No. 4 Clemson's newly earned College Football Playoff Ranking will immediately be put to the test as the Tigers travel to take on Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The Fighting Irish have not seen their season play out quite as expected compared to the top-five preseason ranking, but after overcoming some early setbacks Marcus Freeman's group is playing with confidence and hopes to deliver a win against the Tigers like what Notre Dame fans saw in 2020, the last time Clemson came to town.
Clemson enters the game after a week off, finally reaching the bye after a midseason stretch of game that featured some of the toughest tests on the ACC schedule. The Tigers won a high-scoring double-overtime shootout at Wake Forest, won lower-scoring grinders against NC State and Syracuse at home and in between took down both Boston College and Florida State on the road. Positioned at No. 4 in the first CFP Rankings, Clemson figures to be in a spot where simply stacking wins will be enough to make the playoff for the seventh time in an eight-year run.
Can Clemson get in and out of South Bend with a win, or will Notre Dame play spoiler to the Tigers playoff hopes. Let's get into some of the big storylines and keys to the matchup.
How to watch Notre Dame vs. Clemson live
Date: Saturday, Nov. 5 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Notre Dame Stadium -- South Bend, Indiana
TV: NBC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Notre Dame vs. Clemson: Need to know
DJU returns to South Bend: That 2020 game, though it was a loss for Clemson, was also a coming out party for current starting quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. A true freshman at the time starting in place of Trevor Lawrence as a result of a positive COVID test, Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards and totaled three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) in the 47-40 overtime loss. Lawrence would return to the starter's role, and Clemson would avenge that defeat with a win in the ACC Championship Game, but the performance set an expectation for DJU in the post-Trevor era.
So when Clemson's offense fell off in production in 2021 and Uiagalelei threw nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions and finished with the worst passer rating in the ACC, it was a massive disappointment. Luckily for the quarterback and Clemson things have turned around in 2022, and Uiagalelei has 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions through eight games. However, his performance will be monitored closely here after getting benched in the close win against Syracuse. Any sign of the 2021 version of Uiagalelei will lead to Clemson having to consider making a mid-game change again, while anything close to 2020 version will almost certainly lead the Tigers to a win.
Notre Dame has hit its offensive stride with the ground game: The Fighting Irish suffered preseason injuries at wide receiver and then lost starting quarterback Tyler Buchner to a season-ending injury in the second game of the season. While Michael Mayer remains one of the top tight ends in the country, this is an offense that has pivoted to leaning on the run game for success. Since Sept. 24, when the Fighting Irish defeated No. 17 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Notre Dame has run the ball the ball 233 times and is averaging 228 rushing yards per game. According to Notre Dame, those figures rank tied for seventh nationally in attempts and 13th in rushing average in that span. The Fighting Irish boast a deep backfield with Audric Estime, Logan Diggs and Chris Tyree all capable of putting up big numbers with quarterback Drew Pyne playing a role in the ground game as well.
Clemson-Notre Dame has become a modern rivalry: This will be the fourth time in the last five seasons that Clemson and Notre Dame have played, and though the rivalry does not have a long history with only six prior meetings the fact that so many of these games have had College Football Playoff implications has added to the intrigue for Saturday night. Clemson leads the series 4-2, with wins in the 2018 College Football Playoff semifinals and 2020 ACC Championship Game, and the Tigers also won a rain-soaked 24-22 epic in 2015 en route to the program's first CFP appearance.
Notre Dame vs. Clemson prediction, picks
The playbook for Notre Dame against Ohio State was to lean on the defense and play a ball control game that allowed the Fighting Irish to hang tight with the Buckeyes as deep into the game as possible. Clemson also has a history under Dabo Swinney of leaning on its defense, playing field position and trying to limit mistakes in these big regular season showdowns. The defensive battle should lead to a lot of field goal attempts and less points on the scoreboard. Prediction: Under 44
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