Jamie Uyeyama, who covers Notre Dame for Irish Sports Daily.com, broke down Notre Dame’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as provided a scouting report for The Clemson Insider as top-ranked Clemson visits No. 4 Notre Dame Saturday in what is the biggest game of the college football season to this point.
How are Notre Dame fans viewing this game now with Trevor Lawrence out and three starters—Tyler Davis, James Skalski and Mike Jones—out on defense as well?
“They obviously feel better about the game with Lawrence out, but they’re aware that Clemson doesn’t have a scrub coming in to replace him. They know that Clemson is loaded throughout the roster and that they have an outstanding back in Travis Etienne. They know that they have 5-stars on the defensive line and that Brent Venables is really good at his job. It’s been such a long time since Notre Dame has won a matchup like this that there is optimism, but there are still people who won’t believe Notre Dame can win until they do.”
Are you concerned about D.J. Uiagalelei answering the call and making plays on Saturday night, knowing the game is going to be put in his hands?
“Certainly. He didn’t really give any reason to not believe he is capable of playing great in his first start. This is on the road and the Notre Dame defense is much better than what Boston College put out there, but Uiagalelei isn’t an ordinary freshman and if the Clemson O-line can keep him clean, there is no doubt he can be good enough for Clemson to win the game.”
Who is someone on the Notre Dame team that Clemson fans need to watch out for that they don’t already know about?
“On defense, defensive end Ade Ogundeji is having an outstanding season. He’s been a much better pass rusher in terms of pressures than his sack total would indicate and he’s one of the better edge defenders in the ACC. On offense, the focus will be on Kyren Williams, but freshman Chris Tyree is the one guy on Notre Dame’s offense that has the speed to create an explosive play on any snap.”
How good is Notre Dame’s defense and what troubles do you think they will give Clemson?
“They are very, very good. Like Clemson, they create a lot of havoc and are great at putting an offense behind the sticks. They are one of the best in the country at stuffing the run for zero yards or less and could put Clemson into more long yardage situations than they are used to on third down. And the pass rush is good. Maybe not great, but very good and the best Clemson will have seen this season up to this point. Notre Dame could have an advantage up front and they also have two All-American caliber players at the second and third level in Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Kyle Hamilton.”
Can Notre Dame shut down Travis Etienne?
“Can anyone? I’m not sure they can, but they do have two players who can match up in coverage with him and take away some of the damage he has done as a receiver. And as I mentioned with the front, they could bottle up Etienne a bit like they did in that 2018 game. Of course, Etienne didn’t do much in that game and then broke off a 62-yard run for a touchdown. The key for Notre Dame will be to not let that be a touchdown and hold that to a shorter big chunk play because Etienne is going to make some plays at some point. He’s just too good.”
Will Notre Dame’s offense surprise Clemson’s defense with something they have not seen yet?
“Most likely. Offensive coordinator has been good at adding in wrinkles every week to stress the reads of defenders and there is no doubt he’ll have some of that this week as well. I don’t think it can be that drastic, though. Notre Dame’s offense has their identity and know who they are. They aren’t going to be completely different because they can’t be given the personnel.”
Is Notre Dame’s easy schedule to this point an advantage or disadvantage for them on Saturday?
“Probably more of an advantage because they are coming into the game healthier than Clemson. It’s a huge step up in terms of who they are playing, but they have at least had a chance to play a great defensive line against Pitt and have been tested by some talented skill guys on Louisville.”
If Clemson takes away Notre Dame’s ability to run the football, can it win the game on Ian Book’s arm?
“That’s the question every Notre Dame fan wants to know. Honestly, there isn’t much confidence in Book doing that. But the combination of Book’s arm and his legs as a runner? That might give them a shot because they’ll need him to move the sticks as a runner at least a few times in this game and maybe more. If Book has to go out and throw the ball 40 times, it’s tough to envision Notre Dame winning the game.”
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