NCAA Saturday Night Football: Clemson/Notre Dame Preview

by Big Al Staff

Saturday night features a colossal battle on NBC between the number one ranked Clemson Tigers traveling to South Bend to face a Notre Dame ranked fourth in the nation by the Associated Press. These are two of the three remaining undefeated schools representing Power Five conferences (along with Alabama) who started their seasons in September.

Clemson is without junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence again this week as he continues in the COVID quarantine protocol. The Tigers remained undefeated last week with their 34-28 win over Boston College. Highly-touted freshman D.J. Uiagelelei played well as Lawrence’s understudy. He completed 30 of 41 passes for 342 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Uiagelelei also added another 25 yards on the ground with a touchdown.

The Tigers were 26-point point favorites against the Eagles but started slowly after Boston College scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. When a Clemson fumble on the Eagles’ three-yard line was picked and returned for a 97-yard touchdown, the Tigers found themselves trailing by a 21-7 score early in the second quarter. The Clemson defense tightened up by allowing only 273 yards for the game, which provided ample room for Uigelelei to lead the team to outscore Boston College by a 28-7 score the rest of the way for the victory.

Clemson will be without defensive lineman Xavier Thomas for the first half of this game as getting suspended for a targeting penalty against the Eagles. The Tigers are dealing with a host of injuries to their front seven with starting defensive linemen Tyler Davis and Justin Foster and starting linebackers James Skalski and Mike Jones all declared out for this game.

Notre Dame upped their record to a 6-0 mark with their 31-13 win at Georgia Tech last week. The Fighting Irish return home where they have won 22 straight games in a row at Notre Dame Stadium. Quarterback Ian Book completed 18 of 26 passes for 199 yards with a touchdown while adding another 46 rushing yards in the victory.

Irish running back Karen Williams leads the team with 600 rushing yards bolstered by the three games where he rushed for more than 100 yards. He has reached the end zone seven times. The Notre Dame ground game will face their stiffest test of the season against a Clemson defense that is allowing only 99.9 rushing yards-per-game.

The Fighting Irish run defense has been even stingier this season as they rank ninth in the nation by holding their opponents to only 93.7 rushing yards-per-game. Yet it is fair to suggest that they have not faced a running back as dynamic as the Tigers’ Travis Ettienne. The senior is eleventh in the nation with 606 rushing yards this year, which has increased his career tally with the Tigers to 4644 yards on the ground.

These two teams last played in the national semifinals of the 2018-19 college football playoffs, with Clemson earning a 30-3 victory to advantage to the title game where they upset Alabama to win the national championship in Lawrence’s freshman year.

This showdown could be the opening act for a potential rematch between these two teams in the ACC championship game with Notre Dame competing as a temporary conference member this season. The ACC has abandoned their division format this year, with the top two teams after conference play earning the right to play in the conference championship game.

BetAnySports lists Clemson as a 5-point favorite with a total of 50.5. The NBC broadcast starts at 7:30 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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