Just a couple of short months ago any college football fan would have looked at Notre Dame’s trip to Clemson on November 4 and thought one, if not both teams would be in the College Football Playoff race.
Instead, neither are.
Notre Dame enters 7-2 and has hopes of ending their New Year’s Six bowl game losing drought that dates back to 1993. In order to end that unfortunate streak though they must get by a talented Clemson team.
A talented Clemson team that hasn’t played to their potential this season, sitting just 4-4 and actually at risk of possibly missing a bowl game.
Will Notre Dame keep up the level of play after dominating wins against USC and Pitt? Or will Clemson put it all together for just one afternoon and ruin the Irish hopes of the New Year’s Six?
Here is what our staff sees happening Saturday in Death Valley:
Alex Turri - Guest Picker from Clemson Wire:
The Tigers’ defense will likely contain the Fighting Irish offense throughout the majority of this matchup. However, it’s tough to be perfect, and this defense has been burned for some big plays at points this season. I’m expecting that against Notre Dame. It’s Clemson’s offense at the end of the day that will be the deciding factor. This offense has looked worse by the week, and with Will Shipley’s status up in the air, I don’t see them doing enough against the Fighting Irish defense to pull out the win. I’d love to be wrong here.
Notre Dame 28, Clemson 21
This is as tough a pick as I’ve made all season. At the beginning, I said this would be a Clemson win, but the program dropping off significantly has caused me to rethink that. As much as I hesitate to pick Notre Dame here because of Clemson’s defense, the directions in which both programs are trending leave me no choice. The Irish will win a close one.
Notre Dame 24, Clemson 21
This is a tricky time for Notre Dame to head to Death Valley. Clemson is 4-4 but has a boatload of talent on their roster. After their latest disappointing loss to NC State and Dabo’s public dispute with a random fan, I expect them to play angry and play for pride. They will not lay down. It’ll be up to Notre Dame to put them down. The Irish defense should be the most dominant position group on the field Saturday and I suspect they will cause all sorts of trouble for young Cade Klubnik and his struggling to score offense. The Tiger defense is formidable and has played well enough to win all of their games this year. Notre Dame won’t have the easiest time moving the ball but will eventually wear Clemson out with their power run game and some well-timed dimes from Hartman. The Irish are on a roll right now and can taste the Tiger blood in the water.
Notre Dame 28, Clemson 17
Although this season is a major blip on the radar in the reign of Clemson/ACC dominance, it’s not going to be easy for the Irish heading to Death Valley. This is a program that continues to recruit top level players each season and when there is that type of talent, they can beat anyone at any time. Their defense remains chock full of NFL talent including Jeremiah Trotter, Andrew Mukuba, Barrett Carter, Nate Wiggins and Tyler Davis. They’re allowing only 4.3 yards per play so it won’t be easy for Sam Hartman and the boys to move the ball. But its Clemson’s struggles on the other side of the ball that’s having me change my tune from earlier in the season and pick Notre Dame to win. In years when Clemson has placed themselves among the college football elite, they’ve had a dynamic signal-caller (Boyd, Watson, Lawrence) and an abundance of playmakers to get the ball to. Neither of those exist now, at least to the extent they have in recent years. While I don’t envision an easy win for Marcus Freeman and the boys, they’ve built up the toughness throughout a tough schedule this season to live up to this moment on the road.
Notre Dame 21, Clemson 13
Count me out on thinking Dabo Swinney’s run at Clemson is entirely over. There is still bark left in that dog and a good amount. Now I beleive that you ultimately make your own luck largely but there is no doubt Clemson has been hit with some tough breaks in terms of turnovers this year. Notre Dame’s defense has to continue to force them like they have their last two times out or at worst, force three-and-outs on Clemson. I suspect the Notre Dame offense will have real trouble moving the ball with regularity Saturday and it’ll be up to the defense to make a game-changing play to save the day.
And I fear they won’t.
Pop Tarts Bowl here we come.
Clemson 20, Notre Dame 17