I am back from the bye week and still knocking off the cobwebs as I write this week’s edition of Bless Your Heart. We have entered the home stretch for Clemson football. The final month. The “Championship Phase” as we’ve heard in years past. It starts again on Saturday night in South Bend, Indiana.
I’m not going to lie- I like the bye week.
It’s a week where I don’t knock years off my life stressing over the Clemson game while also being able to dive headfirst into watching the sport I love. Dabo made reference to the excitement of being able to be a fan for a weekend, and how he has been blessed with “tile mode” where he could watch 4 games at one time.
Tile mode is, indeed, a gift from heaven.
But that was last week, and now everyone is back to the grind during the most important part of the season. The good news is that Clemson’s final 3 games of the regular season are all in Death Valley. But before the Tigers get to the “home stretch”, they have one final (and important) road trip this season.
The Irish welcome the Tigers to Notre Dame Stadium sitting with a record of 5-3. Notre Dame was tapped early in the season as a team that could potentially contend for the playoff. Outside of an early trip to Columbus to take on Ohio State and a late-season trip to face USC in LA, their schedule looked manageable. If Notre Dame could win its home games, knock off Clemson, and win one of those 2 road games, Marcus Freeman would have a case for The Irish to possibly be playoff bound.
Seems easy, right?
September came and went with The Fightin’ Irish dropping its first 2 games. After a game against Ohio State (where Notre Dame led at the half) finished with The Buckeyes winning by double digits, Notre Dame followed it up with an inexplicable home opener loss to Marshall of all teams.
Notre Dame’s offensive inefficiencies were apparent early on. Although the Irish have been able to rally for some impressive wins down the stretch (UNC, BYU, Syracuse), those inefficiencies were glaringly obvious against Stanford. A team that currently sits at 3-5 and has one of the worst overall teams in the country this year was the same team that went into South Bend and won 16-14. Gross.
That’s not to say Notre Dame doesn’t have the components to hang with or even beat Clemson. Audric Estime is an NFL- caliber running back. He is an absolute hammer and Clemson will have its hands full trying to tackle him. Michael Mayer is the best TE in the country; he’s Notre Dame’s leading receiver in both receptions and touchdowns and it’s not even close.
But that seems to be it when it comes to weapons. The Clemson defense has its assignments: Take control of the line of scrimmage and force Notre Dame QB Drew Pyne to beat you throwing the ball to someone whose last name isn’t “Mayer.”
For Notre Dame defensively, they are still a stout unit. Although the offense has been finding its footing, their defense has been able to hold its own for most of the season. The major concern for the Tiger offense is 2-fold: Can Clemson continue to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball? And was the Syracuse game a one-off performance for DJ Uiagalelei or are there still lingering issues?
Clemson football could be challenged on both lines of scrimmage this week
Notre Dame presents a solid offensive front and a sound defense for Clemson to face this week and will challenge both lines of scrimmage. To me, though, Notre Dame’s offense has largely struggled for most of the season and I’m not sure they have the answers to score consistently on the Tiger’s defensive front.
This game will be closer than most in orange would want it to be, but this is just the start of the “November to remember”.
Bless your heart, Notre Dame.