Dabo Swinney and the Tigers have a huge matchup on Saturday as Notre Dame travels to Clemson for what could be another classic between the two top-tier programs.
It is clear to everyone around the country, Clemson fan or not, that the Tigers desperately need a win on Saturday. The Tigers are sitting at 4-4 this season and need two more wins to qualify for a bowl game. It’s not the season fans were hoping for, but Saturday brings ample opportunity for this program to make a statement and start to turn things around.
The question is… can they? That’s what we are going to find out on Saturday.
Nick Shepkowski, who runs Fighting Irish Wire, generously answered five questions for us heading into this matchup. Check out our look behind enemy lines with Shepkowski below.
Who needs this win more, Clemson or Notre Dame?
Sam Hartman knows Clemson all too well, going 0-5 in his five games against the Tigers. What does Hartman have to do to get a win against this team in his final chance to do so?
Shepkowski: Have the offense play complimentary football. Notre Dame has to be able to run the ball because Hartman isn’t going to take things over, especially with his favorite target tight end Mitchell Evans now out for the year with a torn ACL. Hartman needs to not have to do too much but also make the throws he should make, something he didn’t do in Notre Dame’s two losses.
Has Sam Hartman been everything the Fight Irish fans were hoping for? How do you think the fan base has felt about his play?
Shepkowski: As a person and student athlete he has flown past the expectations Notre Dame fans seemed to have for him. He has bought into the program and has been an incredible ambassador on the recruiting trail and helping sell Notre Dame’s NIL program to future Irish players. However, Notre Dame thought they were going to have elite quarterback play in 2023 and that simply hasn’t been the case.
You mentioned counting you out on thinking Dabo Swinney’s run at Clemson is entirely over just yet. What about this Clemson team still worries you heading into Death Valley?
This team is still loaded with talent. From what I’ve seen of them is if Clemson takes care of the ball and doesn’t turn it over, they’re probably at worst 7-1. Notre Dame has been better at forcing turnovers this year but when you’re counting on that to win its a risky proposition. Clemson still has a great set of linebackers and the Irish offense leaves plenty to be desired against better than average foes. Regardless of what the national narrative is, Notre Dame has their work cut out for them Saturday.
If this game ultimately comes down to a defensive battle, who do you think has the edge?
Shepkowski: I expect it to come down to exactly that. If that’s the case it comes down to who can force the extra turnover or create a havoc play on special teams. What happens in last year’s game if not for the early punt block being returned for a touchdown or Benjamin Morrison’s pick-six? Notre Dame made two of those huge plays a year ago. Whoever makes one or two more than the opponent Saturday is winning this game.