2018 Cotton Bowl Classic Picks – Notre Dame vs. Clemson

Written by:
Phil Simon
Published on:

Only four teams in the FBS are unbeaten and that number will be trimmed by one on Saturday when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Clemson Tigers battle in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic with a trip to the CFP National Championship on the line.


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If experience counts in the playoff Clemson definitely has the advantage.

The Tigers are back in the CFP for the fourth consecutive season and go for a return to the final after being snuffed out by Alabama in last year’s semis. Notre Dame put together an undefeated mark for the second time under Brian Kelly and reached the CFP for the first time.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Clemson Tigers

Date and Time: Saturday, December 29, 2018, 4 p.m. ET

Location: ATT Stadium, Arlington, TX

Opening CFB Odds: Clemson -13, O/U 55

Notre Dame vs. Clemson TV Coverage: ESPN

Odds Analysis

While both teams are undefeated, they took different paths to arriver there. Notre Dame used a stingy defense and got some luck by winning six games by 10 points or less. After knocking off Michigan in the opener, the Irish squeaked by Ball State and Vanderbilt. After beating the Dores 22-17, Kelly made a switch at quarterback and the offense came alive. The Irish went 6-2-1 ATS after Ian Book took over in the fourth game of the year.

Notre Dame opened as an 11-point dog with the spread wagered to +13. Notre Dame was favored in all but one game this season, that being the opener when the Irish dealt Michigan a 24-17 loss getting 2.5-points on the line.

Bet This One Live In-Play While the Game is in Progress to the Final Minute

Clemson has done just about everything right. The Tigers rank among the top-5 nationally in total offense and total defense, and in points scored and points allowed per game. The Tigers were favored by at least 12 points in every game with only two contests finishing with a margin less than 10 points. Clemson survived an early tilt with Texas AM, beating the Aggies 28-26, and knocked off Syracuse 27-23 in the fifth game of the season. Since then Clemson has outscored its opponents 400-94 with 35 of those points scored by one team.

Matchup to Watch

If Notre Dame’s defense can’t contain Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Clemson’s explosive offensive attack, Kelly and his Irish are headed back to South Bend with their tail between their legs. Even though they went undefeated, many questioned Notre Dame’s inclusion in the playoff. Their schedule wasn’t the most enticing and there were several near misses. Many of the opponents that make up the schedule had off years, like Stanford and USC. And those near misses at the beginning of the season did nothing to polish their resume.

But the Irish won those games and did so behind a strong defense that ranks 21st in yards allowed and 10th in points surrendered at just 17.2 per game. The Irish did not give up more than 27 points in a game all season and only four opponents surpassed the 20-point mark against them. It is safe to say, though, that they never faced an offense as dynamic as Clemson’s.

Key Stat

There are two teams that rank among the top-5 in the FBS in scoring and points allowed per game. Clemson is one and Alabama is the other. Both teams are competing in the CFP for a national title. Clemson was unstoppable after handing the offense to Lawrence. The freshman completed 65 percent of his throws for 2,606 yards and 24 touchdowns. The Tigers amassed 530.8 yards per game and averaged 45.4 points per outing. The Tigers averaged 50 points over their final six contests and their average scoring margin was 31.7 points.

Betting Notre Dame vs. Clemson at BookMaker.eu

Clemson’s all around productivity should be enough to overcome Notre Dame. The Tigers are as good defensively as they are on offense and slowing down Dexter Williams will be important in keeping the Irish contained. Notre Dame went to another level after Ian Book took over, but Williams makes the offense special. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry during the season and twice averaged more than 10 yards per carry in a game. Having some sort of balance is required, but even that doesn’t guarantee success.

Clemson has its own explosive back in Travis Etienne, who rushed for 1,464 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s money in the red zone and his explosiveness can’t be overlooked. This game should be close for a half until Clemson’s superior talent and ability takes over, leading the Tigers back to the National Championship Game.

College Football ATS Betting Pick: Clemson -13 at BookMaker.eu

College Football Score Prediction: Clemson 44, Notre Dame 26

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