The long wait for playoff football is almost over! After a month of no Fighting Irish football to watch, Notre Dame is back in action today in the Cotton Bowl against Clemson in the College Football Playoffs. To get you ready for kickoff we summed up the big storylines heading into today’s showdown.
Notre Dame is Around a 12 Point Underdog
The Irish have been a healthy double digit underdog since the odds opened on December 2nd and the line hasn’t moved a whole lot. ESPN reported on Friday that the vast majority of the money that has been wagered on this game has been on Notre Dame which is a little interesting and worrisome. Vegas is really good at making money so the fact that most of the money has been placed on the Irish and the line hasn’t moved a whole lot could suggest that Vegas is pretty confident in the Tigers covering.
Depending on what service you look at right now, the Irish are between an 11.5 and 12.5 point dog at the moment. The media is not giving the Irish much of a chance in this one either. Hopefully Notre Dame used the underdog/disrespected card all throughout their bowl prep and are ready to prove everyone wrong.
Clemson star DT Dexter Lawrence is OUT for failed drug test
Clemson will be without three players today after they failed NCAA drug tests for having the same banned substance in their systems, but only one really matters and that is star DT Dexter Lawrence. Lawrence is a projected 1st round NFL draft pick and All-ACC defensive tackle. His presence will definitely be sorely missed by Clemson even though they can plug in another talented defensive lineman because it will mess up their normal DL rotations and take one more talented lineman off the field.
Ostarine is the substance that was presence in Lawrence’s drug test. For those unfamiliar, it is currently on the banned substance list and has no approved uses by the FDA so it is not as simple as Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has been trying to make it seem to have in your system.
It is interesting that a bigger story has not been made of this since allegedly only 12 Clemson players were randomly tested and three of them failed the test for the same exact substance with both their A and B samples.
Lord Myron should return to action for Notre Dame
While Clemson is losing a defensive tackle, Notre Dame is getting one back most likely. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa broke his foot in week one against Michigan and has not played since. The reserve DT should play today for the first time since then. How much he plays and how effective he is after all that time off remains to be seen, but the Irish can get a good 15-20 snaps out of him today that will be a nice boost for the defensive line.
Jayson Ademilola and Micah Dew-Treadway have held their own backing up Jerry Tillery, but a lot was expected of Lord Myron this year in his reserve role. Having him on the field today is a plus. As an added bonus, because he has only played in one game this year, he can play today – and potentially next week if the Irish win – and still retain a year of eligibility with the new redshirt rules in college football.
Notre Dame should have a few other players who got healthy
On top of getting back Tagovailoa-Amosa, Notre Dame has had a few players who had some nagging injuries who should be fresh off of a month long rest.
- Ian Book – He just seemed off the final two games after coming back from the rib injury
- Jafar Armstrong – Missed multiple weeks with an infection in his knee and was just never the same after coming back. He can be a real weapon for Notre Dame today if he’s back at full strength
- Cole Kmet – Suffered a severely sprained ankle early in the season and was never the same. Look for him to potentially help open up the middle of the field today.
- Khalid Kareem – The SDE was nicked up all throughout the season but played through the bumps and bruises without missing any games. A fresh Kareem was an absolute nightmare for Michigan week one. Hopefully we get that Kareem out there today.
- Drue Tranquill – Played through an ankle injury that looked so much worse than it turned out to be against Navy. He also played most of the year with a broken hand. Both injuries should be well in the rearview for him today.
Notre Dame might work in some new faces at wide receiver
Brian Kelly hinted that the Irish might introduce some new faces at wide receiver to get more speed on the field today. That led to a lot of speculation that we may see the debuts of Braden Lenzy or Lawrence Keys. Both freshman could add a speed element to the Notre Dame receiving corps that the Irish have been lacking this season. How much either plays, if at all though still remains to be seen. From the moment Kelly said it I was a bit skeptical just because it made no sense for him to reveal that as easily as he did. College coaches hold those kind o things close to the vest usually.
If Keys or Lenzy remain on the sidelines, a couple names to look for are freshman Kevin Austin and sophomore Michael Young. I don’t know if you can classify either a “burner” but both have good football speed and could come in handy today. Austin and Young both had some big moments this year but neither was a consistent threat.
A year ago Young recorded the first touchdown of his career in the Citrus Bowl against LSU. That could be Austin today.