Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 4, 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM NOV. 4, 2023 37 GAME PREVIEW: CLEMSON Much like Notre Dame, Clemson has zero pass catchers over 400 yards this season. With no one for an inexperienced quarterback like Klubnik to lean on, the Tigers never really had a chance to feature a prolific passing game. The sophomore out of Austin (Texas) Westlake protects the ball well, though, throwing only 3 interceptions this season. On the Irish side, the starting cornerbacks — graduate student Cam Hart and sophomore Ben- jamin Morrison — have allowed a combined 4.9 yards per passing attempt. The Irish cover the middle of the field extremely well, too, with gradu- ate student safety DJ Brown, graduate student linebacker Marist Liufau and senior safety Xavier Watts grading 71.1 or higher on 199-plus coverage snaps each. The Irish pass rush broke out against USC as well, sacking junior quarterback Caleb Williams 6 times. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. CLEMSON RUN DEFENSE This is the 29th-ranked rushing offense versus the 24th-ranked rushing defense. Notre Dame and Clemson have both been very good but just a bit shy of great in this category. An outlier perfor- mance (1.6 yards per carry at Louisville) brought the Irish down a bit and a similar one (0.9 yards per attempt allowed at Miami) brought the Tigers up, but this is still really close. Notre Dame, by both choice and necessity, lives and dies with its run game. Only one starting of- fensive lineman, junior left tackle Joe Alt, has a PFF run-blocking grade better than 70. The interior Through seven contests, junior linebacker Barrett Carter ranked second on the Tigers with 39 stops plus had 5.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack. PHOTO COURTESY CLEMSON ATHLETICS Todd D. Burlage: Notre Dame 24, Clemson 20 Preseason chatter that the once mighty Clemson program had slipped in recent years and was vulnerable this season has come to fruition with the Tigers losing three of their first seven games. Missing the elite quarterback play Clemson enjoyed with Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence when it was a College Football Playoff mainstay, the Tigers have already lost at least three games for a third straight season. Clemson is still stingy on defense, which will keep this game close throughout. But Notre Dame finds a way to claim its fourth win over the Tigers in the last six tries since 2015. Steve Downey: Clemson 24, Notre Dame 16 Heading into Week 9, the Tigers had lost six of their past 11 games against Power Five competition and already had three ACC losses for the first time since 2010. However, the underlying metrics suggest Clemson is a good foot- ball team. The Tigers were 18th in ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI), 19th in SP+, ninth among Power Five teams in successful play differential and 11th in explosive play differential. The biggest problem has been the offense coughing up the ball 13 times, including a nation-worst 10 lost fumbles. That has led to one of the worst red zone offenses in the country (126th, .684 scoring percentage). If they can clean up the mistakes on offense, the Tigers possess as a good a defense — seventh in the country in total defense (276.1 yards allowed per game) and ninth in pass efficiency defense (105.83 rating) — as the Irish will face this season. They should also be plenty motivated to avenge last year's beatdown in South Bend. Kyle Kelly: Notre Dame 23, Clemson 20 Even though Clemson has regressed since Notre Dame upset the Tigers 35-14 last year in South Bend, I do not expect the Irish to replicate that dominant performance in Death Valley. Still, I see Notre Dame escaping with a victory. I like veteran Irish quarterback Sam Hartman to outduel former prized recruit Cade Klubnik and the Irish defense to pitch a strong effort. Tyler Horka: Clemson 27, Notre Dame 21 Something smells fishy to me about everyone coming to complete agree- ment that this Notre Dame season is destined to finish with double digits in the win column just because the Fighting Irish routed a USC team that lost at home to Utah the very next week. Remember, this is the same Irish team that got whooped 33-20 the last time it went on the road against an ACC opponent in Louisville Oct. 7. Clemson is not very good this year. But the Tigers did play one of the four best teams in the country, Florida State, within a touchdown earlier this year in Death Valley. This pick is a mixture of me thinking Clemson will somewhat rise up off the mat and believing Notre Dame is somewhat destined to fall back onto it one more time this year. Crazier things have happened. Jack Soble: Notre Dame 23, Clemson 14 Clemson's defense is excellent in every facet, but Notre Dame has two key advantages. No. 1, the Irish are less bad on offense than the Tigers. No. 2, Notre Dame is the more experienced team with the more experienced quar- terback. Going into Death Valley is difficult, but the Irish will leave with a win. Staff Predictions

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