When Notre Dame reached their agreement with the ACC and the schedule was finalized, the fine, Orange-clad folks in the Palmetto State had this coming Saturday circled on the calendar. The Irish and Tigers have only met twice on the gridiron and Notre Dame’s lone trip to Clemson was back in 1977.
The Irish come in ranked higher in the AP Poll at No. 6 as opposed to Clemson at No. 12. Jaylon Smith is good. Sheldon Day is good. C.J. Prosise is good. Will Fuller is good.
It doesn’t matter. Here are three reasons why Clemson will win on Saturday night.
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1. Deshaun Watson and the Passing Game
Matt Johns and Virginia threw for 289 yards against Notre Dame. In that game, Canaan Severin had 11 catches for 153 yards. Last week, UMass had 302 yards passing against the Irish. And Georgia Tech mounted a comeback against ND when they passed the ball at the end of the game. Notre Dame’s pass defense has been suspect and Saturday they will have to contend with Watson throwing to Artavis Scott, Ray-Ray McCloud and the rest of the talented Clemson receivers. If Notre Dame’s secondary does not step up its play, it will be a long night for the guys in the gold helmets.
2. The Clemson Rush Defense
Notre Dame got a shot in the arm when running back C.J. Prosise replaced the injured Tarean Folston in Week One. Prosise is No. 5 in America in rushing yards per game with 150. But that yardage has come against Georgia Tech and their 60th-ranked rushing defense, Virginia and the No. 65 rushing defense, Texas’s No. 105th-ranked rushing defense, and UMass, who is No. 126 at stopping the run. Clemson is at No. 30 and although Wofford and Appalachian State are inferior opponents, they are both run-heavy teams that will get yards on the ground. Notre Dame has a very good offensive line, but Shaq Lawson and his Tiger teammates will be by far the Irish's biggest challenge of the year.
3. The Environment
Notre Dame is well accustomed to playing big games on the road. Last year’s game at Florida State is the most recent crazed setting that the Irish have encountered and many of the ND players remember that well. However, Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer can only tell you what that contest looked like from the sideline. Kizer did respond on the road at Virginia. But being the starting quarterback going into a night game in Death Valley is a whole different animal. The crowd will be ready. Clemson will be ready. We don’t know about Kizer.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.