The Clemson Tigers are pretty big favorites in the upcoming Cotton Bowl against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It’s not shocking, but in my mind at least — it’s a little much for a #2 vs #3 matchup in the college football playoff.
With the advancement of, well, advanced stats in college football, I suppose it it is easy to look at lines of data and come to all sorts of conclusions. The thing is, however, there is one data point that hits you from both sides... the eye test.
Watch Clemson play and you’ll begin to understand why they deserve every bit of respect that has been offered them this season. Their defense makes teams one-dimensional, and even when that plays to a weakness for the Tigers, they still suffocate their opponents. On offense, they’re nothing short of incredible with one of the best rushing attacks (YPC) in the country and a great group of wide receivers that help a freshman quarterback that plays more like a seasoned junior.
It’s daunting to say the least.
Still, that same eye test can make you believe a narrative that says something a little different: who in the hell has Clemson played?
For all of the talk about this being a dynamic team, they have played a less than dynamic schedule. In the playoff, it’s pretty much a given that the teams can say that “this is the best team they played all year.” In Clemson’s case, however, it’s a dramatic difference.
No one on Clemson’s schedule comes close to being as good as Notre Dame. The Irish are in a similar situation, but they also have wins over Clemson’s two best opponents PLUS that win against the #7 ranked Michigan Wolverines that somehow hasn’t counted since September.
I’m not dismissing what Clemson has accomplished, but I am wondering just what exactly they have accomplished.
Here’s their 2018 schedule and results, so you can make up your own mind (or just add to your data bank):