The game of the weekend in college football is No. 6 Notre Dame visiting No. 12 Clemson, the Irish's first trip there since 1977. ESPN GameDay also is on hand for the national TV ABC game. The Tigers are +1 at BetOnline NCAA football odds with a total of 53.5.
ACC Bid Riding On Game?
Of course we all know that one Power 5 conference at a minimum is going to be left out of the College Football Playoff. Last year it was the Big 12, but this year it could be the ACC -- especially if Clemson loses this game. Florida State is the highest-ranked ACC team in the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 11, with Clemson one spot behind. The Tigers host the Seminoles on Nov. 7 and one would assume Clemson is favored there. But the problem for the ACC is there are no other good teams in the conference right now, so Clemson's and FSU's strength of schedules are going to be weak. Louisville and Georgia Tech, for example, have both been massive disappointments in the ACC. The only teams without an overall loss other than Clemson and Florida State are NC State and Miami and neither are close to being ranked yet. ACC teams also are well below .500 against other Power 5 schools in 2015. So a Clemson win here could be quite crucial for the conference, of which Notre Dame is a pseudo-member of in football.
Clemson (3-0) had more than a week off to prepare for this one off a rather lackluster 20-17 win at Louisville on Sept. 17. Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson was the preseason ACC Player of the Year despite coming off a torn ACL that cut his freshman year a bit short. So far Watson has been good if not great, completing 58-for-78 for 641 yards, seven scores and three picks. He has rushed 23 times for 93 yards. Watson hasn't really seen a deep threat emerge since leading returning receiver Mike Williams was lost to a neck injury. I also think Clemson misses offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who left this offseason for the SMU head coaching job.
What has really carried Clemson has been the defense. That unit was the best in college football last year but lost a ton to the NFL. Yet the Tigers rank No. 11 nationally in scoring defense (12.3 ppg) and No. 9 in total defense (260.7 ypg). You have to consider the weak competition, however.
This is the toughest ticket at Clemson in many years, with Tigers coach Dabo Swinney saying he couldn't even "get Jesus tickets." Clemson has had 16 days to prepare for the Notre Dame game, the longest layoff for any Tiger team during a season since 1918.
Clemson is 3-1 against the spread on College Football odds and 2-2 'over/under.'
Big Boy Time For Irish QB
While I think it would be tough for Clemson to reach the College Football Playoff with a loss Saturday, I believe the Irish can still get there -- and knock out another Power 5 conference -- with a competitive loss. Notre Dame still has games against Southern Cal and Stanford, for example, to make its case to the playoff committee. That said, the wins over Texas and Georgia Tech don't look so good right now. In fact, the combined record of the Irish's four opponents is 4-11, with the four wins coming against Rice (Texas), William & Mary (Virginia), Alcorn State and Tulane (both Georgia Tech).
This will be the first road start for Irish redshirt freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer. He took over for an injured Malik Zaire in Week 2 at Virginia. But playing in Death Valley is a bit of a different animal. Kizer has completed 44-for-65 for 541 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions overall.
The Irish have two of the best players at their positions nationally in running back C.J. Prosise, who is fourth in the nation with 600 rushing yards, and receiver Will Fuller, who has 22 catches for 454 yards and six touchdowns. The individual matchup to watch in this game has to be Fuller against top Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander, a likely All-American and former highly, highly touted recruit. Alexander has allowed one completion on just six pass attempts through three games. Clemson's secondary is one of the best in the country, ranking No. 3 in the nation in pass-efficiency defense. Opponents are only completing 43.2 percent of their passes on Clemson, with one passing touchdown.
Notre Dame is 3-1 ATS on College Football picks and 2-2 O/U.
NCAAF Free Picks: I'll take that points and go 'under' at BetOnline. Kizer will struggle in the surroundings and against that defense.