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Notre Dame Football

Key Matchups | Notre Dame Offense vs Clemson Defense

December 26, 2018
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Notre Dame hasn’t faced an elite defense this season since week one. A summer of preparation allowed them to be successful against Michigan, even with a quarterback who was limited in what he could do.

The Irish coaching staff are hoping to have even more success against a better Clemson defense because Notre Dame now has an option at quarterback that opens up the offense in more ways. It’s not going to be easy with the talent the Tigers are bringing to the table, but there are some intriguing individual matchups where Notre Dame should have an opportunity to take advantage.

Slot Chris Finke vs S K’von Wallace

Against USC, Notre Dame found a matchup they loved with Finke going up against the Trojans’ nickel. They continually exploited it and sparked their comeback. Chip Long may find another favorable matchup when going four and five wide with Finke going against Wallace.

Wallace is a physical player, but he’s been a target when other teams want to attack Clemson deep. He’s also been a bit over-aggressive versus play-action.

If Notre Dame wins, Finke could end up having a big day.

LT Liam Eichenberg vs DE Clelin Ferrell

Eichenberg has made steady progress this season as a starting left tackle, but the elite edge rushers have given him some problems. Florida State’s Brian Burns and Michigan’s Chase Winovich stand out in particular.

Ferrell is a better all-around player than those two and is right there with them as a pass rusher. His first step is outstanding and if it becomes an obvious passing situation, his eyes light up. Eichenberg is probably going to need some help when he can get it, but Brent Venables like to blitz and get his ends in one on one scenarios.

At that point it will be on Eichenberg and Notre Dame is going to need him to play his best game of the season.

RG Tommy Kraemer vs DT Christian Wilkins

Kraemer has had a tough year. The transition to guard has not been a smooth one with him giving up a few too many pressures. His run blocking has not been as good as expected either, although he has played better in the final ⅓ of the season.

Wilkins is the one of the top interior defensive lineman in the country. He’s disruptive against the run and Pro Football Focus has him credited with 40 pressures as a pass rusher. In other words, this is a matchup that should scare Notre Dame fans unless Kraemer continues to build on the latter part of his season.

OC Sam Mustipher vs DT Dexter Lawrence

To be brief, this might not even happen if Lawrence isn’t available in this game. If he is, he can wreck the pocket with his power as a bull rusher and dominate at the point of attack.

Mustipher is going to have a much easier game if he doesn’t have to block Lawrence.

WR Miles Boykin vs CB AJ Terrell

Boykin’s presence is going to be huge and they’ll need him to play big (both literally and figuratively). There are going to be a lot of 50/50 balls going his way and they’ll need him to get the better of Terrell quite a bit.

Terrell can match up as a corner (6’2”) and Boykin doesn’t go against many that are close to his size. When Boykin went up against Vandy’s Joejuan Williams (6’3”), Boykin was shut down for the most part. That was with Brandon Wimbush throwing him the ball, though, and Williams has been a better player than Terrell.

RB Jafar Armstrong vs LB Isaiah Simmons

Armstrong is back and healthy after not being so for the final ⅔ of the season. He could end up having a big impact in this game, mostly as a pass catcher. Whether lined up in the backfield or out at receiver, I think Notre Dame is going to get him in situations where he is lined up one on one with a linebacker and that linebacker will probably be Simmons.

The former safety plays Clemson’s version of a Rover and they ask a lot of him. He’s a great athlete who is capable of covering backs well, but Armstrong isn’t a typical running back with his skill set.

WR Michael Young vs S Tanner Muse

Notre Dame won’t win this game if they have to put together multiple double digit play drives to score. They are going to need to create explosive plays and Young has the talent to provide those. The two he had in 2018 against Wake Forest and Northwestern gave everyone a glimpse of what he can do.

They’ll want to get Young matched up with Muse one on one whenever they can. A downhill safety, he can lay the wood like not many others and plays like a linebacker.

That’s because he should probably be playing there instead of safety, though. He’s not at his best when he has to turn and run with speedy slot receivers like Young. If Young is lined up against Muse and Ian Book knows it’s man coverage, ring the alarm because that’s something the Irish need to take advantage of.

 
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