One of the more thrilling games of the 2020 college football season took place in early November, as the Clemson Tigers (9-1 SU, 4-6 ATS) suffered their only loss of the year to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-0 SU, 5-5 ATS). Dabo Swinney’s squad would like to put an asterisk on that one, although it isn’t possible.
But they have a chance at some payback as they get the rematch with even bigger things at stake. The ACC Championship will be on the line when these clubs meet on Saturday at 4 PM ET at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
BetAnySports customers can watch the game and place wagers on it at the same time as they access what is available through Sports Betting Prime.
Let’s travel back to November 7. Trevor Lawrence, the clear Heisman Trophy front-runner and likely #1 pick in the NFL Draft, was missing after a COVID diagnosis. Clemson had to go with freshman DJ Uiagaleilei, who actually carved up the Irish secondary to the tune of 439 yards. The problem was that Notre Dame was having its own field day against the Tigers’ defense.
Ian Book directed an offense that had 518 net yards, and established his own Heisman candidacy. But even with that, Clemson led by a touchdown with 2:10 left. Then there were mistakes in clock management on the part of Swinney, which gave Notre Dame just enough to time to go 91 yards down the field to tie it up, go into overtime, and win from there.
Second-ranked Notre Dame currently sports a 16-game winning streak. Almost their entire schedule consisted of ACC opponents; they decided to join the conference for football under these special circumstances. If they don’t win this conference title game, there exists the question as to whether they would still be invited into the four-team playoff. And that would be a step up from their appearance in last year’s Campus World Bowl.
In the college football odds posted on this ACC Championship game at BetAnySports, Clemson is a double-digit favorite:
Clemson Tigers -10.5
Notre Dame Fighting Irish +10.5
Over 60 Points -110
Under 60 Points -110
Notre Dame will represent a challenge to Clemson’s defensive front. Their ground game is formidable, averaging 235 yards a game. And they can throw a lot of weaponry at opponents. Aside from Book ‘s 465 rushing yards, they can call upon the likes of Kyren Williams (1011 yards, 5.6 ypc), Chris Tyree (459 yds., 6.9 ypc) and C’Bo Flemister (5.4 ypc, but questionable for this game). They also have one of the two or three best offensive lines in the country.
Without dynamic receivers, Book’s options are sometimes limited. But he has thrown only two interceptions in 286 attempts, under the direction of offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, himself a former Irish quarterback.
Because of time missed, Lawrence isn’t likely to win the Heisman. But that doesn’t mean he lacks numbers. His 69% accuracy rate, 9.7 yards an attempt and 20-3 TD-INT ratio are all outstanding. And the defense has credentials, obviously; the Tigers have surrendered just 51.6% completions and 2.9 yards a carry.
It would be easy to have the reaction that with Lawrence in the lineup, Clemson might just roll over Notre Dame. After all, they have won the last three ACC title games by an average margin of 47-10. But you know, they didn’t lose a whole lot with Uiagaleilei, who threw the ball 116 times without an interception. Besides, what did that have to do with a defense that gave up over 500 yards?
Lawrence did a lot less damage running the ball this year than last (121 yards). And Travis Etienne, who averaged a whopping 7.8 yards per carry last year, came down closer to earth this season (5.1 ypc), although he may still be the first running back taken in the draft. Actually, Clemson did very little business on the ground in the first meeting, as the Irish are pretty stout up front.
Lock has proven his mettle; Notre Dame is more than solid enough on both interior lines, and while this Clemson edition might not be as good as we’ve seen in recent years, Brian Kelly thinks this may be his best Irish team yet. They can hang in here, so we’re going to take the points.
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