Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Clemson Tigers (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time: Saturday, October 3rd, 8:00 PM EST
Where: Memorial Stadium
by Mike M, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ND -1 / Clemson +1
Over/Under Total: 53.5
No.6 Notre Dame travels to Death Valley to take on No.12 Clemson in a battle of undefeated teams attempting to stay perfect in what has been a tumultuous season of college football so far. ESPN will be there for College GameDay, pretty much the only redeemable or respectable programming the station has left other than college basketball and their 30 for 30 specials.
Clemson enters the game with a 3-0 record on the season and has had extra time to prepare for the game after last playing on September 17th when they beat Louisville 20-17 on the road in front of a raucous Cardinal crowd. Despite losing eight starters from last years defense that ranked number one in the country, the team hasnt missed a beat as they currently rank 11th in points against (12.3) and 9th overall in total defense. They will be surely tested by the Notre Dame rushing attack which is 12th in the nation thus far and is led by running back C.J Prosise who has already gone for 600 yards and six touchdowns on the season, but the Tigers and standout defensive end Shaq Lawson know they have the ability to battle the Irish running game after limiting Louisville to only 19 total rushing yards two weeks ago.
Sophomore quarterback DeShaun Watson has continued to play proficient football for Clemson, completing 74% of his passes on the year while throwing for 641 yards and seven touchdowns. He lost his favorite wide receiver target Mike Williams in week one to a scary fractured neck injury when Williams caught a touchdown pass and collided with the endzone goalpost but Artavis Scott has stepped up well in his absence, catching twenty passes on the year thus far for 188 yards and two touchdowns. To get past a strong Notre Dame defense the offense will need to continue its balanced attack and running back Wayne Gallman will be facing his strongest test of the year against the Irish dominant front seven as he hopes to build upon his early season success of three touchdowns and 310 yards rushing to start the year.
The Irish were sluggish through the first half of last weeks game against UMass, leading only 21-20 late in the second quarter, but scored the games next 41 points in a row on their way to a 62-27 victory and cover of the 28 point line. Prosise continued to lead the teams running game going for 149 yards on only fifteen carries while scoring two touchdowns as the Irish relied on the ground and pound attack to wear down the overmatched Minuteman defense, rushing as a team for 457 yards and six touchdowns for the game.
After shutting down Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas and the vaunted Yellow Jacket option attack in the previous week, the Notre Dame struggled early against the run, letting up three rushing touchdowns in the first half including an 82 yard TD run by UMass running back Marquis Young, who became the first running back of the season to break the century mark against the Irish, running for 105 yards on five carries. They were able to keep prolific Massachusetts receiver Tajae Sharpe out of the endzone and limited him to only 8 catches for 83 yards, the first team this year to keep him under ten catches and under 100 yards receiving. Most importantly for Notre Dame as a team they finally made it through a game unscathed in the injury department after already having lost their starting quarterback, running back, tight end, standout defensive lineman and two defensive backs to season ending injuries in the first month of the season.
On a Saturday packed with great games, there are five matchups involving two ranked teams, the battle in Death Valley should be one of the best. Clemson has a well earned reputation as being one of the hardest venues to play at (they are 26-2 in their last 28 games), but the Tigers have struggled in recent years against quality teams, winning only once in their last eight regular season games against ranked opponents. Notre Dame backup quarterback DeShone Kizer has performed well since initial starter Malik Zaire was injured in week two against Virginia, but this will be his first start on the road and a primetime battle in one of the most hostile environments in college football is a tough battle for any quarterback, let alone one with only 2.5 games of experience in his career. If the game were at South Bend I would be going with the Irish, but with the venue in South Carolina instead, Clemson is my pick to win a tight ball game.
Mikes Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Clemson +1.
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