    Please go to contact: report: forum abuse
    “david” has posted obscene, homophobic and transphobic messages
    Also he is flooding comment section with senseless rant’s
    Please report him today
    Thank you

      1. Yeah, Dabo Swinney is quite stressed out.
        He’s a college football coach.
        Ever heard of “Clemson”? It’s kind of like school, but for older kids.

        Bwa ha ha ha ha

  4. So the ND game might go a couple of ways…
    Do Swinney’s players step up. play with pride, and defend their coach’s job with their very best effort of the year ?
    Do they just check out, leave Swinney twisting in the wind, and walk off the field to catcalls?

    Rest assured, one version will be the media spin afterwards, depending only on the letter: W or L.
    Swinney knows that he’s at the tipping point.
    Which is precisely why he lost it on that poor call-in shmuck on that radio show.

  5. This Michigan thing…..
    Forget the popcorn…pass the 15YO single malt.
    A wee dram is a perfect choice for enjoying the slow, steady, relentless drips from this gong show.

  6. Now Col. Sanders wants the Rose Bowl to reimburse his palyers for the thugware jewelry that got stolen last week…
    Hey, Favor Flav….just FYI, there isn’t nearly as big a black market for used suits and ties.

    Meanwhile, try to focus your energy on coaching. Or is the juggeranut of games, and looming humiliation awaiting you, precisely why you prefer the media wander off on this nonsense?

    1. It’s pretty funny, actually…..a grown-ass man who struts around as “Neon from the Hood” is mad that mean people stole his posse’s bling.
      That’s how real gansgstas roll, bitch.

  7. Torches and pitchforks must be quickly disappearing from the shelves after Donna’s impassioned pleas for grassroots revolt.
    Now I know how Mike Pence felt. I kid, I kid! I’ll never know or care how he feels.

    But I do feel a bit bad…I’ve completely broken her.
    She’s now as detached from reality as a season finale of Housewives of Miami.
    Hell hath no fury indeed.

  8. What if:
    We give “david” the boot!!!
    He’s now temporarily behaving himself
    Just look back at previous comments,
    a very sick puppy indeed, that needs to be removed
    Please contact and report forum abuse
    Thank you

  9. From the “what if…” department:

    What if either Buchner or Pyne was still the starting QB for ND this year, and still only ever threw the ball (…poorly…) to the TE?
    I imagine not many people here would be very hopeful about a (maybe 4-5?) ND team now headed for Clemson with THE passing target out of the game.

    Fortunately, Hartman has the super-human ability of throwing the ball to other people, in other places on the field. This could prove to be quite a fortunate thing, with Evans out for the rest of the season.
    But that’ll mostly be up to Parker’s playcalling, and the WRs showing up.

    1. With or without Hartman this team is still 7-2, 6-3 at worst. Defense, running game, and Special teams are good enough that even Buchner would have 7 or 6 wins thru 9 games. But hey you keep Hartmans ball right on your chin and all is good.

      1. Very telling that even with completely made-up, imaginary results, and trying as hard as you can to dismoss Hartman, you STILL concede Buchner would have 2 or 3 losses.
        Honey, you’re bad at this.

        It would be a 4+ loss — and highly frustrating, unentertqining, depressing — season.
        You know it, but are not woman enough to admit it.

  10. Hypercritical of opposing views to his,
    Let’s give “david” the boot!
    Please send an abuse claim today
    Thank you

  11. Please help remove “david” from comments section
    From face page
    About us: contact us: report abuse:
    “david” has posted threatening, obscene, homophobic and transphobic items
    Let’s clean this thing up
    Thank you

    1. I just Googled “Clemson-ND games” to remind myself of the Clemson night game when Kelly stood waiting to come into Clemson stadium with that glazed, dead-man-walking look on his fat face, and that ND lost because they were totally unprepared for that wild environment….quick answer: Oct.7, 2015.

      But one of the search results was a link to an UHND post-game summary article, complete with all the comments.
      Here are some bits that seem to have aged pretty well…well, except for one part of the last one, thanks to LSU.
      No, really…THANKS!! to LSU!!
      ……Kelly’s on-field antics and decisions at ND have been troubling to me. At first, I thought (hoped!) he was simply a taskmaster perfectionist, and was simply shocked at the work he still needed to do to get them playing the way he expected.
      But its now 6 years. And yet again Saturday night, Kelly again had that “What’s wrong with you?” look on his puss too often, and his arm frantically windmilling to beat the play clock. Sorry, but I just don’t see this as the in-game priorities and activities of a National Championship calibre head coach.

      Kelly is obviously an improvement over a sad list of recent coaches, but he won’t achieve what ND fans crave.
      (replying to someone quite favorably comparing Kelly to Lou Holtz): ….Lou Holtz was a legendary gameday coach, making quick, creative, decisive calls on the fly when required. And he always took responsibility for those calls. All of them. He lived his message to his players, and helped make them better men for it.

      He always had his team ready. He always looked like he knew exactly what he was doing, no matter the situation. His players loved his intensity, they respected his knowledge, they listened to his words, they did not want to ever feel his wrath, and they never wanted to let him down.

      He paced the sidelines like a rabid wolf, as engaged and energetic as coaches half his age.

      And he was loyal to ND to the bitter end. And beyond.

      Coach Brian Kelly is none of that. And people should stop and think about what an insult that any such comparisons are to Lou’s name and career.
      ……in response to some question, Kelly said he was “disappointed IN them” (the players). Exactly 20 seconds later, during the same answer, he seemed to have a moment of professionalism and walked that back to say he was “disappointed FOR them”. Politicians know their words precisely, and Kelly is a politician. He’s done a post-game PCs after a loss before. So I call BS.
      …..But Kelly has blatant (unrealistic IMO) designs on more and better in his coaching career, and THAT is what he is most protective of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button