#4 Notre Dame vs #1 Clemson Game Preview, Prediction


If you’re reading this, you’ve been looking forward to this game all year. Saturday’s game has the potential not only to be the game of the year, but it could also become an instant classic and then a game to be remembered for years to come. 

In order for that to happen, however, Notre Dame must overcome an ugly precedent set over the past 20 years. After going 1-19 versus Top 5 opponents in their last 20, the team is due for a much-needed win over No. 1 Clemson.

Game Information

Location: Notre Dame Stadium | South Bend, IN

Date: Saturday, November 7, 2020

Time: 7:30 PM EST 


Historical Information: Clemson leads the series 3-1, Last Meeting (2018 Cotton Bowl College Playoff Semifinal): Clemson 30, Notre Dame 3   

For much more on this game and how it relates to this meeting go here.

“An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless 

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing 

For every tatter in its mortal dress, 

Nor is there singing school but studying 

Monuments of its own magnificence; 

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come 

To the holy city of Byzantium.” 

“Sailing to Byzantium” – W.B. Yeats

If being close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, Brian Kelly is part farrier, part grenadier. As a head coach, he’s got more wins than Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, and Charlie Weis combined at 92-36* (adding back in the 21 vacated wins).

He’s revived the excitement around Notre Dame football, but he still lacks a signature win. College football is no country for old men. To be remembered, to become immortal like the Irish coaches of old, Kelly must win against Clemson. 

Despite his lack of a signature win and Notre Dame having more jersey combinations than bowl wins during his tenure, and despite getting throttled 30-3 the last time these two teams met, Kelly was indignant with reporters in this week’s press conference. 

When asked about the gravity of the moment, coach Kelly responded, “We’re 29-3 over the last 32 games. We’re not a team that’s easily overcome with the moment. We’ll be just fine.”

“You have to play well in the moment, but this team has exhibited they’re not a team that’s going to back away from a challenge. “

“When they’re done, they’ll pick up their pace and answer any challenges.”

Notre Dame’s 29-3 record sounds great at first blush, but those three losses all came to ranked opponents. In 2019, losses to No. 3 Georgia and No. 19 Michigan, and in 2018, the aforementioned 30-3 loss to No. 2 Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

The kill radius of the typical fragmentation grenade is five meters, or roughly three feet. (American poet Bruno Mars didn’t cover these statistics in his #1 hit song “Grenade”) The casualty radius is 15 meters, or approximately nine feet. But the most dangerous part of a grenade is the shrapnel, which can travel as far as 230 meters, or 750 feet. 

Seven hundred fifty feet is the equivalent of 250 yards. In the three losses to ranked opponents, the Notre Dame defense surrendered 538 yards, 339 yards, and 437 yards to Clemson, Georgia, and Michigan respectively. Even the best grenadier couldn’t wound someone from that far away. 

The Notre Dame coach went on to talk about the 30-3 loss to Clemson in 2018 and the unfair criticism he believed that followed the game.

“People fail to recognize the next week they [Clemson] absolutely blitzed Alabama. Nobody talked about the talent gap and the coaching gap in that game.”

An interesting parallel can be drawn between Kelly’s comments at this week’s press conference and opposing coach Dabo Swinney’s words in 2015. 

In the now-infamous “Clemsoning” press conference, coach Swinney said, “We ain’t [sic] lost to anybody unranked since 2011, but I have to come to a press conference in 2015 and get asked about that. This football team has shown up.

What else they gotta [sic] do? We’ve beaten Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU, Oklahoma, Georgia, Auburn! We’ve beaten 33 unranked opponents in a row. We’re 7-3 versus Top 10 teams. People need to quit talking about that.” 

The main difference between the two fiery press conferences is that in 2015, Dabo was 7-3 versus Top 10 teams. Brian Kelly, in 2020 is 3-11. Since becoming the head coach in 2008, Dabo is 137-31 (with no vacated wins) and two national championships under his belt.

The year he gave his defiant “Clemsoning” speech, the Tigers lost to Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

The following year, they were National Champions. Will Notre Dame follow the same trajectory in 2020?

If Brian Kelly is to have a lasting legacy at Notre Dame, they’ll need to. 

This Saturday’s game is one where the stats don’t matter. Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah put it best, “This is a game that can potentially change your life and change the program.” 

Prediction: Clemson wins 28-24

So in the words of the late Oakland Raiders owner, Al Davis, “just win, baby.” Unfortunately, for Notre Dame, like the Raiders, it feels like the program’s relevance is stuck in the 1980s. 

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  1. so…still sucking on that relevance lollipop…I can write your next weeks article..why ND win did not mean as much

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