WHAT WE ARE HEARING: PREVIEW & PREDICTION FOR NO.1 CLEMSON AT NO.4 NOTRE DAME
- 2020-11-06 18:49:06
Wake up the echoes! It’s another edition of What We Are Hearing!
We’re finally here: the game everyone in the college football world had circled since last spring. Even before Notre Dame joined the ACC for 2020, ending nearly 140 years of football independence, everyone knew that this game would have major ramifications on the national landscape and College Football Playoff race. Now you can add an ACC title to the stakes as well! No.1 Clemson at No.4 Notre Dame is a potential preview of both the ACC Championship and even the College Football Playoff, as well as the highest-ranked matchup in ACC history. The last time the Irish beat a No.1 team at home, it was "The Game of the Century" in 1993, when Lou Holtz and No.2 Notre Dame upset Heisman Charlie Ward and No.1 Florida State, who would go on to win Bobby Bowden's first national title. Notre Dame boasts the nation's longest active win streak at 12 games, but the Tigers have won 39 straight non-playoff games, 28 straight ACC games and 50 straight Saturday games, so something's gotta give!
The Tigers, of course, are coming off a thrilling 34-28 win over Boston College after trailing by 18 in the first half. It was the largest home comeback in the Tigers’ 125 seasons of football, and they did it with a true freshman making his first start at quarterback and missing 4 starters on defense: Tyler Davis, James Skalski, Mike Jones and Justin Foster, who has been out all season. The 15-point deficit at halftime was the largest for a No.1 team at home since Notre Dame trailed Purdue by 21 in 1950. Of course, 14 of that 15 points were due to an Etienne fumble on the goal line that was returned nearly 100 yards for a BC touchdown. Just about everything that could have gone wrong for the Tigers did—from the fumble to Potter’s first-ever PAT miss off the upright, from juggling BC catches to terrible officiating calls negating Clemson interceptions—and it was the perfect storm combined with the Tigers’ 5 big absent starters. However, the Tigers did what they always do and showed the heart of a champion. They outscored BC 24-0 to finish the game and preserve their 27th win in Death Valley, the nation’s longest active home win streak. They also narrowly retained their No.1 ranking in both the AP and Coaches’ Polls, setting up the mammoth top-4 showdown in South Bend. ESPN College GameDay will be on site, of course, to cover the week’s biggest game. It will be the Tigers’ 18th time being featured on the program since 2015—beginning with the epic Hurricane game against Notre Dame—which is the most of any school over that time period. It will be their 26th all-time appearance, and they have a 17-8 record in those, winning 13 of their last 14. The only loss of those 14 was LSU in the National Championship last season. It will also be the Tigers’ first game televised on NBC since 20 years ago when they faced Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl following the 2000 season. For a comprehensive recap of last week’s win over Boston College, CLICK HERE. Without further ado, on to Saturday night’s ACC showdown!
This is the 125th season of Clemson Football….The Tigers look to win at least 10 games for the 10th straight year under Dabo Swinney, joining Alabama and Florida State as the only programs ever to do so….Clemson is the only program to have won 5 consecutive outright ACC titles and the only program in the nation to win 5 consecutive conference championship games….If Clemson goes 14-0 this season (they play one less regular season game than normal), the senior class will tie last year’s group at 55-3, the best record of any senior class in history….At 76-5, Clemson has the best record in the nation since 2015; 4 wins better than Alabama and 13 wins better than Ohio State. Clemson is 2 wins behind Alabama for the most wins since 2011….Clemson has the most wins versus Power Five opponents since 2013; 11 more than Ohio State and 8 more than Alabama….Dabo now has the nation’s best active win percentage at .814. Nick Saban’s is .791. Dabo also holds the best all-time win percentage in ACC games at .837. Bobby Bowden’s was .813. Dabo’s overall .814 win percentage is 7th all-time among head coaches that coached at least 150 games. Urban Meyer’s .854 win percentage is atop that list, followed by Switzer, Osborne, Yost, Neyland and Wilkinson….Only 6 times has a team won 12 or more games in a season against Power Five opponents. Clemson, FSU and LSU are the only programs to have done it, and 4 of the 6 times were by Clemson, which remains the only program ever to win 13 games against Power Five opponents in one season, accomplished in 2018…..Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban are the only head coaches in history to reach No.1 in the AP Poll in 6 consecutive seasons….Clemson has played in the 15th most games (21) as AP No.1. Clemson will tie Army on Saturday for 14th on the list. If the Tigers remain No.1 until the National Championship Game, they will pass Michigan for 12th most games played as No.1….Dabo is 17th all-time for most games (20) coached as AP No.1, passing Jim Tressel, Steve Spurrier and Ara Parseghian. After Saturday, he will be one game behind Urban Meyer and Lou Holtz for a tie at 13th on the list. If the Tigers remain No.1 until the National Championship Game, Dabo will tie his childhood hero Bear Bryant for 9th most games coached as No.1. Dabo is the only multiple recipient of the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award, winning in 2015, 2016 and 2018….Clemson and Alabama are tied for the most consecutive weeks in the AP Top 10 at 85 weeks, the third-longest streak all-time. Clemson has been ranked in the AP Top 5 for 48 consecutive weeks, by far the longest active streak and sixth-longest streak all-time. The next-longest active streak is Georgia at 15 weeks. Ohio State had 14 consecutive weeks before their exclusion due to the Big Ten’s season postponement. If Clemson remains in the Top 5 all season, it will pass Miami for the second-longest streak all-time. If the Tigers remain in the Top 5 from now until the ACC Championship next season, they will pass Alabama for the longest such streak all-time….Clemson’s run of 5 straight top-5 finishes is tied for the sixth-longest streak all-time. One more, and the Tigers will tie Oklahoma; two more and they will tie three other schools for the second-longest streak. FSU has the record at 14 straight top-5 finishes under Bobby Bowden….If Clemson finishes in the top 2 of the AP Poll this season, it will join Miami as the only programs to finish in the top 2 in 5 of 6 seasons…..Clemson and Alabama are tied for the most consecutive 12-win seasons (5) since Penn in 1892. One more would move Clemson ahead of Alabama, which won 11 games last season….Clemson has won 27 straight home games dating back to 2016, the longest active streak in the nation. Notre Dame has the second-longest active streak, and its all-time record is 28 straight home wins, which Clemson could tie with its next home win. Only 9 fifth-year seniors on the 120-man Clemson roster have experienced a loss in Death Valley. The Tigers are an FBS-best 46-1 at home since 2014….Clemson has won 39 straight non-bowl games, passing Nebraska and tying Miami for second-most all-time. Oklahoma holds the record at 45….Clemson has won 28 straight games against ACC opponents, tying FSU for the second-most all-time. FSU also holds the record at 29 straight, so a win Saturday at Notre Dame would tie the record….Clemson has won 50 straight Saturday games, the longest such streak of all time…..If the Clemson makes the College Football Playoff for a sixth consecutive year, it will be the first program ever to do so, and Dabo Swinney will join basketball legend John Wooden as the only coaches in any sport to make a Final Four playoff 6 years in a row…..Clemson leads the all-time series with Notre Dame 3-1, and Clemson has won the last 2 meetings since 2015….Danny Ford is the second-youngest coach to have beaten Notre Dame in South Bend, back in 1979. He was just 31 years old. The youngest was Jack Chevigny, whose Texas team beat the Irish 7-6 in 1934. Chevigny was so close to the Notre Dame legend Knute Rockne that he beat that he was a pallbearer at Rockne’s funeral….Dabo Swinney is 7-4 against top-5 teams. Conversely, Brian Kellly is 0-7, including the 2018 loss to Clemson….
NOTRE DAME SYNOPSIS
The Irish are 6-0, coming off their first road game with a 31-13 win at Georgia Tech. They have won 29 of their last 32 games, but big games against highly ranked teams have been the bugaboo for Brian Kelly. He is 0-7 against top-5 teams, including the 30-3 rout by Clemson in the 2018 Cotton Bowl CFP Semifinal. Last season, they actually hung with UGA in Athens, losing 23-17, but were stomped at Michigan 45-14. It’s tough to gauge how far this Notre Dame program has come since that 2018 Cotton Bowl because 4 of their 6 games this season have been at home, and those 6 opponents combined for just 12 wins! Incidentally, one of those home wins was 52-0 over UCF in Jeff Scott’s first road game as a head coach. I asked Dabo on Wednesday night if he has spoken with Scott at all to compare notes on Notre Dame. Dabo said he spoke with him just after that game but not in the last couple weeks. I’m not sure how much inside intel Scott could have provided anyway after a drubbing like that. Going back to the 2018 Cotton Bowl, although it was clear that the talent disparity between Clemson and Notre Dame was substantial, the game was close until late in the second quarter, and really just a few big plays made a big difference. Also, when you look at how the Tigers dismantled Alabama 44-16 a couple weeks later, maybe Notre Dame was better than they got credit for.
At any rate, it’s a new season, and the Irish have rolled right along. They have won their last two games at Tech and Pitt convincingly after a surprisingly tight and low-scoring 12-7 home win over Louisville. The week before that, they beat FSU at home 42-26 in the first start at quarterback for the Noles’ Jordan Travis. Offensively, of course, Notre Dame is led by 6’0, 206-pound senior Ian Book, who started against the Tigers in the 2018 Cotton Bowl. Book has completed 61.3% of his passes for 1,225 yards and 7 touchdowns with just one interception. He is a savvy veteran, who is particularly accurate on intermediate routes and knows how to make things happen with his legs. Book is not as fast or elusive as a D’Eriq King, but he is very dangerous improvisationally and can either run for a first down or extend plays to find open receivers. Book has 212 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry net of his 11 sacks. The Tigers must have someone spying Book at all times—particularly in the red zone and when they are in man coverage.
The Irish have a trio of running backs, led by 5’9, 195-pound sophomore Kyren Williams (#23). He has rushed for 600 yards and 7 touchdowns this season, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. 5’9, 179-pound freshman Chris Tyree (#25) and 5’11, 201-pound junior C’Bo Flemister (#20) have about half the carries of Williams but have been productive. Tyree averages 6.6 yards per carry with 2 touchdowns, and Flemister averages 5.6 yards per carry with 3 TD’s. Williams averages a couple receptions per game, 12 on the season for 180 yards and no touchdowns.
At receiver, the Irish are led by Javon McKinley (#88). The 6’2, 215-pound senior has just 14 catches for 264 yards, but that leads all receivers. He has yet to score a touchdown this season. 5’11, 202-pound senior slot receiver Avery Davis (#3) has 12 catches for 129 yards with one touchdown and is a speedster with sub-4.4 speed. On the outside is 6’3, 224-pound senior Ben Skowronek (#11), who has 5 catches for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns. Watch out for him in the red zone! The Irish have a pair of talented tight ends, who make up a large part of their passing attack. 6’5, 235-pound freshman Michael Mayer (#87) leads the team in receptions with 15 for 168 yards and has 2 touchdowns this season. 6’4, 248-pound junior Tommy Tremble (#24) has 12 catches for 126 yards but has yet to score this season. He had 4 touchdowns in 2019.
Along with Book, the biggest strength of Notre Dame’s offense is its massive offensive line, which is one of the most experienced in the nation (137 starts combined) and will certainly be a finalist for the Joe Moore Award. The Irish had 3 drives of over 7 minutes, which is an eternity in this day and age, against Louisville, and if they can do that against the Tigers, it will shorten the game and play to Notre Dame's favor. It is critical that the Tigers take an early lead so they don't have to play catch-up like they did last week!
Brian Kelly is the mastermind behind Notre Dame’s offense, but Tommy Rees is calling the plays in his first year as Offensive Coordinator. If the name is familiar, that’s because Rees was the Notre Dame starting quarterback in 2011 before being supplanted by Everett Golson in 2012 when they made their run at the BCS National Championship Game, getting blown out by Alabama. Rees reclaimed the starting job in 2013 and led the Irish to a 9-4 record. At just 28 years old, he is one of the youngest coordinators in the game. Rees was Notre Dame’s QB Coach in 2018 when they last played the Tigers.
The real strength of this Notre Dame team is its defense, though. They don’t have many superstars, and their individual statistics won’t wow you, but the Irish have played exceptional team defense this season. They lead the Power Five in scoring defense at 10.3 points per game, not counting Wisconsin, which has only played one game. Clark Lea was in his first season as Defensive Coordinator when the Tigers and Irish met in the Cotton Bowl, and he is now in his third year. Perhaps the biggest leader on the defense is sixth-year senior safety Shaun Crawford (#20). That’s right, he was granted a sixth year by the NCAA due to several injuries he has overcome, and he is making the most of it. He recorded an interception on the goal line against FSU and also has a fumble recovery and a sack this season. Staying in the secondary, graduate transfer Nick McCloud (#4) from NC State is also having an excellent season with 17 tackles and 5 PBU’s to go along with an interception. He is a Rock Hill, SC native, so you know he’s excited about facing the Tigers again! And then at the other safety position, you have sophomore Atlanta native Kyle Hamilton (#14), who leads the team in tackles. He is a long, athletic freak like Isaiah Simmons at 6'4 and 219 pounds, rare size at the safety position, and you will see him play on Sundays in a couple years. On the defensive front, 6’4, 257-pound sophomore DE Isaiah Foskey (#7) leads the team with 3.5 sacks, but look out for 6’3, 258-pound senior DE Daelin Hayes (#9), who recorded his first 2 sacks of the season last week. He also has 2 forced fumbles this season. Finally, look out for senior LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (#6), who is second on the team in tackles to go along with an interception, sack and forced fumble this season.
At kicker, the Tigers always seem to draw a junior or senior, and this week is no different. Senior Charlotte native Jonathan Doerer is 7-9 this season with a long of 48 yards.
Notre Dame is ranked No.30 in scoring offense (34.8 points/game), No.12 in rushing offense (231.0 yards/game), No.81 in passing offense (206.2 yards/game) and No.32 in total offense (437.2 yards/game). The Irish are No.5 in scoring defense (10.3 points/game), No.8 in rush defense (93.67 yards/game), No.11 in pass defense (173.5 yards/game) and No.8 in total defense (267.2 yards/game). The are No.37 in turnover margin at +3 on the season, 50th in takeaways with 7 and 33rd in turnovers with 4. They are 16th in sacks with 17 on the season and 8th in tackles-for-loss with 50.
Brian Kelly's press conference, previewing the Clemson game is below!
Obviously, the Tigers are hobbling into this game with 5 starters out, including their Heisman front-runner quarterback, and both starting WR’s Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson less than 100 percent. This is easily the most missing contributors Dabo has had to deal with as a head coach, and it’s a less than ideal time with a road game against the nation’s No.4 team coming up. On top of all that, DE Xavier Thomas, who missed the first several games and was just starting to produce with sacks in each of the last two games, will miss the first half due to a terrible targeting call in the second half against BC. Having said all that, if there’s one team in the nation deep enough with talent and experience to overcome such losses with little drop off, it’s the Tigers. Brian Kelly alluded to that in his press conference this week, pointing to the Tigers’ depth chart:
Dabo told me on Wednesday night that starting DT Tyler Davis and starting nickel/SLB Mike Jones, Jr., who they hoped would both be available, would not make the trip to South Bend. They both missed the Boston College game as well and will join DE Justin Foster, Trevor Lawrence and James Skalski—the quarterbacks of the offense and defense—in missing this huge showdown. The good news is that Dabo said Trevor Lawrence will be allowed on the sideline on Saturday night, and his presence as a coach/advisor for DJ and a leader will be vital. Skalski will also be able to lead from the sideline.
The biggest storyline in this game is clearly how true freshman DJ Uiagalelei, in his second start, will handle all of the pressure against one of the nation’s premier defenses. If last week was any indication, then the Tigers are in good shape there. I knew that "Big Cinco" was very similar in his confidence, poise and field demeanor to Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson, each of whom excelled in his first full start as a true freshman, but I wrote last week that I wasn’t as confident in DJ’s accuracy and readiness for the starting role as I was in his two predecessors. DJ hadn’t exactly set the world on fire with his passing in his limited early appearances. However, last Saturday was a different story. DJ was as impressive as any seasoned veteran, completing 30 of his 41 pass attempts with 2 TD’s through the air and one on the ground without turning the ball over. He was off target on a few throws but was outstanding overall, and I was as impressed with his game management as I was the laser-like throws. He made great decisions, found his hot reads, got out of bad plays and took just one sack, which wasn’t his fault. Under pressure on 3rd down, DJ was an astounding 9-10 for 122 yards. He had the one blemish on the high handoff mesh point with Etienne, who fumbled the exchange on the goal line, but Etienne took the blame for it, and it’s obviously a fluke mistake. Most importantly, DJ didn’t flinch when down 18 points. He led the Tigers on a one-minute drive at the end of the 1st half for a field goal and picked up right where he left off in the 2nd half. I think the adversity of the Boston College game was the best thing that could have happened in DJ’s first start, and I have complete confidence in him now, regardless of the pressure and opponent.
And if DJ should struggle or be off his game in any way, it helps to have a Heisman candidate and the ACC’s all-time leading rusher in the backfield with him! Travis was sensational last week, accounting for a career-high 264 all-purpose yards with 2 touchdowns—one on the ground and one through the air. His 140 reception yards was also a career high and a record for Clemson running backs. I wrote and talked all season last year about Etienne’s improvement as a pass-catcher since he was a freshman and couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a screen pass. Travis has taken his craft to a whole other level this year and is the most dangerous running back in the nation in the passing game. That has been critical because opponent after opponent is loading the box in the hopes of stopping Travis and the Tigers’ run game. It’s why they aren’t ranked in the top-15 nationally in rushing offense like they almost always are, but they are exploiting that in the passing game, and Travis has been a huge part of that. Expect more of the same on Saturday night! In addition to breaking Ted Brown’s 40-year-old ACC career rushing record last week, Travis set a new FBS record for career games (42) with a touchdown.
At receiver, the two veteran leaders, Powell and Rodgers, really stepped up for their freshman quarterback last week when the Tigers needed them to. Dabo and Tony Elliott challenged them to do just that, and they rose to the occasion. During camp, I reported that Dabo was raving about Cornell Powell having as good a camp as anyone, and he has been consistently solid all season, but he put together his best career game when the Tigers had to have it, posting career highs in receptions (11) and yards (105), with several diving catches and third-down conversions. Amari has also been great all season, and his diving touchdown catch last week was incredible. I still don’t know how he flipped his body 180 degrees and caught that fast ball from DJ! Amari, incidentally, was added to the Biletnikoff Watch List last week, and deservedly so. With both Ladson and Ngata down last week, the two veterans saved the day for the Tigers.
Surprisingly, the Tigers’ tight ends were non-existent in the passing game last week. Allen and Galloway were targeted just once each, with only a 6-yard catch by Allen to show for it. Let’s hope they are much more productive on Saturday night! The Tigers’ starting offensive line continues to be a strength, and these guys are playing a ridiculous number of snaps, all going over 80 snaps in 3 of the last 4 games and in some cases in the 90’s! They are clearly in outstanding physical condition to withstand that, which is all the more remarkable with the challenges of the pandemic over the spring and summer. Incidentally, Bockhorst and Carman are both from Ohio and know several players on the Notre Dame roster.
Despite the weekly absences on defense, the Tigers have been exceptional as always under Brent Venables. Although BC hit them for some big plays early last week and 21 points in the first half, the defense locked the Eagles down in the second half, pitching a shutout and allowing just 275 total yards for the game. They were right on their season average with 4 sacks by 4 different players and should have added 2 more interceptions, giving them 11 to lead the nation. Both of the outstanding plays made by Nolan Turner and Baylon Spector were negated by terrible roughing calls. The one on Xavier Thomas was compounded by an equally perplexing targeting call, which results in him missing the first half against Notre Dame. Thomas was already air born when the Eagles’ quarterback released the pass, so I don’t know how the officials justify that as roughing or targeting. The other targeting call deprived Nolan Turner of his 4th interception of the season, which would have made him the only player in the nation with 4 INT’s. Consequently, the Tigers lost the turnover margin for the first time in 5 games. Be that as it may, the defense has been doing a phenomenal job forcing turnovers—especially interceptions—since the third game of the season. Jake Venables has filled in at starting MLB for Skalski in the last two games and done an admirable job. True freshman Trenton Simpson has filled in for Mike Jones at nickel/SLB.
The Tigers’ special teams have been excellent for most of the season, with a few hiccups along the way. Other than the 3 blocked field goals against Miami, a blocked punt against Syracuse and Potter’s first missed PAT off the upright last week, the special teams have been nearly perfect. Aside from the blocks, Potter is 10-11 and 2-2 over 50 yards with a long of 52. Most of his kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks as well. Spiers has been among the best punters in the nation this season. He had a 60-yarder last week and stuck another one inside the 5-yard line when the Tigers really needed it, up 4 with a minute left, and that led to Bresee’s sack in the end zone for the game-winning safety.
The depleted Tigers know they have a much-needed bye coming after this game before they play FSU in Tallahassee, so if they can just make it through one more, they will be in fantastic shape for a stretch run.
Clemson is ranked No.4 in scoring offense (46.1 points/game), No.61 in rushing offense (166.57 yards/game), No.8 in passing offense (341.4 yards/game) and No.12 in total offense (508.0 yards/game). The Tigers are No.13 in scoring defense (15.6 points/game), No.15 in rush defense (99.86 yards/game), No.13 in pass defense (174.9 yards/game) and No.9 in total defense (274.7 yards/game). They are No.4 in turnover margin at +6 on the season (would be +8 if not for the bad calls last week), 4th in takeaways with 13 (should be 3rd at 15) and 58th in turnovers with 7. They are 2nd in sacks behind Pitt with 28 on the season and 3rd in tackles-for-loss with 65 behind Pitt and UTSA. The Tigers are 4th in the nation with 9 interceptions (should be tied for 1st with 11), and Nolan Turner is tied for the national lead with 3 (should have 4). They are No.8 on 3rd down (27.45% conversions).
If you’re a Clemson fan, it’s only natural that you would feel uneasy about this game. The Tigers have won so many regular season games, that it seems almost like their number is up with all of the absent players that they are dealing with. Meanwhile, Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame fan base has been desperate for a signature win in seemingly forever. Their last one was probably against Oklahoma in 2012, and they have been torched in several of these marquee matchups along the way. Astonishingly, as a program, Notre Dame has lost 19 of its last 20 against top-5 teams and 11 straight! However, the stars seem to be aligned for the Irish, although they won’t have a raucous night crowd to provide extra energy and momentum. Thanks to the pandemic, home field advantage has been mitigated to a relic of the past this season, and there will only be about 15,000 fans in Notre Dame Stadium with "Touchdown Jesus" standing sentry.
This game will come down to execution and strength on strength: the Clemson offense, which averages 46 points per game, against the Notre Dame defense, which allows 10.3 points per game. Expect the Irish to do what BC and Syracuse did, and load the box with defenders to take away the Tigers’ run game and put all the pressure on DJ to make throws. However, we saw last week that he can do just that and then some. As for Ian Book and the Notre Dame offense against the Tigers’ defense, I like that matchup for the Tigers as well because Notre Dame lacks vertical play-makers, and the deep ball has never been Book’s strong suit anyway. The deep ball has been just about the only thing to penetrate the Tigers’ armor defensively, and the Irish simply have not demonstrated that they have that in their arsenal. That is a huge strategic advantage for Brent Venables, who is better than anyone at exploiting weaknesses in offenses. Expect him to leverage that advantage to suffocate Notre Dame’s strength, which is the ground game and intermediate passing routes. The biggest thing Notre Dame has going for it is the absence of Tyler Davis and James Skalski—two big run stuffers in the middle—which will allow the Irish to run the ball better than they otherwise would, but I still think the Tigers will be too much for Notre Dame’s offense. I keep going back to that Louisville game a few weeks ago. The Cardinals’ defense is not very good at all, but they held the Irish to just 12 points in South Bend! Then again, the following week the Irish hung 45 on Pat Narduzzi at Pitt, so who knows which offense will show up on Saturday, but my money is on Venables. By the way, if this is a tight game and the opportunity presents itself, don't be surprised if you see a fake punt pass by Spiers! We've already seen a successful fake punt in which Spiers ran for a first down, but he can also throw. He was a quarterback in high school and was 2-3 passing in the blowout at Georgia Tech a few weeks ago. His last attempted pass in a fake punt situation was ironically the Tigers' last regular season loss, on Friday the 13th at Syracuse in 2017. We might also see some trickery from the Tigers on offense, perhaps a pass by Etienne or Amari Rodgers. We haven't seen much of that this season, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Dabo and Tony Elliott pull some stuff from their sleeves in this big game.
Look, before I saw DJ play the way he did last week, I would have given the Tigers a 40 percent chance or so to win this game. However, now I would give them a 60 percent chance. I won’t be surprised in the least if they lose, given all of the key players missing and the fact that it’s on the road, but the Tigers have been there and done that. All they know how to do is win, which is why Dabo is 27-4 in one-score games since 2011, by far the best record in that span and perhaps all-time. There is a reason Dabo is 7-4 against top-5 teams and Brian Kelly is 0-7. Until proven otherwise, I will not predict a loss for the Tigers. Notre Dame has the longest active win streak at 12 games and the second-longest active home win streak behind the Tigers, but they will have to start over from scratch after this one. The Tigers will win their first true road game ever against a top-5 team and ironically tie FSU for most consecutive ACC wins (29) by beating one-time ACC member Notre Dame in South Bend, improving to 4-1 all-time against the Irish. Make it 40 straight non-playoff wins (2nd all-time) and 51 straight Saturday wins (most all-time), solidifying the Tigers' No.1 ranking going into the bye week to recuperate.
The Prowl toward a sixth consecutive ACC Title, sixth consecutive College Football Playoff, third consecutive National Championship Appearance and fourth National Title continues……
CLEMSON 31 Notre Dame 17
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