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College Football Playoff National Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl
Saturday, December 29 - Cotton Bowl Classic – AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX
4:00 PM EST. Both these teams enter into the fifth edition of the College Football Playoff undefeated with distinct pedigrees to their program’s name. For Notre Dame, they are an archetypal college football blue blood with decades of prominence and many years of glory spanning back over a century. Clemson is a national power that emerged onto the scene in the 2015-16 season where they have since claimed one national title, four ACC Championships, four College Football Playoff berths, and two National Championship Game appearances. With the formalities cast aside, the Fighting Irish are entering into unchartered waters, as this is their first appearance in the CFP and unfortunately for them, they will certainly be playing their toughest opponent this year by far. Nevertheless, a team with Notre Dame’s reputation (and record) with this amount of points makes the Irish look like a tasty treat but we’re going to insist there are reasons why the Tigers are spotting this amount of lumber.
First off, Clemson absolutely obliterated Pitt in the ACC Championship Game covering a 27-point line with ease when they whacked the Panthers by a score of 42-10. Notre Dame sat home and didn’t play any conference championship. In the week previous to that, Notre Dame defeated a USC team that did not qualify for a bowl and had its worst season since 2000 by a score of 24-17. The Irish were expected by many to blow the doors off their old rivals but instead were fortunate to get out of Los Angeles unscathed.
Clemson on the other hand laid waste to their Palmetto State nemesis South Carolina, winning by 21 points. Elaborating on this narrative, Clemson won 10 of its 12 victories by a margin of no less than 20 points, including victories over ranked constituents such as Boston College (on the road) and NC State, along with a beat-down of a 10-win team in Georgia Southern.
By contrast, Notre Dame found itself in dogfights with teams such as Ball State (who did not qualify for a bowl game), Vanderbilt (who is 6-6), and the aforementioned Pitt. Against the first three aforementioned combatants in particular, Notre Dame was favored by 34 against Ball State, 14 against Vandy, and 21 against Pitt; yet the Golden Domers were on upset alert and could have very easily lost all three. Factoring in the season-ending affair against USC (where the Irish were a 13½-point choice and trailed most of the way), this Irish team did a lot of struggling for a team that is pegged as being one of the top four teams in the country.
Quite frankly, that won’t fly against a coaching mind like Dabo Swinney with a team as talented as the Tigers. To recap, the Irish have played within 10 points of ranked 117th Ball State, 68th Vanderbilt, 67th Pitt, 80th Northwestern and 39th USC.
The selling points on the Irish is their undefeated record and their best victory of the season when they defeated Michigan at home to kick 2018 off. That win over Michigan is being spoken about a lot here in late December, which means Notre Dame hasn’t done anything overly significant since. Furthermore, the Michigan win is a bit of a misnomer, as Ohio State proved the Wolverines to be a fraud in their annual rivalry game. The Luck of the Irish runs out here, as Clemson is the vastly superior team spotting a number they have easily covered all season long and we see nothing that suggests anything different here. Tiger Rag will be played plenty in this one.
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Clemson -11½ -110 (Risking 2.2 units - To Win: 2.00)