Brian Kelly: ‘Our players know that they can play and beat Clemson’

Brian Kelly: ‘Our players know that they can play and beat Clemson’

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Brian Kelly: ‘Our players know that they can play and beat Clemson’

Notre Dame’s head coach compares Tigers’ D-Line to NC State’s and LSU’s from last year

Clemson might be a 12.5-point favorite by the people in Las Vegas, but that’s no scaring off Notre Dame as it prepares for its Cotton Bowl matchup with the second-ranked Tigers.

“You know, our players know that they can play and beat Clemson,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said while answering a question at the Irish’s media day on Saturday.

Kelly was asked if the coaching staff watched the 2015 game and was there anything, they could take from what happened on that rainy night in Death Valley three years ago?

“I mean, we looked at the film, but there was one thing that is similar that they have both coordinators back, but there’s not many players that are on that team from either team that are still there,” Kelly said.

Kelly says they’re taking most of their analysis and breakdown from this season in terms of what Clemson does and what they do.

They only thing they can get out of that tape from three years ago is that they know they can compete and can beat Clemson.

As most know, the Tigers jumped out to a 21-3 lead at the start of the third quarter that night and then had to hold off a furious Notre Dame rally in the fourth quarter, which included stopping a game-tying two-point conversion with seven second left.

But, like Kelly said, that was three years ago. A lot has changed at Clemson in the last three years, especially the personnel.

Deshaun Watson is now leading his Houston Texans team into the NFL Playoffs, while Shaq Lawson is chasing quarterbacks for the Buffalo Bills.

The Tigers are now led by a freshman quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, who is playing like no other freshman in the history of the ACC, while unanimous All-American Christian Wilkins and consensus All-American Clelin Ferrell lead a defensive front that is considered the best in the nation.

“I think it’s probably the same thing you guys have seen. Starting on offense, you know, I think the running back, (Travis) Etienne, I think he’s as good a running back as we’ve seen since Georgia of last year, that kind of talent,” Kelly said. “The quarterback is really good. He’s got great arm talent. He’s tall and can see the field.

“I think the receiving corps is on par with a USC receiving corps. That’s a pretty dynamic offensive set.”

Kelly said Clemson’s defensive front was a formidable group and compared it to Bradley Chubb’s NC State group of a year ago, as well as LSU’s.

“Defensively, I think you obviously start with the defensive front,” he said. “You probably have three guys there that could be top fifty, top sixty players in all of college football. So that’s a pretty good group.

“I mean, comparing them to maybe North Carolina State last year in some fashion, LSU, that kind of capability on the defensive line. It’s a really, really formidable group.”

One advantage Kelly believes Clemson has over his team more than anything else is experience. This will be the Tigers fourth straight appearance in the College Football Playoff, while the third-ranked Irish are making just their first.

“They’re just a really talented football team, but more than anything else, it’s a team that’s been there four times,” he said. “They know how to win. They’ve been there before. They play with a lot of confidence.”

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