The College Football Playoff is finally upon us, and Notre Dame football is preparing for their matchup with No. 2 Clemson. Here are the top storylines for this week’s game.
It’s late December and the Irish are still in contention for a National Championship. After defeating USC in late November to cap off a perfect 12-0 regular season, Notre Dame football finished No. 3 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and drew a Cotton Bowl matchup with the Clemson Tigers.
Before the season started, not many people outside of Notre Dame fans would have predicted an undefeated season and CFP invite for this team. Honestly, a lot of Irish fans themselves probably thought the same with the talent lost from a season ago coupled with this year’s schedule. Fortunately, when it was all said and done and the dust settled, this team handled every challenge thrown at them and earned their way into the postseason.
It goes without saying that Clemson is an elite team in college football and most would shelve them with Alabama as one of the most consistent, top-tiered programs in the country. Dabo Swinney has transformed the Tigers into a powerhouse that has now won 10 or more games in eight straight seasons, including four straight College Football Playoff appearances and a National Championship. There’s a reason why Clemson is highly favored in the matchup and why few in the sports world are giving the Fighting Irish a fighting chance.
As I’ve said all season about Notre Dame’s opponents, the underdog mentality is dangerous. Not only that, but Clemson is a beatable team. Anyone can beat anybody on any given Saturday.
As Lou Holtz put it, “You don’t have to be the best team in the country, but you have to be the best team in the stadium.”
The last time Notre Dame faced the Tigers was in 2015 when Clemson won a heart-breaker 24-22 in what were essentially hurricane-like conditions. After being down 21-3 heading into the 4th quarter, DeShone Kizer and company mounted a late game rally and scored 19 points. The two-point conversion to tie the game with under a minute left ultimately fell short and the Irish dropped a close one to the eventual national runner-up.
Now, three years removed from their last meeting, Notre Dame is back and ready for redemption.
Here are the top storylines for the College Football Playoff Semifinal matchup between the Fighting Irish and the Clemson Tigers.