It’s rare that Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has had the luxury of getting a top 5 opponent at home in South Bend.
On November 7th, the Irish got the opportunity to get then-number one rank Clemson at home and in a double-overtime thriller, Notre Dame pulled out a 47-40 win.
The Tigers were without starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence that night but it wasn’t the quarterback position that sunk the Tigers. Lawrence’s replacement, D.J. Uiagalelei, went 29-44 for 439 yards and two touchdowns.
Clemson’s problem was Notre Dame’s running game. As a team, Notre Dame rushed for 208 yards. Kyren Williams had 140 of them including a 65 yard touchdown. It was the first of three touchdowns he had that night.
Ian Book was a solid 22-39 for 310 yard and a touchdown pass. He also ran for 67 yards. It can’t be said enough how well Kelly and the offense uses Book’s mobility.
Now the two teams meet again, this time for the ACC Championship. In Notre Dame’s first, and as of right now, only appearance in a conference, they have managed to have an undefeated season. What’s even more impressive is the Irish have only trailed 44:47 for the entire season.
In this week’s College Football Playoffs, the Irish still stood at number two. The question is, will they stay in the top four if they lose especially if it is a blowout? Will there be a sense of “here we go again” if the Irish are sent to the playoffs? Even though Notre Dame’s past performances shouldn’t play a part into what happens this season, we all know there will, at least, be a conversation about it.
With that being said, can you really put in Texas A&M over Notre Dame? The answer seems to be a resounding “no”. Even with a loss, the Aggies don’t have a more impressive win on their schedule than Notre Dame’s first win over Lawrence-less Clemson.
It’s been said many times in many places but it’s worth saying again, what Brian Kelly has done at Notre Dame is simply amazing and largely underappreciated.
As for Clemson, another loss to the Irish will garner a conversation on whether they should stay in the top four or not. Certainly both teams benefit from Florida’s loss last week but what happens if the Gators beat Alabama this weekend and Clemson loses? Will the LSU loss be forgiven? Certainly Clemson would have the better two losses but would they have a win as good as Florida’s win over Alabama? Would Texas A&M’s (if they beat Tennessee this weekend like they should) one loss be impressive enough to jump Clemson?
With that being the backdrop to the ACC Championship, you can understand why neither team wants to hold their future in the hands on the College Football Playoff Committee.