Following a nail-biting victory against Boston College, the no. 1 ranked Clemson Tigers will travel to Notre Dame to take on the no. 4 ranked Fighting Irish this Saturday, November 7 at 7:30 on NBC. Both teams are undefeated, with Clemson being 7-0 and Notre Dame being 6-0, so fans should expect both sides to come hungry to prove their worth as the top dog in the ACC.
The Tigers will come into the matchup without their starting quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, for the second consecutive game, as he continues to battle COVID-19. Lawrence will have passed the ten-day quarantine requirement from the ACC by kick-off, but there will not be enough time to conduct the mandatory cardiac test. So, although he will be able to be with the team in South Bend, Lawrence will have to watch the game from the sidelines. Taking his place will be freshman D.J. Uiagalelei, who impressed many in his first career start against Boston College. Uiagalelei may not have the same experience and fame as Lawrence, but he displayed his excellent arm strength, accuracy, and mobility in the 34-28 win against Boston College, so look for him to build on that against Notre Dame.
Although they performed well against Boston College, especially in the second half, Uiagalelei and the offense should not expect to move the ball as easily as they did against Boston College. Notre Dame’s defense has been terrific this season and they are not letting their guard down even with the quarterback change. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said, “DJ will be well prepared for a number of things that we’ll show him. The most important thing is to make sure that he’s not comfortable back there. You got to get a great pass rush, you got to get him to move his feet, you got to make sure that they don’t get in a rhythm.”
In the first-half, Clemson’s defense struggled mightily last week against Boston College, and they cannot afford to have a similar start against the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has a fantastic rushing attack led by sophomore running back Kyren Williams and a fierce offensive line. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney spoke highly of their offense and said, “Offensively, it starts with their offensive line. They’re massive. These guys are huge. They are all returning starters. Incredible experience.” As Swinney also mentioned, Notre Dame is “Built to run the football,” so look for the Tigers’ young defense to put their primary focus on stopping the rushing attack of the Fighting Irish.
These two teams last played in the College Football Playoff Semifinal in 2018, when Clemson thrashed the Fighting Irish 30-3. This time around, Notre Dame will be even hungrier and their now senior quarterback Ian Book has come a long way since he played the Tigers. Swinney said that “Where he is today is lightyears ahead of where he was as a freshman,” and “His instincts have always been really good, but his savviness is even better. He knows when to run, he knows how to extend plays. His arm, he’s really confident in his arm. The game has slowed down for him.”
Clemson dominated Notre Dame in the 2018 matchup, but Notre Dame is ready to exact revenge against the Tigers and fans should not take them lightly. Both teams have excellent head coaches, great rushing attacks, and stout defenses. Ultimately what it will come down to is who wants the win more, and at this point, it appears that both sides believe they are the better team and will win come Saturday.