ESPN crew says it is now or never for Notre Dame

ESPN crew says it is now or never for Notre Dame

Football

ESPN crew says it is now or never for Notre Dame

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This might the Irish's best shot to knock off Clemson this year

From a historical perspective, Clemson’s trip to South Bend, Ind., this Saturday will be the biggest game in the 67-year history of the ACC.

Never before has a No. 1-ranked from the conference played a top 5 team from the conference, but that is exactly what will happen when the top-ranked Tigers invade Notre Dame Stadium to take on the fourth-ranked Irish.

But how much does this game really mean to the national picture, and more importantly, the College Football Playoff?

“It really doesn’t. I hate to say that it means nothing on the field, but both teams are very much alive,” ESPN analyst David Pollack said on the College Football Playoff Top 25 Show Tuesday. “I think where it really matters the most is who wants to dodge another great team in the semifinals. Because we just talked about our top three being Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State and we talked about how they are clearly the three best teams.

“So, guess what? If you win out and (the other team) stays highly ranked, you have a good chance to beat them twice to be the No. 1 seed in the CFP and you can dodge one of those other two teams. So, realistically, whoever loses will still be in the playoff hunt.”

But will they, especially if Clemson travels to Notre Dame with a backup quarterback and beats the Irish by two or three touchdowns?

The Tigers (7-0, 6-0 ACC) are already missing quarterback Trevor Lawrence (COVID-19) and middle linebacker James Skalski (groin) and could be without defensive tackle Tyler Davis (lower leg) and strongside backer Mike Jones (hamstring).

“I don’t want to say it does not matter to Clemson, but I think all eyes are on Notre Dame,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “When was the last time Notre Dame won a game of this magnitude? Think about it. I think that perception is real. I think right now, they are on this big of a stage, they have to take advantage of this opportunity.

“It is not an elimination game if Notre Dame comes out and competes or Notre Dame plays the way they did in Athens last year. If they lose and they get blown out. It is an elimination game for them. They are gone. That is just my opinion.”

With Lawrence being out and Clemson banged up at wide receiver and on defense, ESPN analyst Joey Galloway says Notre Dame (6-0, 5-0 ACC) will not have a better opportunity to beat Clemson than this coming Saturday.

“Notre Dame is going to have to beat Clemson one out of two times. This is their best chance,” he said. “Skalski being out. Trevor Lawrence being out. This is their best shot. They get them at home. So, if Notre Dame can pull this off, it is going to put a nail in the coffin for anybody else trying to get inside that top 5.

“So, it is important, more so for Notre Dame than it is for Clemson. I do believe if these two teams play again, there is a much better chance Clemson will win if they are healthy.”

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