Notre Dame will be going into a difficult environment on Saturday in Death Valley. With an 8 p.m. start, the Clemson faithful have plenty of time to get themselves in the right frame of mind for kickoff. It will be loud. It will be hostile.
More importantly, the Irish are facing a very talented Clemson team. Deshaun Watson is an outstanding quarterback and he knows how to get the ball in the hands of playmakers like Artavis Scott and Wayne Gallman. Defensively, Shaq Lawson up front and Mackensie Alexander in the back know how to stymie opposing offenses.
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But this is Notre Dame and this is just their next big game. And they have several very talented players on their side.
The Irish are going to Clemson expecting to win and here are three reasons why they will.
1. The Irish Defensive Front vs. the Clemson Offensive Line
The weakest spot of Clemson’s offense — and probably their entire team — is the offensive line. Injuries have affected the unit’s play and center Ryan Norton, by far Clemson’s most experienced offensive lineman, will miss the Notre Dame game with a knee sprain. But it has been more than injuries. The group has simply not dominated lesser competition the way you would expect. They are tied for 70th in the country allowing two sacks a game and that is despite ranking No. 105 in passing attempts. This week, they will be up against Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell, Jaylon Smith and the rest of a tough Notre Dame front seven. It won’t be like blocking Wofford, Appalachian State or Louisville, that’s for sure.
2. Wearing Down the Clemson Defense
Clemson has a very solid defense. But due to injuries and other personnel losses, they are not deep with quality talent. This is where Notre Dame’s big offensive line will be a factor. They will pound on Clemson play after play. Though Notre Dame does not play at TCU-like speed, a little faster tempo may be the way to go in this game. Keep Clemson’s defenders moving. Notre Dame has a depth advantage and as the game drags on it should become more and more evident.
3. The Schedule
Clemson’s last game was on Sept. 16, giving them 16 days off before the Notre Dame clash. They have plenty of time to game plan for the Irish and they got some bruises healed. But that’s a long time without game action. Meanwhile, Notre Dame played the perfect lead-in opponent in UMass. While the first half did not go exactly as planned, Notre Dame did get to see a team that can throw the ball, something Clemson will do on Saturday night. Also, the Irish have played a tough road game and met up with Texas and Georgia Tech. Clemson started with two patsies and then inched by a struggling Louisville team. Notre Dame is the more battle tested team going into Saturday night.
— 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.