Clemson has been waiting for this game since it lost to Notre Dame on Nov. 7. This is not only the ACC Championship Game, but it has massive College Football Playoff implications.
Both ranked in the top four, a Clemson win could mean both get into the CFP. However, if Notre Dame wins, it’ll be hard to give Clemson the nod, though that’s a discussion to be had after this weekend’s games.
For this matchup, the Tigers were early -10 point favorites with an over/under of 61.5 for the game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Despite Trevor Lawrence not appearing in the first meeting, it was a great game that went to overtime. Notre Dame won the battle on both lines of scrimmage and won 47-40, though it had the lead the majority of the way.
Clemson Back Up Threw for 439 Yards
While Lawrence didn’t play in the first game, D.J. Uiagalelei still managed to throw for 439 yards on 10.0 yards per pass, so it’s not like there can be much improvement in that area.
The improvement has to come in the ground game where the Tigers managed just 34 yards on 1.0 yards per carry. That’s one area Lawrence can help because of his experience in the offense and his ability outside the pocket, though he’s rarely had to run the ball this season.
In eight games, he’s averaging 9.7 yards per pass for 20 touchdowns and three interceptions with Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell the top receivers.
Clemson will try and get something going with running back Travis Etienne, who is averaging 5.1 yards per carry for 12 touchdowns this season. Those are somewhat disappointing numbers and something that may not work again.
Irish Defensive Line Dominant
Notre Dame won that first game because of its defense which is allowing 17.1 points per game, 3.3 yards per carry and less than 100 rushing yards per contest. Its defensive line has been dominant and that’s a reason it could sweep Clemson.
The other reason is that its offensive line is equally dominant after rushing for 208 yards on 5.2 yards per carry in that first meeting. Sure, Ian Book threw for 310 yards as well, but it was the ground game that gave the Fighting Irish a continuous edge.
Kyren Williams has rarely been stopped this season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry for 1,011 yards and 12 touchdowns. Book also helps on the ground where he has 465 yards and eight touchdowns which is in addition to his 15 passing touchdowns (with three interceptions) on 8.3 yards per attempt.
Notre Dame’s passing attack isn’t as lethal as Clemson’s but it hasn’t needed to be. As long as Book doesn’t make mistakes, that’s often all he needs to do.
Clemson “D” Needs to be Better
The question is just how good Clemson’s defense is because while its numbers are elite, allowing less than three yards per carry, it was handled in that first matchup. It’s never easy betting against defensive coordinator Brent Venables, especially in a rematch, but Notre Dame’s offensive line is a force to deal with.
Clemson will likely get more love because of recent history, but the spread is large and Notre Dame has a shot to win this matchup for the second time this season.
Then again, the quarterback battle is Lawrence against Book and it’ll be hard to bet on the guy not projected to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Our model has Clemson winning this game, however it has the margin as a TD or less. We agree. Trevor Lawrence will have an impact but he doesn’t play defense. The Irish had 518 total yards last time around, 310 through the air and 208 on the ground. That’s enough to suggest Notre Dame is in this one to the end.
Notre Dame +10.5