Notre Dame (12-0) vs Clemson (13-0)
Date/Time: Saturday, December 29th at 3 pm CT
Location: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX
Conference tie-ins: At-large/Group of Five
Last year’s result: Ohio State defeated USC 24-7
Notre Dame bowl history
The Irish are 17-18 all-time in bowl games including a 21-17 win over LSU in the Citrus Bowl last year.
This will be the first College Football Playoff appearance for the program.
Notre Dame refused to participate in bowl games for 45 years between their first appearance in the 1925 Rose Bowl and their second bowl, which was the 1970 Cotton Bowl.
Between 1995 and 2007, Notre Dame lost nine straight bowl games. Since then, they are 5-3.
This is the eighth Cotton Bowl Classic for the Irish. They are 5-2 in the previous seven appearances.
Clemson bowl history
Clemson is 22-20 all-time in their bowl history including a 24-6 loss to Alabama in last season’s Sugar Bowl.
This is the fourth straight CFP appearance for the Tigers. They won the national championship in 2016 over Alabama.
The Tigers are appearing in their second Cotton Bowl Classic. In fact, their first bowl appearance ever was in the 1940 edition, which was a 6-3 win over Boston College.
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Clemson is playing their second game in the state of Texas this season as they beat Texas A&M in College Station in September. Prior to this year, the last time they played in the state of Texas was in 2004, also at Texas A&M. To find another trip to the state for Clemson, you have to go all the way back to 1974, which was also to A&M.
The Cotton Bowl will be the fourth matchup between these two. Clemson leads the all-time series 2-1, including a 24-22 win in 2015. Prior to that, the previous matchup was in 1979.
Key player to watch for each team
Notre Dame: Cornerback – Julian Love
Clemson: Running back – Travis Etienne
Once Notre Dame made the switch from Brandon Wimbush to Ian Book at quarterback, the team took off. Additionally, Dexter Williams returning after a four-game suspension helped catapult the offense to being ranked 28th overall in the country. Certainly, the balance of the offense is what makes Notre Dame dangerous on that side. The offensive line is full of talent, although they are allowing a little over 2.5 sacks per game. Still, there is big playmaking potential for Notre Dame.
The defense is what helped propel Notre Dame to a 12-0 record this season. In fact, they are ranked 20th in the country overall. They are equally strong against the run and the pass. Star players such as Te’Von Coney and Julian Love make this a dangerous unit.
Notre Dame’s schedule has been a topic of conversation this season. They began the year with a huge win over Michigan, who went on to finish 10-2. Surprisingly, Syracuse ended up being their next best win at 9-3 this season while Stanford and Northwestern both went 8-4 during the regular season. Additionally, they beat ACC title game participant Pitt (finished 7-6) as well as 6-6 Vanderbilt and 6-6 Wake Forest. Florida State and USC were supposed to be signature wins, however both teams went 5-7. Still, the Irish did enough to secure a playoff berth.
The Tigers have an incredibly explosive offense led by freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence. In fact, they are ranked fifth overall in the country, averaging 530 yards per game. Clemson has a plethora of weapons including running back Travis Etienne and wide receivers Tee Higgins and Hunter Renfrow. Additionally, the offensive line is among the best in the nation, allowing just 14 sacks all season long.
Certainly, that Clemson defensive line is full of high level NFL prospects and the productivity backs that statement up. Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant form a ridiculous line that has depth as well. The defense accumulated 46 sacks this season, which is the third most in the country and number one out of the Power Five programs. The team ranks third in rushing defense while also ranking 18th in passing defense.
Clemson went through a stretch of games this season where they just destroyed people. For example, there was a stretch where they won 63-3, 41-7, 59-10 and 77-16. The schedule was not exactly the toughest however, partly due to Florida State and Louisville being so bad. Syracuse and Texas A&M were clearly their best wins. Regardless, the talent on this team is undeniable as well as their dominance.
Undoubtedly, the Cotton Bowl should be quite an interesting matchup. Clemson’s rush defense against Notre Dame’s strong rushing offense will be a key matchup. Also, how Notre Dame’s strong offensive line handles that powerful defensive line of Clemson will be another key to the game. How will true freshman Trevor Lawrence play against a top level defense like the Irish? Again, this is an exciting game and could truly be a classic Cotton Bowl game.
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