Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is sending out a warning to all the football fans who might expect next week’s ACC Championship Game against No. 3 Clemson to be a high scoring game.
“You win in all different ways,” he said earlier this week. “Everybody is talking about the double-overtime game and what the score is … don’t get misled that everyone thinks this might be a shootout.”
The second-ranked Irish (10-0, 9-0 ACC) beat Clemson 47-40 in South Bend on Nov. 7, as both offenses combined for 992 yards of offense. The game was tied at 33 at the end of regulation.
However, it does not mean the ACC Championship Game will be a replay. Notre Dame and Clemson have the ACC’s top two defenses in terms of scoring and total defense. The Irish lead the league in scoring defense at 17.1 points allowed per game, while the Tigers are second at 18.3.
Clemson (9-1, 8-1 ACC) leads the conference in total defense, 302.0 yards per game, while Notre Dame is second at 314.5 yards per game.
“You learn so much about your opponent and both teams do. Sometimes when you play a second time, it makes it hard to move the football. The defense gets the edge the second time,” Kelly said. “I’m telling you that right now. Those are probably the things I’ve learned in the rematches. The defenses tend to get an edge against you because they’ve seen you and know a little bit about where they can lean on you a little bit.”
It will also be different with Clemson having so many defensive stars available in the ACC Championship Game that were out due to injuries prior to or got hurt during the game. The Tigers did not have defensive tackle Tyler Davis or linebackers James Skalski and Mike Davis in the Notre Dame game.
During the game, Clemson lost safeties Lannden Zanders and Nolan Turner, as well as defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and cornerbacks Andrew Booth and Sheridan Jones. By the end of the night, Clemson had just two defensive players on the field who actually started the game.
Kelly expects the Dec. 19 championship game to be just as physical and hard hitting as the first one.
“That’s why it’s about physicality for me. It’s about playmakers making plays and fundamentals,” he said. “These games are generally going to be close, hard-fought and separated by one score and sometimes low scoring games.”
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