The College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl between the No. 2 Clemson Tigers and the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish is a mere 10 days away. We begin to look at the matchups between the two teams and see who has the advantage.
Today we start by looking at the Clemson offense against the Notre Dame defense.
Clemson’s offensive line against the Notre Dame defensive line: The Tigers’ offensive line has been a large part to their offensive success this season.
Entering the Cotton Bowl, the Tigers rank 11th in the nation in sacks allowed per game (1.1). On the flip-side, the Fighting Irish rank t-37th nationally in sacks per game (2.6).
Perhaps a better gauge of how dominant the offensive line has been this season comes from looking at the percentage of times that a quarterback is sacked vs. the number of times that he looks to throw the ball — which still heavily favors the Tigers. The Tigers gave up a sack only 3.15 percent of the time they called a pass play, ranking them ninth nationally. The Fighting Irish sack the quarterback only 6.53 percent of the time, ranking 57th nationally.
Clemson’s running game vs. Notre Dame’s rush defense: Clemson has experienced a historic season behind the running of Travis Etienne.
Through 13 games, the Tigers rank first in the nation in yards per rush (6.7), ninth in rushing yards per game (260.7) — while ranking 69th in the percentage of rushing plays called (52.96) and 63rd in rush attempts per game.
The Fighting Irish rank 32nd in opponent yards per rush (3.7), 38th in opponent rushes per game and 28th in opponent rushing yards per game (133.5).
The Tigers also rank second in the nation in rushing touchdowns per game (3.54), while the Fighting Irish allow 2.25 rushing touchdowns per game — ranking them 29th nationally.
Clemson’s passing game against Notre Dame’s secondary: There is little question the Tigers’ offense took off with the emergence of true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence taking over for former Tiger Kelly Bryant.
While the Tigers’ downfield passing game and big-play potential has returned with the arm of Lawrence, this may be the toughest challenge the young quarterback has faced.
The Tigers currently rank 25th in passing yards per game (269.1), 54th in passes per game (33.3), 30th in yards per attempt, 23rd in completion percentage and 15th in passing touchdown.
The Fighting Irish rank 27th in opponent passing yards allowed (195.2), 11th in opponent completion percentage (52.99), second in yards per pass allowed (5.35) and second nationally in opponent passing touchdowns per game (0.58).
Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia.