ACC Championship preview: Notre Dame

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Matt Cashore/USA Today Sports

Ian Book lines up under center in the initial matchup of the year.

On Saturday, December 19, college football fanatics will witness the number two ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the number three Clemson Tigers in a highly anticipated conference championship rematch, the winner of the game undoubtedly securing themselves a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Clemson Tigers were victorious in the ACC title game last year, as well as going on to win the National Championship amid an undefeated season. The question is, with the amount of pressure the Tigers are facing, will the Fighting Irish be able to make history for themselves?

Earlier this season, the two powerhouses faced off against each other during the regular season; after more than an hour of football being played, the game was finally finished in the second overtime with Notre Dame coming out victorious. Despite an impressive performance from both teams, Notre Dame’s defense played a big role in the win, gaining two defensive fumble recoveries in the first half to give the Irish offense big momentum swings throughout.

This is Notre Dame’s first (and likely only) year as a football member in the ACC, and the Irish have already shown they can compete in one of the best conferences in college football. With multiple wins against ranked teams this season, Notre Dame is on the cusp of going undefeated throughout the whole season. The Irish will look to repeat what has granted them success in the past: senior Ian Book’s playmaking ability to keep drives alive. Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame offense will look to utilize Book’s knowledge in the pocket of knowing when to escape or not and try to give their fifth-year senior the freedom to make plays happen as he did the last time the two teams crossed paths. 

Although analysts and fans alike expected the initial battle to be between Trevor Lawrence and the Irish defense, the Irish defense controlled the Lawrence-less Tiger backfield consisting of Clemson senior veteran running back Travis Etienne. The Irish defense handily held Etienne to a pitiful 18 rushing attempts, and he only gained a meer 28 yards during the entire double-overtime game. Overall, the Irish have all the tools they need to repeat their result against the Clemson Tigers and pave their way to an undefeated season and a College Football Playoff berth.

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ACC Championship preview: Clemson