Clemson Tigers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick
Clemson Tigers (9-1 SU, 4-6 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-0 SU, 5-5 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, December 19th, 4:00 PM
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Point Spread: CLEM -10 / ND +10 (Bovada - 50% real cash bonus up to $250! The BEST live betting platform on the planet! Rebates on ALL your bets; win, lose or draw! FAST hassle-free payouts! Online 20 years! What the heck more could you ask for!)
Over/Under Total: 61.5
Notre Dame and Clemson meet in Charlotte for a Saturday showdown in the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium. This will be the Fighting Irish first-ever conference title matchup while the Tigers will be looking to take home their sixth ACC Championship in a row.
Notre Dame finished their regular season undefeated for the second time in the past three years and are currently riding college football’s longest winning streak of 16 games in a row. One clear recipe for success for the team has been offensive effectiveness, as the Irish has won 41 straight games when scoring over 20 points.
Senior quarterback Ian Book is the pacemaker for the Notre Dame offense. He has been just what the Irish have needed in terms of effectiveness and on the field leadership, passing for 15 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions while also rushing for an additional eight scores on the ground. His ability to succeed at the next level remains in question, but no matter what, he has secured his place in South Bend football lore as their victory against Syracuse was Book’s 30th as a starter, and he is now the winningest quarterback in Notre Dame history.
FUTURE FOCAL POINT
QB Book may be the offense leader, but their best player is running back Kyren Williams. The sophomore from St. Louis rushed for over 1,000 yards this season while averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring 13 total touchdowns. He also has a clear ability in the passing game as well, tying for second on the team in receptions with 24 for a total of 268 yards through the air. Williams had one of his best games of the year against Clemson when he rushed for 140 yards and three touchdowns, including both of Notre Dame’s scores in overtime. However, he may have a harder time than expected duplicating that effort on Saturday with issues up front for the Irish.
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Kyren Williams and fellow backs Chris Tyree and C’Bo Flemister will be hoping that the time off before the ACC Championship game gave their offensive line the necessary time to heal after they were hit by a rash of injuries late in the season. This caused the team to have to start three different sets of starters up front over their last three games, and any questions on the offensive line will only further benefit a Clemson defense that already ranks nationally 7th against the run, 11th in total yards per game and 2nd in sacks with 38.
Javon McKinley has emerged through the second half of the season as Ian Book’s top target. The senior wide receiver has been especially effective of late, with at least five receptions in five straight games while also posting at least 90 yards receiving in four of his last five. Despite leading the team in receptions and yards for most of the year, McKinley had somehow not found his way into the endzone through their first nine games, but thankfully managed to end that streak in their regular season with three touchdowns against Syracuse. After McKinley, Book’s top options through the air are wide receivers Ben Skowronek and Avery Davis, along with freshman future star at tight end Michael Mayer.
The two biggest differences between the first and second meetings of the Irish and Tigers are the location going from home friendly for Notre Dame to a neutral location and the return of Trevor Lawrence at quarterback for Clemson after he missed the initial game due to COVID. Lawrence is still locked in as the expected number one pick in next year’s NFL Draft and is fully expected to join the likes of Deshaun Watson, Charlie Whitehurst, and Steve Fuller as former Tigers quarterbacks who found success in the pros. He has shown a bit of rust since his return, having thrown an interception in three of his last four games, which may not seem like much until you consider Lawrence went a near NCAA record 366 straight passes without tossing a pick.
Another Clemson player looking to write a new story against the Irish is running back Travis Etienne, who had one of the worst ground games of his NCAA career in South Bend back in November when he finished with just 28 yards on 18 carries. He did manage to get into the endzone versus the Irish, which, even in a game in which he struggled, is still no surprise considering he is second in the ACC and 9th in the NCAA in total touchdowns with fourteen. Etienne hasn’t had the year expected of him as the top-ranked running back in the country on most consensus rankings for next years’ draft, and will hope to turn things around and end on a high note as he has now gone six straight games with under 90 yards rushing.
Heading into the postseason, two wide receivers clearly stand out as the best of the bunch amongst the Tiger targets, Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell. Rodgers leads the team in receptions (61), receiving yards (845), and touchdown catches (6) and has been consistent all season with either 60 yards receiving or a touchdown in nine of ten games played. Amari has been on a bit of a drought of late with just one score in his five games, but that slack has been picked up through the air by Powell, who has a touchdown in five of his past six games. Cornell has had near opposite halves of the season, starting off with just 14 receptions through his first six games, but since putting up 27 over his past four. Both will be sure to see plenty of attention on Saturday from Irish defensive backs Kyle Hamilton, Shaun Crawford, Nick McCloud, and Clarence Lewis.
THE FINAL DECISION
Notre Dame’s victory in game one against Clemson ended a streak of inferiority against top opponents, but it certainly doesn’t erase a history that has seen them go 2-17 in their last 19 games against top 6 teams and just 6-24 in their previous 30 against those ranked in the top 12. Notre Dame has been especially brutal in such situations away from home, having gone just 3-14 in their last 17 games against top 20 opponents not played in South Bend.
It isn’t easy to beat the same team twice in the same season, let alone a more talented one, and with the added Irish albatross of a head coach in Brian Kelly that has had a repeated history of failure in big games, I will be picking Clemson to come away with their sixth straight ACC title with a win and cover against Notre Dame.
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