Hyperbole aside, does Notre Dame have a talent advantage against Clemson?


With two full days of practice left before Notre Dame boards a flight and heads for South Carolina, we’re reaching the summit of Mt. Hot Take. (Or at least let’s hope.)

It’s only Wednesday and we’ve already hit every water-cooler (that’s so 1980s) Twitter troll’s debate points:

* Comparing cupcakes— Wofford vs. UMass! Is Wofford better?

* Dabo thinks Notre Dame should play 13 games—but spends 350 words talking about how he could (it’s actually couldn’t, Dabo) care less if Notre Dame joins the ACC.

(I’ll let Dan Wetzel of Yahoo or Dan Wolken of USA Today handle that one.)

Today’s topic seems to focus on the atmosphere inside Clemson’s Memorial Stadium. With 81,500 sought-after tickets, Swinney quipped that he couldn’t even get Jesus a ticket.

Notre Dame knows it’s going to be rowdy. Maybe that’s why last week’s against UMass the Irish went with a non-verbal cadence. So when asked about entering Death Valley, Brian Kelly fully acknowledged the preparation for noise in his Tuesday press conference.

“We’ll be working nonverbal cadence as if it were the loudest environment that we’ve ever played in,” Kelly said.

Loudest environment we’ve ever played in? That sounds like Notre Dame is taking things seriously.

This afternoon, quarterback DeShone Kizer talked about preparing for an electric environment. He pointed to last season’s battle of two undefeated, top- five teams, and how getting to travel to Tallahassee and watch Everett Golson take on the elements will hopefully pay dividends.

“I’ve never heard anything so loud in my life,” Kizer said, when talking about big moments. “It feels like your insides are shaking on third down.”

In a week like this, apparently that wasn’t enough reverence.

In many ways, this feels like a bizarro scenario. It’s usually trips to Notre Dame Stadium that this kind of non-story gets the major build up, with opposing coaches asked the stock question about watching Rudy, talking about Rockne or giving their team a history lesson about the Four Horsemen.

(I’ll answer on behalf of all opposing coaches from now until eternity. “No, we didn’t do any of that.”)

So while we won’t know until Saturday if the moment gets too big for this Irish team, with College GameDay, the prime-time ABC slot and two undefeated teams, it’s curious that the one angle we don’t seem to be talking about is the matchup on the field.

It’s clear that since Swinney took over the Clemson program in 2008, he’s elevated its position nationally. No longer do we hear punchlines associated with the program. Instead, it’s put together a near-historic run of winning teams, averaging 10.5 wins a season over the last four years, including bowl wins over Urban Meyer and Ohio State, Les Miles and LSU, and a five-touchdown pasting of Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma team last season.

But this is also a program that’s loss a ton of talent. Brent Venables has eight new starters on his defense, gutting the core of the nation’s best statistical defense. When asked about how that made him feel this spring, he said, “It was depressing.”

While Deshaun Watson is back and healthy, the group protecting him is breaking in three new starters. That kind of thing doesn’t show up against Wofford or Appalachian State, but it certainly could explain why Watson’s off to a slower-than-expected start.

That takes me to one of the more under-the-radar statements that’s been made this week that surprisingly hasn’t picked up much traction. ESPN’s Todd McShay had this to say, pointing to a pretty significant talent disparity between the two teams.

“For some perspective, 10 of our top 150 draft-eligible prospects will be playing in this game on Saturday, and all 10 of them will be wearing gold helmets.”

That’s a bold statement. And one that certainly flies in the face of conventional logic, especially with Notre Dame being down six big-time contributors.

So while most of this week’s discussion has been on everything that doesn’t seem to matter, one of the more interesting—and controversial statements—made this week doesn’t seem to have garnered any attention.

I’m going to Twitter to complain.