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Notre Dame Football

Key Matchups | Clemson Offense vs Notre Dame Defense

December 24, 2018

The Clemson offense is loaded with future pros and the defense they are facing this week is as well. The Oklahoma offense vs the Alabama defense might be getting more hype, but what we’ll see in the Cotton Bowl should be just as good.

No defense has stopped Clemson all season, although three teams held them to (just) under 30 points. The Irish defense has not allowed any opponent to score more than 27.

Is it Saturday yet? I’m ready to see these two groups get after it, especially seeing the one on one match-ups.

Can’t. Wait.

RB Travis Etienne vs LB Te’von Coney

Etienne is an explosive back (8.3 yards per carry) and he can do damage once he gets into the open field. What separates him from so many other backs is that he can create his own space. He’s a tackle breaker who has over half of his 1,463 yards after contact. Notre Dame can’t let him get loose.

The good news for the Irish is that they have one of the best run-stuffing linebackers in college football. Coney has put up back to back triple digit tackle seasons and Pro Football Focus has credited him with only six missed tackles. If the Irish want to limit Etienne well below his average, Coney has to ball out.

WR Tee Higgins vs CB Julian Love

Higgins has emerged as Clemson’s number one receiver in every way. He’s simultaneously a big play threat and a reliable presence in all situations. He only has three drops on the season and is a monster in the red zone with 10 touchdowns.

Love has only given up a single touchdown in coverage and it was to Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Higgins presents a similar problem with his size (6’4” 210) and his catch radius is even better than Arcega-Whiteside in my opinion.

When these two are matched up, it’s going to be a physical fight for the football. Love is an All-American, but as of today he’s not considered as a 1st round prospect at corner. If he gets the better of Higgins, it would help his cause a lot in the eyes of NFL scouts.

WR Justyn Ross vs CB Troy Pride

Clemson has a great freshman quarterback and they have a freshman receiver who’s almost as impressive. Ross is big (6’4”) and can stretch the field. His 20.6 yards per reception is 7th in the country. Trevor Lawrence has the arm to lay it up to him on any play even though Ross is typically aligned to the field side and that’s a very long throw.

Clemson is going to take at least a couple of shots deep to him, but when teams have targeted Pride deep, they haven’t found much success. He can run with anyone and has been great at gaining body position to turn 50/50 balls into more of a 25/75 situation in Pride’s favor.

LT Mitch Hyatt vs DE Julian Okwara

Hyatt is a four-year starter and has been an elite pass blocker for awhile. PFF has him only giving up 11 total pressures on the quarterback all season.

Okwara has been a terror off the edge consistently wreaking havoc as a pass rusher. PFF has him leading the nation with 35 pressures on 3rd and 4th down.

Woo, I can’t wait to see these two get after it.

RT Tremayne Anchrum vs DE Khalid Kareem

Anchrum is the one player on their offensive line who has had problems in protection. Against Boston College in particular, defensive end Zach Allen consistently got the better of him and he gave up a sack off of a stunt as well.

Kareem had a very good season versus the run and the pass, but I don’t think we saw the best of him as a pass rusher due to an ankle injury suffered early in the fall. With time to heal, he could have a breakout performance in the Cotton Bowl and I think he will have an edge when going up against Anchrum.

LG John Simpson vs DT Jerry Tillery

Simpson is a mauler (320) and has been a big part of the success of Clemson’s running game. He can really move people off the ball. He has been beaten with interior rushers who can explode laterally, though, and the Irish have one of those.

Tillery is one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the nation and he’s been a big game player throughout his career at Notre Dame. He’s made some other big guards look sluggish so Simpson needs to be at his best or else this could be a lopsided matchup.

Slot Hunter Renfrow vs NB Nick Coleman

Renfrow has one drop in 2018. One. No wonder he is a go-to guy for them on 3rd down. They know what they are getting each time they go his way when he’s lined up in the slot.

Coleman has taken control of the nickel spot, but Renfrow is the best player he’ll have gone up against since Coleman took over as the number one option. Everyone is well aware of Renfrow’s reputation for coming up big in these types of game so this matchup just might be the most important one on this side of the ball.

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