Both Notre Dame and Clemson finished the 2018 regular season undefeated to earn spots in the College Football Playoff. But the way they accomplished the feat couldn’t have been more different, with one team being historically good while the other had to scrape by at times.
Either way, they play with a spot in the national championship game on the line in the Cotton Bowl. Clemson is a 12.5-point favorite at BetOnline as they look to get back to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game after missing out on last year’s title tilt.
Notre Dame’s offense has put up 456 yards per game for the year, which is good for 28th in the country. Their 33.8 points per game are enough to put them in 34th place in college football. The Irish looked great at times on offense this season, like in their 56 point explosion in a win over Wake Forest. But consistency is Notre Dame’s biggest issue, as evidenced by their 24-17 win over USC or their 24-16 win over Ball State.
Ian Book has stepped in this season to deliver the Irish to an average of 265.6 yards per game through the air, good for 31st in the country. They are also 48th in the country on the ground, averaging 190.5 yards per game with their rushing attack. Clemson has one of the best defensive lines in college football history, so Notre Dame might need the luck of the Irish to put up points here.
On defense, the Irish give up 332 yards per game, which ranks 22nd in the country. Their scoring defense is even better, as Notre Dame allows 17.3 points per game, ranking ninth in the country. Nobody has scored over 27 points against the Irish this year, but they also haven’t played a team nearly as good as Clemson this year.
Against the pass, Brian Kelly’s team gives up 198 yards per game, which is good for 36th in the country. Notre Dame ranks 33rd in the nation against the run, checking in at 133.5 yards per game. Clemson’s running game has been dominant all year, and will make this a strength vs. strength matchup.
Notre Dame has had an eternity since their last game, thanks to the fact that they don’t have to play a conference championship game to get into the College Football Playoff. Every team has a long layoff before the playoff, but that extra week can make for a rested team or a rusty team.
Clemson Tigers Cotton Bowl Analysis
This season, Clemson has averaged 530 yards per game, which ranks fourth in college football. Their 45.4 points per game make them the fourth ranked scoring offense in college football also. Even the statistics for Clemson this season are worthy of being in the final four, as Clemson hung 48 points or more on their opponents in six of their 13 games this season.
Dabo Swinney’s team averages 270.1 yards per game with the pass, which ranks 28th in the country. At the beginning of this season, it wasn’t clear which tiger would be the quarterback, with Tiger Woods and Tony the Tiger not ruled out to start the season. But Trevor Lawrence has been great since being named the starter over Kelly Bryant.
The Clemson running game averages 259.8 yards per game, which is ninth in college football. Running back Travis Etienne has 1,463 yards on the ground this season, which ranks fifth in all of college football. Notre Dame has played solid defense throughout this year, but hasn’t faced a multi-dimensional offense quite like this on the season.
On defense, Clemson gives up 277 yards per game, which ranks fourth in the nation. They give up 13.7 points per game, which ranks second in the country behind only Mississippi State. Clemson will likely be without star defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence on their defensive line, which could make their defense easier to breach than it has been all season.
Against the pass, Clemson gives up 183.8 yards per game, which ranks 18th in the sport. And their run defense is third in FBS by giving up 92.9 yards per game. Only one team, South Carolina, has scored more than 30 points on Clemson this season, and Notre Dame will need to play some of their best football of the season to have a chance to become the second.
Notre Dame vs Clemson Trends
Notre Dame is unbeaten on the year at 12-0 straight up on the season. They are 7-4-1 against the spread as well. The Fighting Irish are 4-0-1 against the spread in their last five games against teams with winning records, and have covered the spread in each of their last four neutral site games. The Irish are 6-2-1 against the spread over their last nine total games, rebounding from a sluggish 1-2 start to the season against the number.
Clemson is an undefeated 13-0 straight up for the year, and 7-6 against the spread over that time period. The Tigers have dominated their bowl games, going 7-1 against the spread in their last eight bowl contests. At neutral sites, Dabo Swinney’s team is 11-2 against the spread over their last 13 games. Against teams with winning records, the Tigers have gone 5-2 against the spread over their last seven, proving that they can play with anyone in their attempt to get back to the national title game.
The loss of Dexter Lawrence is undoubtedly a big one for the Clemson Tigers, but their defensive line should be able to survive the situation. Ian Book, on the other hand, might not survive the constant pressure that he will be under in the game.