Clemson vs Notre Dame Preview & Free Pick [ACC Championship]

Clemson (9-1) vs Notre Dame (10-0)
When: Saturday, December 19th, 2020
Where: Bank of America Stadium,
Charlotte, NC

Time: 4:00 ET | TV: ABC
Opening Odds: Clemson -11/61.5

We have a handful of conference championship games this weekend, but the biggest one of them all is the ACC rematch between the Clemson Tigers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Barring a crazy result, both of these teams will probably still land in the College Football Playoff on Jan. 1, but the winner will probably be the No. 2 team behind Alabama – unless the Tide get upset by Florida in the SEC title game. Could these two actually meet again on Jan. 1 as the 2-3 seeds? I don’t think the committee will do that, but then again, they’ve been making some pretty boneheaded decisions already this year. This game will look much different than their Nov. 7 battle in South Bend. First off, the game will be in Charlotte, N.C. and the Tigers will have more bodies to throw at the Irish. Clemson hopes the return of several key players, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who missed the first Notre Dame game while continuing his recovery protocol from COVID-19, will be the difference. Freshman D.J. Uiagalelei performed well in Lawrence’s absence, passing for 439 yards and two touchdowns in the 47-40, double overtime setback. Clemson is bidding for not only its sixth consecutive ACC title, but its sixth straight trip to the CFP as well. The Tigers have won two national titles in that span. Notre Dame held the Tigers to a season-low 34 yards rushing and standout running Travis Etienne to a career-low 28 yards in November. Meanwhile, Notre Dame had success on the ground against Clemson with 208 yards. Clemson comes in as 10-point favorites with a total set at 60.

Clemson is eager for this rematch after Uiagalelei completed 29-of-44 in the first game, but Lawrence is still a big step up. After all, he could win the Heisman and is surely the No. 1 overall pick in this Spring’s NFL Draft. However, the Tigers need Etienne to be much better than he was in the first game. Etienne is the ACC’s all-time career rushing leader and has already caught 41 passes this season for 512 yards. The defense should also be better this time around for Clemson, which will have defensive players Tyler Davis and James Skalski expected to play on Saturday after missing the first meeting. The over is 5-1 in Clemson’s last six games overall.

Notre Dame comes into this contest undefeated, which is why even if they lose, might still get into the CFP unless they get absolutely smoked. Fighting Irish are coming off a 45-21 home win over Syracuse after defeating a game North Carolina squad on the road 31-17. Quarterback Ian Book has been steady for most of the season. He has 2,382 passing yards and 15 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Book has also rushed for 465 rushing yards and eight scores. Against Clemson last month, he passed for 310 yards and a touchdown on 22-of-39 completions and also rushed for 67 yards on 14 carries. Running back Kyren Williams was also a problem for Clemson in that game with 140 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. Notre Dame’s defense ranks 12th in the nation with 17.1 points allowed per contest and seventh overall against the run. Notre Dame is 3-1 against the spread in its last four games overall.

Clemson will obviously be more equipped in this rematch with several key players returning. Still, this Notre Dame team is pretty good, especially on offense. I believe the Irish can hang around if not win here. 10 points is just too many for an undefeated No. 2 team in the country.

Pick: Notre Dame +10
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