Notre Dame Set to Play Clemson in Cotton Bowl Semifinal

Notre Dame got the matchup everyone was anticipating for weeks, as it turned out, as the Irish were seeded #3 by the College Football Playoff selection committee and placed into the Cotton Bowl against Clemson, a game that will kick off at 4 p.m. ET on Dec. 29 on ESPN.

Playoff Discussion

I don’t think anyone actually anticipated any shenanigans regarding ND’s inclusion, but it was still nice to see the Irish stay at their #3 spot as the lowest-ranked of the three major unbeatens (with shouts to 12-0 UCF). The close SEC championship game briefly opened up the “eye test” argument with respect to the Irish among some pundits, with some people deciding to push for 11-2 Georgia to not just stay ahead of Oklahoma but also jump ND after losing a game, which is an interesting take.

The committee decided to ignore this, thankfully, although they listened to enough of it to give the Bulldogs the ceremonial #5 spot ahead of Ohio State. Doesn’t matter for ND fan purposes, but it’s fun to argue about (and we did, in the Slack, though we all seemed to have the same opinion). Luckily, most of the sports media cognoscenti sided with rationality, and so did the committee, placing Oklahoma opposite Alabama in the Orange Bowl that will take place right after the Irish’s semifinal game. That one should be interesting, especially if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa continues to struggle with injury as he did in the SEC title game.

Clemson Mini-Preview

Anyway, with the arguing (mostly) over, there are actual games to be played. And boy, is this one going to be tough.

The two teams have four common opponents this year: Wake Forest, Florida State, Pitt and Syracuse. Obviously, both teams swept all four. Each team blew out Wake and FSU (although Clemson’s blowouts were even more lopsided than ND’s). Each team had a clear advantage in one of the other two side-by-side comparisons. ND smacked around the Cuse while Clemson needed a last-minute drive from third-string QB Chase Brice to win (Trevor Lawrence was injured and that was the first game post-Kelly Bryant transfer). Clemson very briefly struggled before pulling away against Pitt yesterday in the sacrosanct conference championship game, while ND, while statistically handling the Panthers, didn’t take the lead until the fourth quarter in what was the Irish’s most unnerving performance since going to Ian Book at quarterback.

The teams played a very close game in 2015, which Clemson won (you’ll recall that it took place in a monsoon), but few of the teams’ current players were involved in that one and most of the Irish’s coaching staff has changed over as well.

Of course, you can toss all that out the window when the Irish and Tigers clash. Clemson is opening as favorites by somewhere between 10 and 12 points depending on where you look, and while you can debate how big the number should be, there’s no question the Tigers pose a massive threat to ND, and they’ll be by a large margin the best team ND has faced since the season opener against Michigan. (Of course, ND is going to be rather easily the best team Clemson has played all season too, which is something I doubt will get as much play nationally. But I digress.)

My more talented colleagues will go more in-depth on the matchups as the game approaches, I’m sure, but for now, be aware that the Tigers have probably the best defensive line in college football, loaded with NFL first-round talent, and they’re pretty damn good up front on the other side, too.

Until those #longreads come up, get ready for the longest four weeks of your life. We’re in.

By |2018-12-02T18:43:30+00:00December 2nd, 2018|18S Reads|65 Comments

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Russell Knox
Russell Knox

I am so excited for this! Kinda scared too.

Brendan R

To all the haters, I say: DM, 12-0.

I love the hate and the disrespect. The guys should have a huge chip on their shoulder on the 29th.

Football was a verb
Football was a verb

The “eye test” argument got so loud I was actually nervous during the selection. While of course Herbstreet and Finebaum got on that train, even Pat Forde believes the committee should’ve gone with Georgia over OU. #clickbait I guess.

Seeing UGA at 5 makes me wonder if the committee will be as inconsistent as the BCS. At least with the playoff four teams get in because I think with the old system, we’re stuck at 3.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Def agree that if this was BCS days, Notre Dame would be out in the cold.

Admittedly I was at hockey and didn’t see much of the SECCG but I’m kind of surprised UGA was getting such a strong push. Yeah, I get they took Bama into very deep waters, and that in and of itself is very impressive, but they blew the game to the backup QB.

I forget the media member’s tweet I saw, but saw and loved that someone called UGA a southern fried Michigan – a good team but one that went 0-2 against the best 2 teams on the schedule. IMO those results just have to matter.

I can buy the argument there’s probably not much a gap between #3-6 but then you have to go with what happened this season. Oklahoma avenged their loss to a good Texas team, they should be in. No doubt Georgia is a very strong team but they already had their shot at Bama and couldn’t finish the job.

MrTgon
MrTgon

Rec for being “at hockey.” #beerleaguehockeyrules

Clearwall
Clearwall

Was it beer league or was he at the ND/RPI game?

MrTgon
MrTgon

I feel like “at hockey” is beer league speak. Going to the ND/RPI game would be “I was at the game” or “I was at the ND hockey game.”

Plus his handle is Hooks Orpik. And he’s been around since the OFD days, so he’s gotta be an Brooks Orpik fan from the old Penguin teams.

I’m going with beer league on this one. But maybe I’m just wishful thinking, since I’m 43 and still lacing them up and cracking cold ones in the lot after…..which is slightly pathetic, for sure, but mostly………. ok it’s pretty pathetic.

More Noise
More Noise

No it’s good, lacing them up is good! Cold ones good also. Me it’s vin rouge because of where I am, but the same principle.

MrTgon
MrTgon

Good stuff. Hard to give it up, even the 10:30 pm games. Big fan of the vin rouge myself as well (just not after a game! ha).

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Usually that is what I mean, but in this case I was at the Pittsburgh Penguins game. Sometimes I work them as media so it feels about the same.

And the Pens lost. Foreign feeling this year to lose a game on a Saturday.

MrTgon
MrTgon

Ahhh well at least my beer league radar was somewhat on point. Goalie carousel has been rough for the Pens thus far, but I expect one of the three will put it together. Kessel and Brassard need to figure it out too.

Pretty cool you work the games as media!

Coyote1985
Coyote1985

Hey, I’m 55 and doing the same, and there are several guys older than me on the team.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

I was discounting all the talking head BS until this morning, when I checked 538. They had us at #6 with a 61% chance to make the playoff BEHIND both OU and OSU. I was like, “whaaaaaaaa???”

Thankfully, sanity prevailed in the committee. OU is clearly more deserving than OSU of that fourth spot. UGA earned its fate after a) blowing a big lead in the fourth quarter, and b) that absolutely ludicrous fake punt. Fire Kirby! Can you imagine The inter webs if we blew a game like that?

Eric Murtaugh

We’ll fire Kirby after we fire Kelly.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

Don’t forget Swarcbick.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

UGA at #5 was very good for Notre Dame. In explaining the placement, the chair of the committee got on and basically all but said that they don’t care much about conference championships in-and-of-themselves. That’s good for potential future 11-1 ND.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

In theory that’s a good point. But I think UGA is #5 due to the committee’s trend of heavily valuing (and usually very friendly rankings) to SEC schools.

I guess if an 11-1 ND team beat a Michigan/UGA/USC/Clemson type powerhouse blue blood that are on the schedule here in the next few years and that other team goes 12-1, and ND loses close to another top-15ish team…Maybe there would be a chance an 11-1 ND team could make the playoff, but overall I don’t really know if the schedule breaks would be that favorable to play out in actuality.

I mean it’s a good sign that conference championships don’t seem to matter too much (especially Big 10 and PAC10 and Big 12 which don’t really seem to matter much at all in some years), but I think that’s more a function of their SEC hard-on that might not translate outside of that bubble.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I don’t think 11-1 ND will get in over a comparable 12-1 conference champ basically ever, but if it is a non-comparable 12-1 conference champ (e.g., ND went 11-1 against a killer schedule and the alternative like if a team played something like this year’s Clemson schedule and was close in many games against against inferior competition) or a 11-2 conference champ, I think ND is now well-positioned. I think it was clear enough that the latter was already likely the case, but I wasn’t so sure about the former. Now I am.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Based on the committee’s statements, I don’t think 1 loss ND would have been ahead of 2 loss Georgia this year. I don’t really think it was a particularly beneficial statement for ND.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

The point is that they just care about how impressive your results were, and that’s it. As is how it should be. UGA’s results would have been more impressive than any 11-1 ND this season, and, had we lost to Vandy or Ball State or USC, we should have been behind UGA. So I think they’re doing it right and not inappropriately weighting quasi-arbitrary factors like conference championships.

MrTgon
MrTgon

Really? Had ND lost to, say, Northwestern in a tight one, but beat UM and Cuse like they did, that 11-1 record would have been less impressive than UGA’s 11-2 record with losses to LSU and Bama and wins over Florida and Kentucky? How so? Because they kept it close against Bama? They also got absolutely bodied by LSU. And, while it was close against Bama, they also gave up 21 unanswered points in the last 18 minutes or so, blew a 14 point lead in the 3rd quarter, got shut out in the 4th, and looked ridiculous on a fake punt that very well may have cost them the game. Not saying ND would have fared better, but looking at results on the field, I’m not sure you can say “UGA’s results would have been more impressive than any 11-1 ND this season.”

I think Hooks is right – the #5 ranking and the attempt at explaining it away was likely animated by the committee’s obvious SEC bias, not some dedication to their objective determination of the impressiveness of a team’s record regardless of conference championship. If anything, I think the #5 ranking for UGA is a bit of a portent for non-SEC teams: the committee is saying that even the loser of the SEC championship gets a bump over other non-SEC teams (conference champions included). So while I disagree that an 11-1 ND team this year would have been less impressive than the 11-2 Dawgs, I think it’s clear that the 11-2 Dawgs would have gotten the nod over us regardless of whether ND was more impressive on the field.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Because UGA beat the pants off most of the teams they played and we did not. That matters, and it should matter. One of those teams that they destroyed was a common opponent that ND was very fortunate to beat, which is a much less arbitrary measure than a conference championship.

Beating Florida (by 19), Kentucky (by 17), Auburn (by 17), South Carolina (by 24), and Missouri (by 14) while losing to LSU (big) and Alabama (close) is more impressive than beating Michigan (by 7), Syracuse (by 33), Stanford (by 17), Pitt (by 5), and ??? while losing to Northwestern (close). That’s not SEC bias; that’s reality.

MrTgon
MrTgon

Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one.

CardinalBaseball
CardinalBaseball

Just bought a flight and tickets which I think might be crazy but whatever let’s do this

More Noise
More Noise

Good on ya! Cheer your ass off for our guys. I can’t join you for the 29th, so I just bought a ticket Paris-San Francisco for the 7th. (OK it’s exchangeable but with fees, so like you, I am all in!)
I loved BK in the presser talking about flying home on the 30th “to get ready for the 7th”. That btw could/should be an advantage, namely our team’s Frequent Flyer mileage vice the Death Star if/when it comes to that — our three trips to the Pacific and Atlantic vice 110 miles on a bus from Tuscaloosa? (Or Norman but I don’t think so…)
Anyway – like I am sure all of you are, this is truly exciting but as our team is showing us, business as usual is the right attitude (check out J Love, Drue, Sam, and Ian in their presser).

GoldenIsThyFame
GoldenIsThyFame

Can we please just win so we can stop having a game from six years ago being brought up every time we’re about to play a big-time opponent?

More Noise
More Noise

Yep, that would be nice. Notice Drue brought up in this vein not only ’12 but ’15 OSU. No doubt we have some ghosts to lay and scores to settle. But hey, ‘ Ara had piled up some similar trauma which made ’73 oh so much sweeter. It’s time again.

GoldenIsThyFame
GoldenIsThyFame

The problem with the “Remember 2012?” analysis (other than it’s ridiculously lazy) is that none of these elite teams that ND has played since then are created equal. ND was competitive against OSU in 2015, but a loss was inevitable considering our wretched defense that lost Jaylon Smith in the first quarter.

And how do you quantify “elite” when it comes to opponents? 2015 Clemson was clearly elite, as was Georgia last year and we probably should’ve won both of those games. We did hand Michigan State their only loss in 2013 and destroyed 11-win USC last year, so do those count?

Of course, the only way to kill that narrative is to beat either Clemson or Bama this year.

DrIck
DrIck

“Of course, the only way to kill that narrative is to beat either Clemson or Bama this year.”

Well, Clemson is starting a freshman QB & they haven’t really been tested all year. We don’t really know if Clemson is/was ever elite. And Alabama is working with a banged up QB/2nd string QB. They aren’t on the same level as 2012 or last year’s teams. They’re also still tired from the OU track meet they just played in. ND struggled to beat Ball St, Vanderbilt & Pitt; they’d get CRUSHED by UGA and/or OSU if they played them.

tlndma
tlndma

But ND would beat LSU and Purdue. Can’t say the same for UGA or tOSU can ya ?

KG
KG

“And Alabama is working with a banged up QB/2nd string QB.”

A banged up QB who will have time to heal, and may win the Heisman having only played a handful of snaps in the 4th quarter over the course of the year.

A 2nd string QB who was a 2 year starter, SEC player of the year his freshman year, and took his team both years to the championship game.

As much as I love Book and Wimbush, our banged up starter/2nd string QB with experience <<<< their banged up starter/2nd string QB with experience.

DrIck
DrIck

To clarify, I don’t necessarily believe anything I wrote (except for the part about Clemson not having played anyone). Just throwing out reasons why, even if beating a Clemson/Alabama duo, folks would say ND isn’t all that great.

More Noise
More Noise

Both. Gotta get ’em both. Both! I know… play ’em one game at a time. But check out BK’s comments about lining up for a playoff run, and one we are already deep in. I loved that. Like he said, and the players are saying, 12-0 means nothing to our goal.

Publius2010
Publius2010

That goddamn Fiesta Bowl. Of course we ended up playing the one good team in the Big Ten, as Iowa and Michigan State somehow went to better bowls and got absolutely annihilated.

CardinalBaseball
CardinalBaseball

I mean the closest comp we have here is osu (sucks writing that in any context), but they got blown out in back to back title in 06, 07 seasons, lost another bcs bowl to Texas; I do think they won a couple but still got blown out in another bcs bowl by Clemson in 2013. They pretty much had no national credibility even with Meyer then they beat BAMA and they have unlimited credibility and frankly they’ve earned it. Hopefully this is our 2014 Bama game, which was coincidentally enough a semifinal game in Jerry’s world

MDIRISH
MDIRISH

In the BK presser he said that the players would get time off as of or after December 21 and then “report on site” on December 24. It sounded to me as if they would be on their own to get to Dallas by plane train or automobile and then check in at a table manned by some student manager but that can’t be right. Does anyone know how the logistics will work?

DCIrish84
DCIrish84

The team makes the arrangements for each player to get to Dallas and pays for their tickets, etc. The only element left to chance is them getting to the airport at their home. Someone close enough to drive will drive.
I don’t think the school can cover the travel to their home on the 21st, but I don’t know.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

BK seemed very confident in the presser I thought. The players all seem very confident too. Not, in a chest beating, bragging kind of way, but quietly confident.

I’m very impressed with the demeanor of this team.

More Noise
More Noise

So am I, Russell. These guys have bought in, like BK has been saying. A lot of that goes to their leadership, which is why you just can never tell.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Looking at the offensive and defensive numbers and… why isn’t Clemson no. 1? Bama’s two signature wins are better I guess, but Clemson has looked pretty invincible since their hiccup against Cuse. I guess Bama’s earned the credibility.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Alabama’s 4th best win (per CFP Rankings) is a 45-23 win over Texas A&M. Clemson’s best win is a 28-26 win over that same Texas A&M team.

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the committee had Clemson closer to #3 ND than #1 Alabama.

Clearwall
Clearwall

ND should have the home field advantage if there is one to be had. Clemson is the definition of a regional school and Dallas is one of the largest non-Chicago fanbases for ND. Hopefully that little intangible benefits our boys in Blue and Gold

More Noise
More Noise

Good point. We also do pretty good at the Stanford games in the Bay Area, ND crowd wise.

KG
KG

As much as I didn’t want to play Bama, I even more didn’t want to play in Miami. That place has not held good memories in recent years.

More Noise
More Noise

Amen, KG… there are several ghosts to be laid and paybacks to be paid in the next five weeks, of more vital importance; the Miami malaise which is real (and started back in the 80’s) can wait.it’s turn.

KG
KG

Seems like there’s a lot of angst in here about what talking heads were saying about which two loss teams should jump us, or why our win against so-and-so by 10 was less impressive than someone else’s win against so-and-so by 3, or whatever.

We’re in. All of that noise is just that–noise. Who. Cares. 90% of it is ESPN arguing with itself to fill air time (seriously–that announcement show needed to be 4 effing hours long? Give me a break.)

None of what anyone says about anything matters, because the games will be played, and we’ll be in it. Clemson’s a great team. They have turned it on once they got Lawrence installed as QB1 and realized that Travis Etienne is a beast and they should feed him. Honestly, I see a lot of parallels with ND, just with more recruiting stars. I think we’ll give them a good game. I don’t think we’ll win. Doesn’t matter what I think, though. This season has been amazing, and a great success, and the team needs to be proud of itself (and not give a crap what anyone in the media says) no matter what happens on that field in Arlington. But we play the games for a reason. Punch them in the mouth, get up when they punch back, and let’s see how it shakes out.

Go Irish.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

That’s also why the “eye test” has given way to more advanced stats and actual accomplishments. Despite not quite being as good or favored, we may still actually win.

More Noise
More Noise

Like… oh yeah! (Or hooah for your past affiliations, KG)… Like Lou H said, keep up our fighting spirit!

Cubfansince1957
Cubfansince1957

For all the folks talking about next year, consider this.

Even if we go unbeaten next year, our treatment by the committee will depend heavily on how we do on December 29th. If we lay another egg, it will be very hard to establish credibility next year on the national stage.

Having said that, we couldn’t have asked for a better venue nor opponent out of the top four to get credibility. Clemson is good enough an opponent for us to gain all sorts of credibility if we win, and we sure do better in Dallas than in Miami!

I’ll be in section 148 on the 29th. Go Irish!

More Noise
More Noise

Woo hoo… Cubsfan and Cardinalsfan, both there. Gotta be a good boost to the fan base on the 29th!

Clearwall
Clearwall

Make sure you come by Silver Lot 12 for some food and fellowship!