Clemson vs. Notre Dame Prediction: Showdown in South Bend


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson and Notre Dame square off at 7:30 pm Saturday.
Clemson and Notre Dame square off at 7:30 pm Saturday.

It’s a Showdown in South Bend, a game of streaks, a battle of two top-four teams, and something has to give.

No. 1 Clemson travels to South Bend, Indiana, for Saturday’s ACC monster matchup with No. 4 Notre Dame. Clemson will seek its highest-ranked road win in school history. Kickoff at Notre Dame Stadium is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

The game will be played 39 years to the date following the first time two ACC teams faced one another while ranked in the AP Top 10. That first intra-conference Top 10 matchup in ACC annals took place on Nov. 7, 1981, when No. 2 Clemson traveled to Chapel Hill to face No. 8 North Carolina. Clemson defensive end Jeff Bryant jumped on a lateral that many assumed to be an incomplete pass, clinching a 10-8 Clemson victory that led the Greenville News to proclaim, "Clemson is 10-8cious."

This is the highest-ranked matchup of two ACC teams in conference history with a combined ranking of five. The previous highest combined ranking for a game between two ACC teams was eight, set five times including in No. 1 Clemson's win against No. 7 Miami (Fla) earlier this year.

NO. 1/1 CLEMSON (7-0, 6-0 ACC) at NO. 4/4 NOTRE DAME (6-0, 5-0 ACC)

WHEN: SATURDAY, NOV. 7, 7:30 P.M. ET
WHERE: NOTRE DAME STADIUM, NOTRE DAME, IND.
TELEVISION: NBC (Mike Tirico, Tony Dungy, Kathryn Tappen)
RADIO: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)
SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 84, XM 84, Internet 84

CLEMSON/NOTRE DAME SERIES HISTORY

OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 3-1
HOME: Series is tied, 1-1
ROAD: Clemson leads series, 1-0
NEUTRAL: Clemson leads series, 1-0
LAST MEETING: Dec. 29, 2018 (30-3, W)
STREAK: Clemson, Won 3

NOTABLE

*Clemson, holders of the nation's longest active home winning streak (27), is attempting to end the nation's second-longest active home winning streak (Notre Dame, 22). Clemson is also attempting to win a 29th consecutive game against an ACC opponent, including postseason play. A 29-game winning streak against conference opponents would tie Clemson with the 1992-95 Florida State Seminoles for the longest streak in ACC history.

*Clemson enters Saturday having won 36 consecutive regular-season games, the longest such streak in ACC annals. Clemson's last regular-season loss came in October 2017 at Syracuse. A 37th consecutive regular-season win would tie the 1992-96 Nebraska Cornhuskers for the third-longest streak in the AP Poll era.

*Notre Dame has won 22-straight games at home dating back to Sept. 30, 2017, starting with a victory over Miami (Ohio) and extending to the 2020 win over Louisville.

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

Expect the Irish to follow the gameplan utilized by everyone else – load the box to stuff the run and make Clemson put the ball in the air to win. It’s something we’ve seen over and over and over, and with the offensive line struggling to get a push, at times, against even a four-man front, the Irish will likely follow the same pattern. They are also very good at limiting points - Notre Dame has held 31-of-32 opponents during Clark Lea’s tenure as defensive coordinator to 30 points or less. That includes ranked opponents LSU, Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Clemson, Georgia, Virginia and Navy. The Irish are giving up just 10.3 points per game this season.

Enter DJ Uiagalelei.

With Trevor Lawrence sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, Uiagalelei is scheduled to make his second start for Clemson. Uiagalelei completed 30 of 41 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns and added 25 yards and a score on the ground in the win over Boston College. Running back Travis Etienne (606 yards and nine scores) needs to have a great game – perhaps a Heisman game – if the Tigers want to win. The Irish have been stingy all year versus the run, limiting teams to 93.7 yards a game and just 3.1 yards per carry. No team has managed more than 150 yards on the ground against this defense. Can the Tigers run the ball enough to take the pressure off the freshman?

That might depend on the receivers. No offense has passed for 260 yards against the Fighting Irish this fall. With Uiagalelei having a full week to prepare, the tight ends might be a bigger part of the game plan this week. If Etienne can make catches out of the backfield and another receiver other than Amari Rodgers steps up – like Cornell Powell last week – Clemson can move the ball.

ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO CLEMSON

WHEN NOTRE DAME HAS THE BALL

When you talk about an offense, it usually starts with the quarterback. With Notre Dame, it starts with a veteran offensive line led by tackle Liam Eichenberg. This offensive line is easily the best in the ACC and maybe in all of college football, and that’s one of the reasons the Irish run the ball on 57 percent of their plays. Kyren Williams (600 yards) and Chris Tyree (264) lead the way at running back, and it will be up to a banged-up Clemson defense to provide the stops.

Clemson is without starting defensive tackle Tyler Davis, starting middle linebacker James Skalski, and starting SAM Mike Jones, Jr. That’s a lot of experience and talent sidelined, and you would feel better about Clemson’s chances if those guys were available. The Tigers rank third in the ACC (99.9 ypg) versus the run, but there will be challenges for a young defensive line.

Quarterback Ian Book isn’t a world-beater. Some might call him pedestrian. But he is a winner and he’s connecting on 61.3 percent of his throws, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt, and continues to make a couple of plays a game with his legs (212 rushing yards and five scores).

However, the Irish aren’t great at throwing the ball down the field. Notre Dame has completed just 48 passes of 10 yards or more this season – for comparison, Clemson has almost double that amount with 95. Tight end Michael Mayer (15 receptions) leads the team in catches, with Javon McKinley (14) and Avery Davis (12) leading the receivers (Rodgers has 40 for Clemson).

In other words, can Book and the receivers make enough plays down the field to open the running game? Sound familiar?

ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO CLEMSON

SPECIAL TEAMS

Only 10 of Notre Dame’s 39 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks, so Clemson might find a big play in the return. If the protection is good – and sometimes it isn’t – the Tigers are solid at field goal and punter Will Spiers is having his best season by far. Senior kicker Jonathan Doerer is 7-9 on field goals, while punter Jay Bramblett is averaging just over 41 yards per kick.

ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO CLEMSON

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

This is one of the biggest games for the Irish since maybe 1993. This is a good football team that wants to atone for the loss in the Cotton Bowl in 2018, and they need and want to make a statement nationally. For Clemson, this is the next game on the schedule. This program has played in so many big games over the years, and it isn’t fazed by GameDay or the bright lights. This one will be a defensive tussle, and both teams will look to run the football and stop the run. The difference – a big difference – is that Clemson knows it can have success in the passing game, while Notre Dame wonders. Expect the kid Uiagalelei to shine, and the smiling Etienne to have one of his best moments.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 30, NOTRE DAME 20

More TigerNet picks
Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 24-20 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 28-14 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 27-23 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 30-13 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 42-7 Clemson*

(* Picking the same score all season)

Game Actual David Hood Mickey Plyler Nikki Hood Brandon Rink Pigskin Prophet Tony Crumpton
Wake Forest 37-13 CU 42-9 CU 49-10 CU 49-13 CU 47-10 CU 44-13 CU 42-7 CU
The Citadel 49-0 CU 52-7 CU 57-6 CU 59-7 CU 55-0 CU 62-6 CU 42-7 CU
Virginia 41-23 CU 38-12 CU 41-14 CU 52-17 CU 45-16 CU 41-13 CU 42-7 CU
Miami 42-17 CU 37-16 CU 38-23 CU 38-20 CU 37-20 CU 41-20 CU 42-7 CU
GT 73-7 CU 45-13 CU 51-13 CU 52-7 CU 55-10 CU 44-13 CU 42-7 CU
Syracuse 47-21 CU 62-9 CU 63-10 CU 70-3 CU 59-6 CU 63-3 CU 42-7 CU
BC 34-28 CU 37-17 CU 34-20 CU 35-7 CU 27-17 CU 44-20 CU 42-7 CU
Notre Dame 47-40 ND 2OT 30-20 CU 24-20 CU 28-14 CU 27-23 CU 30-13 CU 42-7 CU
Points - 7 11 7 11 11 9

* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 2 pts for picking score exactly, 1 pt for picking the correct winner

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