There are two main questions that will determine who wins the game, barring craziness. One, has our secondary improved in downfield coverage? Two, how does Trevor Lawrence handle the step up in competition? We discussed the first question here and The Kraken will have a different and better perspective coming up when previewing the Clemson defense vs. the Notre Dame offense. Clemson is facing the best defense it’s seen and Notre Dame is facing the best offense it’s seen.
Clemson Offense vs. Schedule
Notre Dame Defense vs. Schedule
The level of competition hasn’t been there for either team. I’m not going to read too much into individual games, so we’re going to have to go by how they played against their overall schedule.
Both teams passed the test. Clemson’s offense ranges between 4 and 10 among the advanced stat rankings while Notre Dame’s defense ranges between 4 and 11. Both were dominant against their schedule. However, something could give. With the lack of top end teams, and Michigan found their offensive identity later in the season, we could very easily get a lot of different results.
Is true freshman Trevor Lawrence ready for a much bigger test on the biggest stage? Is Notre Dame ready for a balanced offense? If Trevor Lawrence is on and can handle the tight windows and blitzes, we’re going to have a good time. Can we realistically expect that? I think we can, but it’s in no way guaranteed.
By the Numbers
The strength of Notre Dame’s team is their secondary. They rank 9th in Passing Marginal Efficiency per S&P+ and third in preventing 20+ yard passing plays. As The Kraken said, they are not a havoc-style defense. They rank 58th in sack rate. Their starting secondary has 42 PBU+INT. By comparison, Clemson’s starting secondary has 17 PBU+INT.
Their inside linebackers Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill lead theit team in tackles and are disruptive with 9 TFL and 3.5 sacks each. Very interesting to me is that their top 6 tacklers are those two LB’s and their secondary. Our top 6 tacklers are our LB’s, Wilkins, Ferrell, and Muse. They aren’t afraid to play their secondary on an island and will bring a safety into the box.
One other player to watch is DT Jerry Tillery. With 10.5 TFL and 8 sacks he is their most disruptive player on the DL. He will test our RG. If Cervenka or Pollard can handle him, it will be a big help to the offense and a great early sign.
One weakness they have is at nickle. They’ve split senior Nick Coleman and freshman Houston Griffith there. Griffith is also a backup SS. They both have close to 200 snaps. Their Rover, who will come out when playing nickle, Asmar Bilal, has 495 snaps per 247sports. They are comfortable playing him.
I’m expecting to see some four wide receiver sets, especially if we’re behind, with Ross getting on the field. I’m also wondering if we’ll see much of Milan Richard. It’s the time of year when we test the middle of the field (unless we’re winning).
Unfortunately, this team will be defined by how well it plays in the post-season after playing an easy schedule. Notre Dame is a good team that could win. Clemson has advantages and Vegas seems to like Clemson even more than the numbers do. Watch Tillery, how well Lawrence handles tighter windows, and how he handles blitzes.
Check out S&P+ here.