SOUTH BEND, Ind. — In the midst of a frustrating season, Notre Dame has a chance to remember, remember the fifth of November and, in doing so, perhaps exact a vendetta on the team that has handed the Irish two lopsided postseason defeats in the last five seasons. The No. 4 Clemson Tigers have a clear path to the Playoff, and Notre Dame looks like the stiffest challenge left on Clemson’s schedule before the ACC championship game.
If the Irish repeat their 2020 upset of the Tigers, they could preemptively knock Clemson (8-0) out of the postseason.
Of course, Notre Dame (5-3) does not much care about where the Tigers may be going. It is simply looking for strengthened confidence in its own rebound.
“What would a win like this do for our program?” Irish head coach Marcus Freeman asked rhetorically Monday. “It’s going to continue to help us gain confidence in what we’re doing, who we are, and it’s also that emotional feeling that you get when you’re victorious. There’s no better feeling in the world.”
TIME: 7:30 ET on a night when staying up late is more permissible than any other night of the year. If tonight’s tilt recaptures some of the extra-time drama from two years ago, do not lament overtime. You’ll get that hour back while you sleep. You’ll still be well-rested when you start your Sunday.
And you’ll presumably have less traveling to do than the Clemson fans that may or may not fill Notre Dame Stadium a la Georgia in 2017 and Cincinnati in 2021.
Expecting a lot of Clemson fans in South Bend. Know several people who have waited 2 years for this trip https://t.co/zKMzlVT8bJ
— Matt Connolly (@MattOnClemson) November 3, 2022
‘“We played Cincinnati here last year in this stadium, and there was some red, (but) it sticks out when you’re a bright color maybe,” Freeman said. “Red or orange in Notre Dame Stadium — but it’s a home-field advantage, to play a team like Clemson at Notre Dame Stadium, it’s a huge advantage for us.”
TV: NBC has the broadcast, though it can also be streamed on Peacock by clicking this link RIGHT HERE.
Win the interval#GoIrish pic.twitter.com/9CE365qoVJ
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) November 4, 2022
PREVIEW: The combined points total for this matchup opened on Sunday at 47.5, about what one might expect from any game involving the struggling Irish offense against a stout defense, but by Saturday’s earliest hours, it had fallen to 44. That fall came during the middle of the week as tonight’s weather forecast became more clear.
It’s not that the sold-out crowd will need umbrellas, though those may make tailgates more pleasant. It’s that a loose-fitting ballcap could end up three sections over. Weather.com projects 22 mph winds at kickoff, with gusts assuredly much higher. They will fall to 14 mph by 11 p.m. ET.
Winds like that could impact a passing game, but it is not like Notre Dame has one to be impacted, anyway. And for all his oft-critiqued flaws, arm strength is one of Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei’s strengths, so he should be able to force the ball through any gusts.
But field goals may go wayward. Strong winds are not easily accounted for in Notre Dame Stadium. In the five years since the most recent renovation of the Stadium was completed, no one has attempted more field goals in it than former Irish kicker Jonathan Doerer, who went 30-of-39 on field goals at his home venue and 84-of-85 on extra point attempts.
“Field goals are difficult,” he said early last season. “Because the wind does swirl in there. I tend to look at the American flag sometimes when I’m kicking toward the scoreboard. Other times I try to look at the goal post that is aligned with the hash that I’m on.”
Both Notre Dame and Clemson enjoy experienced kickers, but it should not be seen as a coincidence that the total fell by about a field goal this week.
PREDICTION: The game flow broke the Irish way perfectly last week. Notre Dame wanted to stake itself to an early lead and then run through Syracuse, taking the greatest Irish strength and applying it to the greatest Orange weakness.
That will not work against Clemson. The Tigers’ defensive line is too good, simply enough. When teams run against Clemson, they lessen their expected points total by 0.094 points per play. Thus, teams do not run against the Tigers often.
Clemson had an extra week to fine-tune its opening script for tonight, and if that clicks, Notre Dame will find itself behind and in an uncomfortable position. If that deficit becomes two possessions, suddenly the Irish will feel a need to try their hardly-existent passing game.
The spread on this game favors the Tigers by only 3.5 points as of early Saturday, but the game itself could spiral quickly if Clemson finds that early edge. A ground-and-pound offense like Notre Dame’s that struggles to penalize a defense for stacking the box would have a most difficult time coming from behind against a quality opponent.
Not to mention, that wind could bother Irish junior quarterback Drew Pyne, though certainly not as much as the Tigers’ vaunted defensive line will.
Game flow worked in Notre Dame’s favor a week ago. It can just as easily cut against.
Clemson 31, Notre Dame 17
(Spread: 2-5; Over/Under: 2-6; Straight-up: 4-4)
Back-to-back game winners in the Final Four is some of the most GOAT stuff imaginable.
Shop 2018 Notre Dame now! @ndwbb https://t.co/eLOg6PwQ2i pic.twitter.com/GAn1Y2jGGl
— Homefield (@HomefieldApparl) November 2, 2022
INSIDE THE IRISH
— Notre Dame’s second-half run focus now a clear trend, but one dependent on a lead
— No. 4 Clemson Tigers return to Notre Dame with QB uncertainty and a stout DL once again
— Notre Dame Opponents: Three Irish foes land in Playoff top-10, with even No. 9 USC looking at Playoff path
— Special teams focus not the only echo of 2020’s Notre Dame upset of Clemson
— Things To Learn: Notre Dame’s struggling pass game may be the ‘secret’ to an upset of Clemson
We are 5 days short of the two-year anniversary of when Notre Dame upset No. 1 Clemson in double overtime.
Needed to scan through my wrap from that this week. A good refresher, if ya need it.
One of the few articles I've written I actually consider *good*https://t.co/Xjbtsp8Pv0
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) November 2, 2022
— Highest-graded players at every position through Week 9 of the 2022 college football season
— LSU coach Brian Kelly speaks on Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman
— Clemson vs Notre Dame odds, picks and predictions: Red zone woes haunt Irish
— Football weekend events: Notre Dame vs. Clemson
Ian Book, Notre Dame's all-time winningest quarterback, will be back in South Bend this weekend for the Clemson game. pic.twitter.com/fEYHTuydPz
— Matt Freeman (@mattfreemanISD) November 2, 2022