We are finally here! At the rematch we all anticipated we would see, but after the first result many did not expect. Notre Dame defeated Clemson in the first meeting 47-40 in 2OT. If you recall our previous discussion, Notre Dame stopped the run and their secondary played well enough to keep Clemson from throwing all over them and blowing them out. The playmakers that needed to step up did just that. Javon McKinley and Ben Skowronek stepped for Ian Book and the Irish saw Avery Davis re-emerge as another senior leader as the receivers for Notre Dame made catch after catch to keep them in the game.
Kyren Williams established himself as the lead running back for the Irish as he went for 140 yards on 23 carries and 3 touchdowns including the tone-setting opening play touchdown. The one area that the Irish need to improve on, in terms of the last game against Clemson, is the redzone offense. They improved on this a bit in the weeks after beating Clemson, but against Clemson they would get points, just not as many as they should have. They settled for field goals instead of touchdowns. The Clemson defense stepped up at times, but the Notre Dame offense would have a great drive going before running to the short side or throwing a screen pass that had no chance before having to convert a third and long, which would fall incomplete or be stopped short. Today, the Irish cannot have as many field goals if they want to claim the ACC title. They need to finish with touchdowns.
Clemson is getting back a few players as well that they missed. Namely, Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. He is good, but contrary to what some will have you believe, statistic wise Trevor Lawrence was not going to pass for 600 yards against Notre Dame. The secondary is not the porus. D.J. Uiagalelei threw for the most yards against Notre Dame than any QB ever has. That is no small feat given the history of Notre Dame. Granted, Lawrence’s leadership and comfort level was absent, the Tigers did not look as if they missed much of a beat. The issue stemmed from the lack of a running game including a huge fumble returned for a touchdown for Notre Dame. Lawrence would not have made a difference there. All of the receving weapons stepped up for Clemson as well. The Tigers run defense was where the difference was. The Irish has a successful balanced attack that the Tigers did not. In order for Clemson to defeat the Irish, they will need to find the same success Etienne had in 2018 against the Irish. However, even with Clark Lea being announced as the next head coach of Vanderbilt, I believe he and the defense will be focused on winning this game and make a run in the CFP. This team does not have the feel of a team that will lose focus or let an announcement of the future impact their present.
Those are the keys to this game. The Irish need to finish a bit stronger in the redzone and the Tigers need a running game. That will be the difference this afternoon. The Irish answered the question of can they beat instead of just hang with the top of the class in college football. Now they have to vanquish the demons of big time postseason collapse and answer the only question remaining: Can they do it again? I believe they can and they will! According to William Hill, the Tigers are favored at -11. I believe the Irish will cover and win the game today!
Hope you all enjoy the games and GO IRISH!
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