Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Clemson Tigers
Date and Time: Saturday, December 29, 2018, 4 p.m. ET
Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Opening CFB Odds: Clemson -11, 56
Notre Dame vs. Clemson TV Coverage: ESPN
Notre Dame let it be known that it was a team worthy of College Football Playoff consideration after taking care of business against the Michigan Wolverines the opening week of the CFB betting season. After Brandon Wimbush struggled in the first three games, he was benched in favor of Ian Book against Vanderbilt. That’s when things really started to get interesting for the Irish whose offense really started to take shape with the junior running the show. Backed by one of the best scoring defenses in the country, Notre Dame should be taken more seriously than it’s been since the line for the Cotton Bowl hit the board at online sportsbooks.
The Clemson Tigers traveled a similar path in that they turned into a super power once a change was made under center a couple games into the campaign. Trevor Lawrence made his impact felt throughout the game in College Station that the Tigers survived 28-26, and was then handed the keys to the car in full after Kelly Bryant struggled to get anything going against Georgia Sothern. It was all candy canes and rainbows the rest of the way with Clemson only being challenged by Syracuse in a game Lawrence was actually forced to bow out of early. Save for the game against Texas A&M, Clemson went on to go a moneymaking 5-0 SU and ATS in its final five games played away from Death Valley.
Player To Watch
Ian Book – Nobody runs on the Clemson Tigers who own the No. 2 ranked rush defense ( 91.0 YPG ) and allow just 2.4 yards per carry ( No. 1 ). Though Brian Kelly is sure to test the waters with Dexter Williams and company, success will be few and far between. Where the Tigers are susceptible is through the air with the back seven conceding just over 195 yards per game and nearly 6.5 yards per pass attempt. While both outputs rank amongst the top-30 in the country, that has more to do with the opposition faced with the ACC void of many credible quarterbacks. When they ran up against A&M’s Kellen Mond and South Carolina’s Jake Bentley, the defense was gouged for a grand total of 940 passing yards and 8 TD.
Bottom line, Clemson’s pass defense is the team’s major weak link; as well as kicking field goals. It must be taken advantage of by Book for the Fighting Irish to have any shot of covering let alone winning at offshore sportsbooks. After throwing for nearly 2,500 yards and a 19:6 TD/INT ratio while completing better than 70 percent of his passes, I expect him to be up to the challenge and flourish in the process.
Matchup To Watch
I’m of the belief Notre Dame’s only shot of keeping this game competitive is by taking advantage of the Tigers leaky secondary. With that, it will be of utmost importance for the hogs along the offensive line to put its best foot forward and deal with Clemson’s all-world defensive line that’s stacked with defensive-rich NFL talent. No team in the country sacked opposing quarterbacks more on average than Dexter Lawrence and company. The Irish could get a break should Lawrence be forced to serve a suspension for having trace elements of a banned substance in his system. Regardless, Clemson still has a bevy of talent to throw at Book repeatedly.
Notre Dame did a fantastic job keeping its quarterback upright in allowing an average of just 1.5 sacks per game ( No. 29 ). With the offense looking to the air more times than not, the hogs must play to their season outputs in order for them to have any shot of keeping this one close as enormous underdogs.
Bet the Cotton Bowl at BookMaker.eu
The betting line for this matchup is such a slap in Notre Dame’s face it’s not even funny. I personally had Clemson lined in the 7-10 point range before the line even opened up, so I wasn’t all that surprised when the best sportsbooks opened the game up at -11 in favor of the Tigers. What does have me scratching my head however is the line jumping up as high as -14 before settling back down to -13 where it currently sits. Even stranger is the fact public and sharp money has come in on both sides with slightly more smart money coming in on the favorites. This leads me to believe linemakers aren’t at all intimidated by the Clemson exposure since they continue to get Tigers money regardless of the number approaching two touchdowns.
I’m not calling it a trap, but I’m taking the points with the Irish regardless. I do however recommend making a wager on them now plus the points since it’s very much a possibility the line plummets once the news on the potentially suspended players finalizes. Clemson is likely to still march on, but Notre Dame won’t roll over and die in its maiden appearance in the College Football Playoff.
CFB ATS Betting Pick: Notre Dame +13 at BookMaker.eu
CFB Score Prediction: Tigers 34 – Fighting Irish 27