Clemson Football: Oppo Research – Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Oct 22, 2022; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson running back Will Shipley (1) scores a touchdown against Syracuse during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina on Saturday, October 22, 2022. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY NETWORK
Oct 22, 2022; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson running back Will Shipley (1) scores a touchdown against Syracuse during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina on Saturday, October 22, 2022. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY NETWORK /

The bye week came at the right time for Clemson football.  Or maybe it came at the right time for THIS Clemson Tiger fan.  8 straight weeks of games, and storylines for most of them.  There’s been some really good and some really not-so-good when it comes to performances.

KJ Henry stated via Twitter that he was going to take a lot of naps during the bye week.  And I believe he speaks for a lot of us.  Last week was a mess in the ACC, however Clemson still managed to sneak into the Top 4 in the first CFP Playoff Poll.  That and five bucks will get you a burger at Mcdonald’s.

There’s nothing that means less than the first poll.  Win and advance for the Tigers.  Enter the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  An enigma of a football team.  They’ve played well in spots and have some impressive wins, all while having head-scratching losses.

Here is your preview of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, from South Bend, Indiana

Head Coach Marcus Freeman enters his first full season as the head coach of the Irish.  He is one of the youngest head coaches in all of college football at the age of 36 years old.  After Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU, Freeman was quickly tabbed as the head man to the delight of ND fans everywhere.  Freeman has been lauded for being a great defensive mind, as he was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Purdue, Kent State and Ohio State, his alma mater.  Currently sitting at 5-4 as a head coach for the Irish.

Notre Dame currently sits at 5-3 on the season with wins against: Cal (24-17); North Carolina (45-32); BYU (28-20); UNLV (44-21) and Syracuse (41-24).  Their three losses have come from: Ohio State (21-10); Marshall (26-21) and Stanford (16-14).


Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees is an alum of Notre Dame.  After his playing career, he started his coaching as a Grad Assistant at Northwestern before dabbling in the NFL as an analyst for the San Diego Chargers.  He returned to his alma mater in 2017 to coach the Quarterbacks before taking over the offensive play-calling in 2020.

Here is a look at the projected starters on Offense plus a couple of backups to know:

QB: Drew Pyne – So. – 102-165-1193 yards; 13 TDs; 4 INTs; 107 rushing yards

RB: Audric Estime – So. – 99 att. 558 yds, 5.8 avg. 8 TDs; 5 rec. 66 yds

RB; Logan Diggs – So. – 95 att. 431 yds, 4.5 avg. 1 TD; 4 rec. 70 yds, 1 TD receiving

RB: Chris Tyree – Sr. – 78 att. 322 yds, 4.1 avg. 2 TD; 15 rec. 96 yds, 1 TD receiving

TE: Michael Mayer – Jr. – 47 rec. 580 yds, 6 TDs

WR: Lorenzo Styles – So. – 24 rec. 292 yds, 1 TD

WR: Jayden Thomas – Fr. – 10 rec. 157 yds, 2 TDs

WR: Braden Lenzy – Sr. – 14 rec. 128 yds, 1 TD

LT: Joe Alt – So.

LG: Jarrett Patterson – Sr.

Center: Zeke Correll – Jr.

RG: Josh Lugg – Gr.

RT: Blake Fisher – Fr.

Quarterback Drew Pyne started the season as the backup to Tyler Buchner, but an injury to the former has thrust Pyne into the starting role.  His statistics have not been eye-popping, but as the running game has gotten going, Pyne has been content with a game-manager role.  He does tend to lock in on TE Michael Mayer a lot but is also capable to move the pocket and gain some yardage on the ground.  He has a propensity for getting passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage, and Clemson has a knack for knocking down passes.  Something to look for Saturday night.

We spoke of Syracuse’s Sean Tucker being arguably the best running back Clemson would face, but after further review, this stable of backs for Notre Dame may be the best group Clemson will face.  I don’t think there’s much of an argument really.  Audric Estime is the horse (although has had some fumbling issues), and he is a big, powerful back.  A less-fast Dalvin Cook.  His legs are big and strong and Clemson is going to have to finish tackles on the big RB.  Logan Diggs and Chris Tyree will get snaps as well and are really good backs.  They all bring a little bit of something different, with most of Tyree’s damage in the passing game.

The WR room has some names and some stars behind those names, but the statistics and my eye test are not all that impressed with the group.  The talent is there, and I believe it’s more a case of the QB not being able to find his receivers or maybe play-calling, however Lorenzo Styles is an extremely talented wideout, along with Freshman Jayden Thomas and Braden Lenzy.  Also, remember the names Tobias Merriweather and Matt Salerno.  Merriweather is just a freshman, and Salerno got a lot of looks in previous match-ups with the Tigers.

And then we get to the tight end.  It seems like a common theme that the teams Clemson has faced this season has one particular pass-catcher whose targets far outweigh any other receiver.  In this case, it is Michael Mayer.  The sure-handed junior leads the Irish in just about every receiving category.  The guy is always open.  It helps that outside of the Georgia trio of TEs, Mayer is probably the next best.  He’s a load.

The offensive line is always a strong suit of the Fighting Irish and this year is no different.  Led by LG Jarrett Patterson and LT Joe Alt, this group is going to be a real test for the Clemson defensive front.  Center Zeke Correll and RG Josh Lugg have played a lot of football for the Irish, while Freshman RT Blake Fisher has had a commendable start to his career in South Bend.

The offense has scored 227 over 8 games for an average of 28.4  points per game.  Notre Dame has gained 3,064 total offensive yards on the season with 1,493 coming on the ground and 1,571 through the air; for averages of 186.6 rushing and 196.4 passing for a total of 383 yards of total offense


Onto the defensive side of the ball: Defensive Coordinator Al Golden is a familiar name for Clemson fans.  His career spans nearly 30 years and spans schools and professional ranks like: Virginia, Boston College, and Penn State.  Was the Defensive Coordinator at Virginia, and head coach of Temple and Miami with stops in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals.

Clemson fans will remember his last game as the head coach of Miami, a 58-0 loss for Golden.

Here is a look at the projected starters for the defense:

Vyper: Isaiah Foskey – Jr. – 31 tackles, 7 sacks

DT: Jayson Ademilola – Gr. – 28 tackles, 2 sacks

DT: Howard Cross III – Jr. – 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks

DE: Rylie Mills – Jr. – 15 tackles, 2.5 sacks

Will: Marist Liufau – Jr. – 32 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 INT

Mike: JD Bertrand – Jr. – 48 tackles, 1 sack

Rover: Jack Kiser – Jr. – 36 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF

CB: Cam Hart – Jr. – 20 tackles

CB: Benjamin Morrison – Fr. – 16 tackles

S: Brandon Joseph – Jr. – 27 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF

S: DJ Brown – Sr. – 33 tackles,

Between having really good defensive minds in Al Golden and Head Coach Marcus Freeman leading this defense, it is a very good unit.  They have 24 sacks on the season for an average of 3 a game.

The defense line has athletes all across the entire front.  Led by Isaiah Foskey who leads the team with 7 sacks on the season.  This unit is likely the best front four that Clemson will face.  The Irish get production from all four of the starters and all have played a lot of football at the collegiate level.  Howard Cross III, Jayson Ademilola and Rylie Mills round out the starting group and all could play on Sundays.

JD Bertrand is arguably the best player on the defense for ND, as he leads the team in tackles with 48.  Marist Liufau and Jack Kiser are extremely athletic and fast and tend to be around the ball a lot.

On the back end, senior DJ Brown has a knack for always being around the ball and making big plays for the Irish defense.  33 tackles from the safety position.  Cam Hart and TaRiq Bracy will see time at the boundary corner and Freshman Benjamin Morrison has left his mark early in his career on the other side.  Brandon Joseph and Ramon Henderson will share time at the other safety position.  It’s a very athletic group with big bodies who are not afraid to put their hats in there. .

Notre Dame has 6 takeaways on the season with 3 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries.  The opponents have 6 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries against the Fighting Irish.  Notre Dame is a -5 in the turnover margin on the season.

Notre Dame, defensively, has yielded 177 points this season for an average of 22.1 points per game.  They’ve allowed 1,037 yards on the ground for an average of 129.6 yards per game and 1,639 yards through the air for an average of 204.9.  The total defense average yards given up is 334.5.

STAT OF NOTE: Notre Dame is tied for 130th in the nation in Red Zone Defense.  Opponents have gotten into the red zone 20 times and have scored 20 times with 17 touchdowns and 3 field goals.

Special Teams:

Here are the projected starters on Special Teams:

Punter: Jon Sot – Gr. – 44.5 yards avg.

Place Kicker: Blake Grupe – Gr. – 10-13; long of 47

Punt Returner: Brandon Joseph – Jr. – 9.9-yard avg.

Kick Returner: Chris Tyree – Sr. – 16.6-yard avg.

Notre Dame is talented enough to beat Clemson football, but the Tigers will survive the upset

As with every year, there was a lot of hope and optimism coming out of the Notre Dame fan base.  The hire of Marcus Freeman rejuvenated the fan base.  It did not start well for the young head coach after losing the bowl game a season ago, he started his 2022 season with two losses including a surprising loss to Marshall.  Relatively surprising wins against North Carolina and Syracuse have brought life back to the proud program.

I do think that this Notre Dame team is talented enough to pull off the upset of the Tigers at home.  The weather looks to be breezy and possibly rainy, which means a lot of ground and pound for both teams.  I do believe it was going to be that way anyway, but now the conditions may mandate that.  I do like Estime and Diggs for Notre Dame.  They’re good backs.  I happen to like Shipley, Mafah and Pace (he’s reportedly going to be back this week) better.

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