Notre Dame Football Predictions: Notre Dame at Clemson


The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will travel to South Carolina on Saturday for an AP top-12 rumble with the Clemson Tigers. Both teams enter the game with undefeated records, hoping to make a statement to the College Football Playoff Committee with an impressive win over a highly ranked opponent.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his Tigers come into the game at 3-0, having defeated Wofford, Appalachian State, and Louisville. Ranked 12th in the AP Poll, the Tigers will have had over two weeks of rest since their 20-17 win over Louisville on September 17th.

Notre Dame enters the game at 4-0, ranked 6th in the AP Poll, and slight underdogs (by 2 points) to the hosting Tigers. Fresh off a 62-27 2nd-half beatdown of UMass, the Irish are searching for that signature victory to hang their leprechaun hats on, especially after Georgia Tech’s loss to Duke last week, which made that week 3 victory much less valuable.

Sep 5, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) carries the ball during the first half against the Wofford Terriers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

ND defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s defense struggled mightily in the first half against UMass last week, but they were able to tighten up and play mostly lights-out football in the second half. It will be interesting to see which of those defenses shows up, as the Clemson offense is much more potent than the Minutemen. Led by sophomore Heisman candidate QB Deshaun Watson (74% completion rate, 641 yards, 7 touchdowns), the Tiger offense is replete with playmakers. This should definitely concern Irish fans, as big plays have really been the Achilles heel for VanGorder’s squad.

Clemson boasts a talented running back in sophomore Wayne Gallman, who has run for 310 yards on 5.8 yards-per-carry. They also have a strong stable of wide receiver talent, even after the scary season-ending neck injury to starting junior WR Mike Williams. Watson has done a good job spreading the ball around to his receivers this season, especially to sophomore Artavis Scott, freshman Ray-Ray McCloud, and senior Charone Peake. Needless to say, the Irish secondary will have their work cut out for them, and based on their play the past few weeks, don’t be surprised if a few Tiger wide-outs get behind ND safeties Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate for big gains. The pass rush the front seven generates on Watson will be huge, as he is good enough to completely pick the Notre Dame secondary apart if he has all day to throw.

Not only will Clemson’s offense likely be the toughest test the ND defense has faced to-date, but the Tiger defense will also definitely be the most talented unit the Irish have seen so far this season. Clemson comes into the game ranked 9th in total defense (261 ypg) and 11th in scoring defense (12.3 ppg). However, these stats are likely a little bloated from playing also-rans Wofford and Appalachian State (and a mediocre Louisville offense), so it should be interesting to see the Tigers collide with an actual test in the form of ND, who is 15th in the country in total offense and 21st in scoring.

Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back C.J. Prosise (20) carrie stye ball for a 91 yard touchdown run against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The key will likely be the ND rushing attack, as that has carried the Irish offense so far and set up QB DeShone Kizer to be successful passing the ball. Senior RB C.J. Prosise will look to continue to carve up defenses on Saturday, as the newcomer to the Heisman race is 4th in the country in rushing yards (averaging 150 ypg). He, along with smaller contributions from freshman Josh Adams, will look to follow the Irish’s strong offensive line to a victory as the Irish control the line of scrimmage and time of possession.

Kizer will surely try to continue to play as efficiently as he has so far, getting the ball to unguardable junior WR Will Fuller and ever-reliable senior WR Chris Brown. Clemson’s secondary has some great talent, though, as CB Mackensie Alexander and S Jayron Kearse are future pros who will certainly look to slow down Fuller and capitalize on any mistakes by Kizer.

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Overall, it should be a very exciting game, and likely a high-scoring affair, as both teams have defenses with talent but offenses that will likely put up points regardless. It could come down to winning the turnover and time-of-possession battles, with the defense that makes the most big-time plays coming out on top. One team will emerge from this battle a bonafide College Football Playoff contender, while the other will have a lot of work to do if they still hold that dream.

Editor Andrew HallNotre Dame 38, Clemson 31
Staff Writer Chase EyrichNotre Dame 21, Clemson 17
Staff Writer Manny De JesusNotre Dame 31, Clemson 27
Staff Writer Walt KosinNotre Dame 28, Clemson 24
Staff Writer Pat SullivanNotre Dame 37, Clemson 31