Clemson Tigers at Notre Dame Fighting Irish Betting Preview

The ACC Game of the Year is this Saturday night between top-ranked Clemson and fourth-ranked Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish will play host as they look to move to 7-0 on the year and solidify their College Football Playoff resume.

News out of Clemson has been COVID-related, with star quarterback and presumptive top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Trevor Lawrence, out due to testing positive last week. The Tigers will hope to weather the loss of their leader for another week and advance to 8-0 on the year.

Clemson is currently a five-point favorite on the road, with the over/under set at 51 points.

Getting to Know Clemson’s New Quarterback

Clemson handed the ball to freshman quarterback DJ Uiagalelei last week against Boston College. BC gave Clemson a fright, going into the half up 28-13 only to be blanked in the second half. Clemson left with a 34-28 win.

Uiagalelei had a strong first collegiate start, completing 30 of 41 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns and tacking on another score with his legs. Uiagalelei is no slouch. Ranked as the top quarterback recruit in 2020, he’s lauded for his strong arm and mobility, often compared to Cam Newton.

The 6’4” freshman from California is already considered to be pro-ready and is expected to be the next in line of successful Clemson quarterbacks, after Lawrence and Deshaun Watson.

Notre Dame’s Unbeaten Start

The Fighting Irish have built their perfect start around a strong running game and a playmaking defense. Their most recent win was a victory over Georgia Tech, 31-13.

At quarterback is senior Ian Book. Book has completed 60% of his passes this year for 1,225 yards and seven touchdowns, adding on an additional 212 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. This offense revolves around the run, led by sophomore running back Kyren Williams.

Williams averages nearly six yards a carry, totaling 600 yards and seven touchdowns. The multi-faceted back is also a threat in the passing game, making 12 receptions for 180 yards. The defense has ball-hawking safeties and a disruptive defensive line (17 total sacks), both keys to stopping Uiagalelei and this Clemson offense.

Clemson is Number One for a Reason

Lawrence has been a big reason for the Tigers’ success since he joined the team, but this is the top-ranked team for a reason. Stalwart Travis Etienne, the four-year running back, is finishing his Clemson career in style. Etienne already has over 1,000 yards of total offense (606 rushing, 434 receiving) and eleven touchdowns.

Notre Dame has strong defensive numbers, albeit against middling competition, and getting Etienne out in space will be imperative for a Clemson win and a cover. COVID-19 has hit this team beyond Lawrence, with cases littered throughout the defense.

Missing the leader of their defense, linebacker James Skalski, is an important thing to monitor with this Notre Dame rushing attack. In his stead has been defensive coordinator Brent Venables son, Jake. With 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a pass defended, Venables may be the key for this Clemson defense to stuff the run and get the ball back to their offense.

The Pick

Clemson’s offense should be fine without Lawrence, as Uiagalelei displayed the playmaking abilities that made him the top recruit at his position. The offense has playmakers on the field to move the ball and score points.

Notre Dame will look to take advantage of Clemson’s defensive absences and run the ball down their throats. They should have success doing so, but without the threat of a true passing game, Clemson will have opportunities to add to their impressive sack totals (28 on the year).

In what should be a great game on Saturday night, the pick is around the more explosive team with the track record of success.

Pick: Clemson -5

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