The first of two College Football Playoff semifinal games will feature the Clemson Tigers vs. the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Both Clemson and Notre Dame enter this matchup with undefeated records. Clemson finished the regular season as the number-two ranked team in college football, while Notre Dame checked in at number three.
Clemson blew through the 2018 regular season and was rarely tested by their opponents. The Tigers outscored their opponents by nearly 32 points per game en route to another ACC Championship. Notre Dame was able to beat four top-25 ranked opponents this season on their way to a 12-0 regular season. The Clemson Tigers are 12.5 point favorites over Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.
Clemson Features Balanced Offense
The Clemson Tigers feature one of the most explosive offenses in college football this season, and they are extremely balanced. Clemson is scoring 45.4 points per game on the season while averaging over 260 yards per game through the air, and on the ground. The Tigers balanced offense has helped their defense become one of the best units in the country. Clemson gave up just 13.7 points per game during the regular season. The Tigers can win in a variety of ways.
Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence burst onto the scene this season in leading the Clemson offense. Lawrence threw 24 touchdowns to just four interceptions during the regular season, and also racked up 144 rushing yards. Running back Travis Etienne averaged 8.3 yards per carry this season and scored eight rushing touchdowns. Clemson could be without star defensive tackle, Dexter Lawrence, after he failed a drug test leading up to this game.
Notre Dame Must Play Defense
The Notre Dame offense will need to perform well in this game, but the Notre Dame defense will get the biggest test. The Fighting Irish gave up just 17.3 points per game during the regular season, but they haven’t seen an explosive offense like this one all season. Notre Dame has yet to recover a fumble all season long, and they will need to create some turnovers to keep this game close. Linebacker Te’Von Coney leads the Irish with 107 tackles this season and will need to have a great game against Clemson.
Sophomore quarterback Ian Book is the key for the Fighting Irish offense. Book has thrown for close to 2,500 yards this season and is completing over 70 percent of his passes. The passing game will need to be solid to open some holes for their terrific run game. Senior Dexter Williams is averaging 6.6 yards per carry this season and has scored 12 rushing touchdowns to lead the Irish. Notre Dame has some talented pieces on offense, but they will all need to show up.
Tigers Blow Out Fighting Irish
Notre Dame was able to narrowly escape in some games during the regular season, but they never faced a really tough opponent. The Fighting Irish have had a solid season, but their storybook run will end in this game. Clemson seemed to be on a collision course to meet Alabama in the College Football Playoff Championship Game all season long, and they will blow out the Fighting Irish in this one. Bet the Clemson Tigers -12.5 over Notre Dame in the 2018 Cotton Bowl.