Clemson will once again be the team to beat when the 2020 football season begins. At least that is what some preseason polls think, such as Athlon Magazine, which has the Tigers ranked No. 1 in its rankings.
It is a good place to start a season. However, Clemson will have a few teams it will have to keep an eye on that potentially could keep its dreams of winning another national championship from coming true.
This past Tuesday, The Clemson Insider took a look at North Carolina, who Athlon ranks No. 18 in its preseason rankings. The Tigers could potentially see the Tar Heels in the ACC Championship Game. However, Clemson’s first potential obstacle will come a few weeks before then.
Clemson will visit Notre Dame on Nov. 7, giving the Irish an opportunity to spoil the Tigers’ title run before it even gets started.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 9 by Athlon in its preseason rankings. The Irish will be looking to avenge its previous two losses to the Tigers, three if you count Clemson’s 16-10 victory in South Bend in 1979. The Tigers were ranked No. 14 in that meeting 41 years ago.
The last time the two met, the second-ranked Tigers ran No. 3 Notre Dame off the Cotton Bowl field in Arlington, Texas, thanks to 20 unanswered points in the second quarter of a 30-3 victory in the 2019 College Football Playoff.
Clemson also beat the Irish in a driving rainstorm in 2015 at Death Valley. Carlos Watkins, Ben Boulware and the Clemson defense stuffed Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer on a two-point conversion attempt to win the game with seven seconds to play. The 11th-ranked Tigers beat No. 6 Notre Dame, 24-22, that night in Clemson.
But Notre Dame feels like it has the team to cause the Tigers some trouble this year. It’s not like the Irish are not any good. Since posting a 4-8 record in 2016, Notre Dame has won 33 of its last 39 games and has played in the College Football Playoff.
Head coach Brian Kelly welcomes back senior quarterback Ian Book, who is among the best returning quarterbacks in the country. Even better news for the Irish is the return of all five starters on the offensive line.
The bad news is leading rusher Tony Jones, tight end Cole Kmet and leading receiver Chase Claypool are all gone. Kelly is hoping true freshmen in running back Chris Tyree, wide receiver Jordan Johnson and tight end Michael Mayer will all be able to come in and help right away.
Notre Dame’s defense gave up just 17.9 points per game in 2019. However, the Irish will have to replace starters at defense end, and outside of safety Kyle Hamilton, the secondary is pretty thin. The good news for the defense is linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is back after having an outstanding 2019 season.
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