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Q&A with Shakin' the Southland

We are joined by Mark Gordon of Clemson SB Nation Blog Shakin' the Southland to discuss the upcoming matchup between the Tigers and the Irish.

Nightmare fuel.
Nightmare fuel.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Be sure to visit Shakin' the Southland and see my answers to their questions, as well as some good discussion in the comments!

1. Obviously this is a huge game for both teams. Just how large is this in the context of your season?

There are a lot of different opinions about this specific question so no matter who you ask you are going to get a different question. I think the best answer would be that his game is considered a measuring stick for the common question of "is Clemson for real?" Since this game won't count towards the ACC rankings, I would put it just below the Florida State game and of course the rivalry game against South Carolina, but that is not meant to underplay the importance of this matchup. This game is being seen as a chance to prove that Clemson deserves to be in the conversation for a playoff team. Several people consider a game such as this to be a "quarterfinal" game in the new NCAA playoffs and it is not being taken lightly.

2. A lot of talk is been devoted to the trash talk spotted by Notre Dame players leading up to the game this week. what are your thoughts on the #savage comment as well as anything else that is a perceived slight to Clemson? Do you think it'll provide an edge to the Clemson players on Saturday or is it something they should try and block out?

Personally, I think that the term "bulletin board" material is overused in today's game. While a lot of fans buy into the idea that these are general off the cuff remarks from the players, I think that the better name for trash-talk between teams is "psychological warfare" and certainly serves a purpose. When a player makes a remark such as "I don't think that Watson is a top 5 quarterback" the goal is to get Watson to attempt to make some throws that he normally would not make in order to prove that particular player wrong. Both head coaches are extremely knowledgeable and have coached the players on the impact of trash talk. I don't expect this to have a large impact in the game.

3. Notre Dame offensive line has proven to be one of the best in the country. How do you see Clemson's front seven stacking up against this tough unit?

Clemson lost several key members of last year's unit which was considered to be one of the best in the NCAA. The front seven was considered to be a potential weak point for this season but has turned out to be one of the brighter spots on the team. In a game that is going to be played in the pouring rain, the true toughness of the Tiger front seven will be tested early and often by a excellent Notre Dame run game. The true winner on Saturday night will be decided in the trenches.

4. Who are a few players on each side of the ball for Clemson that Notre Dame fans might not know about but we'll see a lot of on Saturday?

On the defensive side of the ball, keep an eye out for Weak Side Linebacker Ben Boulware. Clemson's defensive scheme regularly gives Boulware freedom to follow the play and in a rain soaked Death Valley, expect Boulware to be crashing the line of scrimmage early and often. On the offensive side of the ball, keep any eye out for wide receiver Hunter Renfrow Renfrow is a walk-on who has earned serious playing time for the Tigers. Renfrow has been depended on for downfield routes in the slot. With weather conditions grim, throws down the field may be few and far between, but in big situation, look for Watson to target Renfrow for key 3rd down conversions.

5. What weakness of Clemson are you most worried about heading into a game against the Irish this Saturday?

It is no secret that Clemson has not been effective in the kicking game this year. Ammon Lakip will be making his season debut this year and will take over kickoff duties, but look for Notre Dame to have potential opportunities to return kickoffs for long gains and change field position as the kick coverage has been below average for Clemson this season.

6. There's a lot of Irish fans headed to Clemson this weekend, what are some do not miss things that they should see while they're in town?

There is nothing that Clemson fans love more than welcoming new fans into the area. We encourage all fans to explore the beautiful campus and introduce yourself to any tailgating Clemson fans that you see in the area. We are very excited to have any Irish fans making the trip and there is nothing that we would like more than for your fans to have a positive experience regardless of the outcome of the game. We expect you to be treated with the utmost respect and hope that you will be making a return trip in the near future.

7. Finally, what is your prediction for the game this weekend and how do we get there? (Bonus points for gif usage)

I hate to see a game of this magnitude for both programs decided by the weather, but with a 100% chance of precipitation for Saturday night, it will have a definite impact on the outcome. If the conditions are so bad that the passing game is neutralized for both teams, I expect a Notre Dame win, however, if Clemson has the chance to air the ball out, I expect (although heavily biased) a Clemson win.