It has been nearly a year since the Crimson Tide dismantled the Kelly Bryant-led Clemson offense and ended the Tigers’ season in the Sugar Bowl. Today is the day the Tigers get another shot. This is why Trevor Lawrence was given the starting job and why Wilkins, Bryant, and Ferrell came back for another year. My final thoughts on the game are below.
Before we get to the game, there were a couple things reported about the positive drug tests that got my attention. First, the one year suspension for the three players. Obviously, Big Dex is going to turn pro so this doesn’t affect his eligibility. But Braden Galloway and Zach Giella are both expected to contribute next year. I think Galloway is the pass-catching TE of the future for us and I thought he had a chance to start next season. I think the staff decided to play him this year strictly because they knew that and wanted to groom him. Giella was also going to have a chance to start, but it is more likely that he will be the backup at C next year. So, this will hurt beyond January. Second, it was also reported that Lawrence, Galloway, and Giella shared the same corner of the locker room. I’m no detective, but that seems like the most likely place to start the search of what may have happened.
A full slate of season finales are happening today. First, representing the SEC, we have South Carolina and representing the ACC, Virginia. Yes, two programs that encompass the pride of their respective conference. Since no fanbase is better at waving the SEC flag than CockFan, I’m certain all the LSU, Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama fans are going to be 100% emotionally involved with the outcome of this one. I expect a shootout in this one and a big day from UVA’s QB and RB.
In the Orange Bowl tonight, I think we might see another shootout-type game, but I think it will resemble the Clemson/South Carolina game where Alabama gets their defense a little scorched, but wins by 3 TDs.
Peach Bowl, 12:00, ESPN, #10 Florida vs. #7 Michigan
Belk Bowl, 12:00, ABC, South Carolina vs. Virginia
Arizona Bowl, 1:15, CBSS, Arkansas St. vs. Nevada
Cotton Bowl, 4:00, ESPN, #3 Notre Dame vs. #2 Clemson
Orange Bowl, 8:00, ESPN, #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 Alabama
Clemson vs. Notre Dame
I’m always big on the “psyche” advantage and how that can affect focus, desire, and effort level. Obviously, this is the playoff and a season defining game for both teams, so both teams should be jacked. However, I do think Notre Dame will have a slight psyche advantage early on as the onus is on them to prove they belong. Clemson may need to weather the storm for a couple series before they settle in.
As I wrote in the articles this week, speeding up Notre Dame on both sides of the ball is the key. When they can be deliberate on offense and get the defense questioning their assignments, they can be very effective. When their defense can keep everything in front of them and tackle, they can get off the field.
Offensively, Clemson is going to need Trevor, ETN, and Tee to make plus-plays in 1 on 1 situations. If ND sells out to stop the run, which I think they will, we’re going to need ETN to break tackles as usual and the QB/WRs to make plays as usual. Defensively, we need the front 4 to win consistently and put Notre Dame in obvious passing situations. The back 7 is going to need to use their eyes to read and react properly while resisting the temptation to do more than their job.
I saved the Special Teams matchup for this post because both teams have been largely average overall. I think we will have an opportunity to get a good kickoff return or two out of DK. And of course, it would be nice to avoid the usual “Spiers Special” at an inopportune time.
As I wrote this week, despite all the announcers selling this game as a close and competitive contest, I just don’t see that on film. I’m not disrespecting Notre Dame’s talent and coaching. They are great and they can come out and beat Clemson today. But when you look at Clemson on film, you see elite level talent and ability all over the place. No matter who wins the game, I expect Clemson to out-class Notre Dame from a talent and athleticism perspective. Clemson will win the majority of the personnel matchups on the field, and it will take busts, a schematic flaw, turnovers, or a combination of all three for Notre Dame to win. I like Clemson to control the game and win this one pretty comfortably.