When No. 3 Clemson faces No. 2 Notre Dame a week from Saturday in the 2020 ACC Championship Game, it will mark the fifth time in the game’s 15-year history the two teams in the title game also met during the regular season.
“It is unusual in college football that you play a team again. But I don’t think that is a negative,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We have great respect for who they are, their team. That was a great win for them, and they made a few more plays than we did.”
The Irish (10-0, 9-0 ACC) beat Clemson 47-40 in double overtime on Nov. 7 in South Bend, in what was arguably the best game in college football so far this year.
Though playing a team for a second time in one season might be unusual in college football, it is not too unusual for Clemson. The Tigers’ rematch with Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game will mark the third time Clemson has played an opponent for a second time in one season.
The Tigers (9-1, 8-1 ACC) played Georgia Tech in the 2009 ACC Championship Game after facing them in the regular season and then in 2011, they played Virginia Tech for the conference crown after beating the Hokies in the regular.
In both instances involving Clemson, the team who won the regular season game also won the rematch. However, Boston College won the regular season meetings against Virginia Tech in 2007 and ’08, only to lose both times to the Hokies in the ACC Championship Game.
“It is Game 11 for us and so we are who we are, and they are who they are,” Swinney said. “The things that got you there, you are not all of sudden going to just get away from those things. You just have to try to be good at what you do, and you certainly can learn from your first matchup.”
However, at the end of the day, it comes down to whoever executes and takes care of the football will win the game.
“We had three turnovers in the game. We did not play well up front like we needed to,” Swinney said. “We gave up big plays. We have a lot that we need to clean up. Things that we control. That is where it starts for us. It is more about us than it is them.
“Then you have to go make the plays. I don’t think you necessarily trick people in games like this. You have to out execute them, and you have to execute the plan to win. The margin of error is small for both teams. It is a little different, obviously, to have some familiarity.”
But as Swinney said, none of that matters.
“In this one, you do it all over again. You don’t get to carry over any of the good plays or any of the mistakes. You have to go earn it next Saturday,” he said.
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