The Cotton Bowl is over. The Clemson Tigers have defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to advance to their third National Championship game in four years.
Prior to the game, Clemson and Notre Dame met only three times, in 1977, 1979, and more recently in 2015. Clemson owned a 2-1 record in those matchups, only dropping the first game back in 1977. The Tigers improve on that record to 3-1 after today’s victory.
Clemson’s 2018 season was as dominant as ever, despite dropping a close one to a resurgent Syracuse team back in mid-October. From there, Dabo Swinney’s team resumed business as usual, coasting to the #2 ranking in a seriously weak ACC football conference.
Clemson’s offense was the main story for the majority of the season. They began with a quarterback controversy that saw Trevor Lawrence in the starting role. Lawrence would end the year with over 2,600 through the air and a passer rating of 153.5.
On the ground, Travis Etienne was the highlight of the year. Etienne ended the season with 1,464 yards rushing, but he wasn’t the only one making waves with the ball. Clemson was absolutely stacked. There’s no doubt about that.
Notre Dame’s first College Football playoff appearance comes on the heels of an undefeated season. The Fighting Irish started their season with a bang, taking down Jim Harbaugh’s highly touted Michigan Wolverines. Another big marquee matchup came when Notre Dame faced off against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. The fighting Irish silences critics and pundits who were calling for an upset by the Orange, cementing their spot in the College Football Playoff.
Notre Dame Quarterback Ian Book was a big reason for their success, throwing for over 2,500 yards on the season. The main recipients of Book’s aerial assault were Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool, both with over 600 yards receiving on the season. In the backfield, Book was joined by Dexter Williams, who ended the season just 59 yards short of 1,000 total rushing yards. His 6.6 yards a carry were a big reason for Notre Dame’s dominance.
In the Cotton Bowl, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence lit up the weakened Notre Dame secondary. By the end of the third quarter, Lawrence already had 303 yards through the air. This is possibly due to the second quarter absence of Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love. The Notre Dame Defense was straight up absent, as was any shred of Notre Dame in general.
This was Clemson’s time to shine and they brought the kind of illumination you’d only find from the sun.
Travis Etienne played as advertised rushing for 109 yards including a 62-yard touchdown run, where he was barely touched by any Notre Dame player. At the end of the game Travis Etienne had set a new Clemson rushing record for the season with over 1,500 yards.
Through the air, the main recipient of Lawrence’s stellar performance was Justyn Ross, who finished with 148 yards on 6 catches for two scores.
The Clemson Tigers will face off against the winner of the Orange Bowl. If Alabama were to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners, this would be the third time in four years that they’d meet the Crimson Tide in the Championship.
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