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College Football Recruiting: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS Clemson Tigers

I think these numbers are funny — not HAHA funny, but kind of weird.

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We all saw what happened in the Cotton Bowl when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on the Clemson Tigers in the college football playoffs. It wasn’t a pretty ending as the Irish fell hard, 30-3.

We don’t need to rehash the game, but the immediate overreaction from the media was that the Irish didn’t belong. This view wasn’t shared by either Brian Kelly or Dabo Swinney, and the coaches of those two teams had their statements mostly vindicated by the outcome in the national championship game when the Tigers beat the crap out of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

There was much deserved praise heaped upon Swinney and the Tigers, and in particular the recruiting efforts. Obviously Clemson was recruiting at a much higher level than the rest of the country — according to pundits. After all... they just dismantled the team that has basically sat at #1 in the team recruiting rankings for most of the last decade.

For those that follow recruiting, this wasn’t a very accurate statement. At least it wasn’t accurate on the surface where the numbers dwell. Since 2014, Clemson hasn’t finished any higher than 7th in the 247 Team Recruiting Rankings. The basically hovered in and out of the top 10. That’s generally not the trademark of a team that is recruiting at an elite level, and in fact, it sounds more like what Notre Dame usually does under Brian Kelly.

To that point, one of the themes of the offseason has been if the Irish can recruit on the same level as Clemson. So... let’s take a general look at how that has been from 2014-2019:

Notre Dame VS Clemson Recruiting 2014-2019

ND VS Clemson Clemson Rec Rank ND Rec Rank Clemson 5⭐️ ND 5⭐️ Clemson 4⭐️ ND 4⭐️ Clemson Total Signed ND Total Signed
ND VS Clemson Clemson Rec Rank ND Rec Rank Clemson 5⭐️ ND 5⭐️ Clemson 4⭐️ ND 4⭐️ Clemson Total Signed ND Total Signed
2014 16 11 0 0 10 16 20 23
2015 9 13 3 0 9 14 26 23
2016 11 15 1 0 11 10 21 23
2017 16 10 2 0 8 10 14 21
2018 7 10 5 0 7 14 17 27
2019 10 15 1 0 12 16 29 22
TOTAL / AVG 11.5 12.33 12 /2 0 / 0 57 / 9.5 80 / 13.33 127 / 21.16 139 / 23.16
Numbers via 247 Sports

A lot of this comparison just doesn’t jibe with what the narrative has become. Over the course of those years, Notre Dame has finished on average around #12 and Clemson has finished around #11. The Irish have signed 13 more 4-Stars than Clemson and 13 more players overall.

The biggest difference is what has been painfully clear to most Irish fans and media... 5-Star accumulation. Clemson has signed 12 5-Star players over the last six years while the Irish have signed ZERO.

When the Irish played Clemson in Dallas, it was the 5-Stars that shined:

  • Trevor Lawrence
  • Christian Wilkins
  • Mitch Hyatt
  • Tee Higgins

And no... Justyn Ross wasn’t a 5-Star (omg).

In a nutshell, the difference in Clemson and Notre Dame really is what every amateur recruiting nut for the Irish was screaming after the Cotton Bowl... WHERE ARE THE 5-STARS?

In this case, it is really as simple as that. Unfortunately for the Irish, it isn’t getting any better in that regard. The 2020 class for Clemson already has five of the 5-Stars compared to Notre Dame’s one.

There’s your talent gap, and there’s a big reason for the loss. It’s not really all that big in the grand scheme — but it’s big enough with the great staff the Tigers have in place.

Barring another postseason matchup, Notre Dame will host Clemson in South Bend on November 7, 2020.

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