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Staff Predictions 2020: Clemson Tigers

| Friday, November 6, 2020

Hayden Adams — Sports Editor

Who would’ve thought that, going into my final Notre Dame home game as a student (that choked me up a little to type that), I’d be the one person on this beat to go against the Irish, the first time I’ve ever picked Notre Dame to lose while covering them.

When I sent the football beat my initial prediction at the start of the week, I was way too optimistic (which is saying something considering I only picked a 27-24 Irish win). That’s just who I am, but now, having seen the way Brian Kelly (poorly) handled his Monday press conference — wherein he reverted back to old form of treating this like any other game and essentially equating it in importance to next week against Boston College — I am not instilled with hope.

While I do expect a far more competitive game than we saw in the Cotton Bowl Classic two seasons ago, I just can’t bet on a head coach who it seems will not change his mentality, a mentality that has his team perpetually stuck in the second tier of college football powers, nor can I bet on a third-year starting quarterback who has regressed into a game manager and who has not shown himself to be capable of playing at an elite level against elite competition. Count on the offensive line, running game and defense to keep this one close, but I’m expecting a loss. But let it be known, I’d be pretty glad for Kelly and Ian Book to make me eat my words.

FINAL SCORE: Clemson 27, Notre Dame 24


Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor

If you would have asked me anytime in the last six months if I thought Clemson was going to snap Notre Dame’s home win streak, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you yes. But the year is 2020, and this is coronavirus football. The game is as brutal and unforgiving as it’s ever been. It’s impossible to have a normal season.

Clemson looked shaky against BC but, as Brian Kelly put it, they are the gold standard. Dabo Swinney is coaching the scariest team in the country right now. But with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft out they are a little bit less scary.

This will be a nail biter. And it will likely come down to one or two plays. The last two weeks kindled a spark of hope in me. Notre Dame needs a near flawless performance still, but it is possible.This is probably the biggest Notre Dame game that’s been played in the 21st century to date, and I think Brian Kelly’s 2020 Irish roster has the will and resolve in them to squeak out a W as they defend their turf. Who knows what happens in December though?

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 31, Clemson 28


Charlotte Edmonds — Senior Sports Writer

I’ve only witnessed one loss in Notre Dame Stadium during my time as a student here. I don’t anticipate that changing come Saturday. Every rational bone in my body says this one belongs to Clemson. Therefore, I’m choosing to reject that rationality and go with my gut. Clemson is really good, but they’re not invincible. D.J. Uiagalelei will have to go up against the likes of Daelin Hayes and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the front seven and Kyle Hamilton over the top. On the other end, Ian Book has a few more marquee match-ups under his belt and shouldn’t face the same shell shock of the 2018 Cotton Bowl. It’ll be close but the Irish are in this one. To recycle a phrase from my prediction the last time the two teams met, Clemson is ACC in name but SEC in style. While that statement stands, the Irish aren’t far off. The home team is defending this one.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Here’s to hoping I’m not made a fool.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 30, Clemson 27

Ellen Geyer — Senior Sports Writer

Let the games begin. In my tenure as a student, Notre Dame has always been on the cusp of greatness. In 2017, it was led by Josh Adam’s 33-Trucking campaign and a close Georgia game. In 2018, it was an undefeated (regular) season. In 2019, it was keeping things close with Georgia again, but ultimately falling from grace. This year, it’s time for the Irish to make the jump from pretender to contender.
Things are coming together perfectly. A certain blonde-haired quarterback won’t be playing, and the Clemson defense is riddled with losses. Notre Dame has finally seemed to find an effective 1-2 punch ground game that can run the clock. Javon McKinley emerged as a real threat through the air against Georgia Tech. Ian Book has played in these big games before.
I can’t help but picture Book eking into the edge of the end zone on a final drive, third-and-goal play — much like he did against Virginia Tech in 2019. In my last game as a student in Notre Dame Stadium, I can’t help but hope the Irish pull out all the stops. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, maybe my old age has made me biased, but I think Notre Dame is going to find a way to get it done this week. Things are bad enough in the world right now — why bring down the hope that remains in sports? Irish by a million (or by 6).

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 23, Clemson 17


Aidan Thomas — Sports Writer

The season isn’t about this one game, but it certainly feels like it, as the Saturday clash with the mighty Clemson Tigers has finally arrived. It could (and will likely) be the first of at least two clashes between the two teams. A split with two close games now and in the ACC championship could give both teams a solid Playoff case.

The Irish have been building on their identity all year, and they’ve really shown an ability to pound the rock and control the clock. All of this bodes well, as they will try to force D.J. Uiagalelei to work his freshman magic in short windows of time. The Tigers will also be missing some key defensive players, including linebacker James Skalski, who’s an absolute force in Clemson’s run defense. Clemson is likely the better team straight-up, but Notre Dame enters this game healthier, motivated as a home underdog and with more at stake. A loss doesn’t mean much to Clemson here, so long as they win out, a loss for Notre Dame would at the very least temporarily take their ACC fate out of their hands (barring a Miami loss Friday night). I’m rolling with the Irish.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 28, Clemson 26
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