Bet the 2018 Cotton Bowl Classic: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Clemson Tigers

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The undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish head to Arlington, Texas to take on the undefeated Clemson Tigers in the first of the national semifinals Saturday.


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Notre Dame got here by starting the season slowly, barely knocking off some questionable opponents, but then found their stride in the middle of the season. Clemson was in cruise control all season long as they have now reached their fourth straight College Football Playoff. The Clemson Tigers are -13 point favorites as they look to reach another national championship game.

Irish Looking for 13th

Notre Dame is looking to finish the season with 13 wins for the first time in the school’s storied history. As you will see with the other three semifinal competitors, the Fighting Irish are an extremely balanced team. However, what took Notre Dame from struggling against Ball State, Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt into a national title contender was the emergence of quarterback Ian Book.

Book has thrown for two or more touchdown passes in eight straight games and his streak of eight games with 250+ passing yards is the nation’s longest. It will be interesting to see how Book and the rest of the Fighting Irish offense handles the intensity and talent of the Clemson defense. This will be bay far the best defensive unit that Notre Dame has come up against this season.


Tigers Offense Rocking

Clemson ranks in the top-5 in the country in both total offense and total defense. Basically, if one of their units starts to sputter, the other one can be relied on to keep them in the game. Since the beginning of October, the Tigers have not had a game within 20 points. They have simply outclassed everybody on their schedule since that point. As has been said all year, the Tigers’ defensive line is the most NFL-ready position group of any in the country.

However, the Tigers are likely to be without Dexter Lawrence after a failed drug test. If Lawrence is unable to play, then the Fighting Irish offense line is definitely getting a huge break. Although freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence gets all the publicity, Clemson is a run-first team. ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne rushed for 1,463 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Pick and Prediction

It is very surprising that an undefeated team can be a +13 point underdog in a college semifinal. Both of these teams schedules were pretty poor, but Clemson struggled with the two best teams they played, Syracuse and Texas A&M. In contrast, Notre Dame was able to put away the best teams they played but struggled against some middling competition. Although it is a cliche, this one will be won at the line of scrimmage. If the Clemson defensive line, with or without Lawrence, can disrupt the Notre Dame passing attack, then it could get ugly. However, if Notre Dame is able to protect Book and establish a mixture of run/pass, then they could find some success. I am taking Clemson to win the game, but -13 points is just too many. Take Notre Dame to cover. Clemson wins 30-20.

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