Countdown to Kickoff: 83rd Cotton Bowl Classic
DALLAS — For the first time in 79 years, Clemson will play in the Cotton Bowl as it takes on No. 3 Notre Dame in the 83rd Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The second-ranked Tigers last played in the Cotton Bowl Classic in 1940, the fourth game of the annual New Year’s Day Bowl Game. That year marked the program’s first bowl appearance as Clemson beat Boston College, 6-3.
“It’s awesome for Clemson to come back to the place that we were in our very first bowl game. It’s been so long. With all the bowl affiliations and all that stuff, I don’t know that we would have gotten back here without this unique situation, the way it worked out. So, I think Clemson fans are really excited. Dallas is an amazing town with so much to offer.”
This time around it is even a bigger deal for the Tigers, a win means a trip to Santa Clara, Calif., and an opportunity to play for another national championship.
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Records: Clemson 13-0; Notre Dame 12-0
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate (Clemson Tigers Radio Network)
Latest Line: Clemson (minus-12.5)
Series: Clemson leads the series 2-1
Streak: Clemson has won two straight
Last meeting: Clemson won 24-22 on October 3, 2015 at Death Valley in Clemson
Three story lines
Clemson will be without the services of defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. The First-Team All-American has been suspended, along with tight end Braden Galloway and offensive lineman Zach Giella, after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug. Senior Albert Huggins will get the start in the place of Lawrence with Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams also moving up the depth chart. Huggins has played in all 13 games this year, while registering 307 snaps (23.6 snaps per game). The senior has tallied 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also has 11 quarterback pressures.
This will be the first time Trevor Lawrence has played on the big stage as a college quarterback. So far, the true freshman has passed every test. He is 9-0 as a starter, while the Tigers have averaged 50 points and 550 yards per game since he became the starter. Lawrence is completing 65 percent of his passes and leads the ACC in touchdown passes (24) and passing efficiency (154.0).
Notre Dame is giving up 133 yards per game on the ground. Can the Tigers, with ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne, establish the running game, taking the pressure off Lawrence and allowing the Tigers to set up their play-action passing game. Etienne is averaging 112.5 yards per game on the ground, while the Tigers are averaging 259.8 as a team, the highest per game average at Clemson since 1988. Clemson leads the country with a 6.8 yards per carry average.
Notre Dame players to watch
Ian Book, QB: Book ranks fifth in the FBS with a 70.4 completion percentage in nine total games played this season and ranks eighth in passing efficiency with a 162.50 rating as of Dec. 3. He has thrown for 2,468 yards and 19 touchdowns with only six interceptions on the year,
Dexter Williams, RB: He is averaging 117.5 yards per game on the ground, which would rank seventh nationally in the country had he not missed the first four games due to the suspension. He has also scored 12 rushing touchdowns.
Jerry Tillery, DT: The All-American has 30 tackles this season, including 10.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
Notre Dame scouting report
Notre Dame appeared in its first bowl game on Jan. 1, 1925, a 27-10 win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl Game. The Irish claimed the first consensus national championship in program history in 1924.
Ian Book ranks fifth among all quarterbacks in the FBS this season with a 70.4 completion percentage over his nine games played under center.
Notre Dame makes its eighth appearance in the Cotton Bowl Classic, the most common bowl game that the Irish have competed in since making their bowl debut in the 1925 Rose Bowl. Notre Dame is 5-2 in prior trips to the Cotton Bowl Classic.
Wide receiver Chase Claypool has logged six different games this season in which he has made at least four receptions and gained at least 50 receiving yards.
Ian Book has thrown at least two touchdown passes in each of his first eight starts in 2018 entering the Cotton Bowl Classic.
Notre Dame finished the regular season as the lone undefeated team nationally to exclusively face FBS competition. Clemson is the 13th different Irish FBS foe (11th from a Power Five conference).