Notre Dame has not won a national championship since 1988 — a drought that has hung over one of college football’s most prestigious programs through the Bowl Championship Series and College Football Playoff eras.
The Irish have a chance to make a statement in 2020 to prove that they are ready to end the drought. Sporting News selected the Nov. 7 matchup with Clemson as the best game of the 2020 season. The Tigers are Sporting News’ preseason No. 1 and likely could stay that way with a team led by Trevor Lawrence.
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Given Notre Dame’s history when the No. 1 team comes to South Bend, chances are it will at least be one of the more memorable games of the season. Here are a few reasons why:
Matchup of unbeatens?
Look at the schedules. Clemson hasn’t lost a regular season game since Oct. 13, 2017 — a streak of 29 games that should extend well into the 2020 season.
Five of the Tigers’ first eight games are at home, and they have a bye week before the Nov. 7 trip to South Bend.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, does have a marquee game on Nov. 3 at Lambeau Field against Wisconsin. The only true road games before the Clemson showdown are at Navy and Pitt. If the Irish can beat the Badgers and rival Stanford, then they should be 8-0 when the Tigers visit.
Huge playoff piece
Clemson’s strength of schedule has been a topic of debate the past few seasons. The Tigers are 38-2 in ACC through their past five playoff runs, and that dominance has almost worked against them in some ways.
Clemson plays Notre Dame four days after the first set of Playoff rankings is released on Nov. 3.
The Irish, meanwhile, made the Playoff in 2017 after an undefeated regular season. Notre Dame is typically docked for not having a conference championship game, but the five-game agreement with the ACC works out this season with the Clemson matchup and road games at Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.
Notre Dame can score a huge Playoff piece if it can knock off the Tigers.
Irish have more at stake
Notre Dame and Clemson met twice in the past decade, and those games produced different results.
On Oct. 3, 2015, No. 12 Clemson beat No. 6 Notre Dame 24-22 in a driving rainstorm where the Irish missed the potential game-tying two-point conversion. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney launched into the now-famous “BYOG” speech afterward.
On Dec. 29, 2018, Clemson and Notre Dame met at the Cotton Bowl Classic in the College Football Playoff, and the Tigers routed the Irish 30-3.
Notre Dame is 23-3 since. This is a chance for the Irish to show that they are a national championship contender.
Instant classic is inevitable
If the Tigers remain No. 1 in the polls, it creates a rare opportunity for No. 1 to visit South Bend. Notre Dame is 2-5 in that situation, but the past four games have been instant classics.
Notre Dame beat Miami 31-30 in 1988 in the “Catholics vs. Convicts” game and upset Florida State 31-24 in the “Game of the Century” in 1993. Notre Dame lost a 27-24 thriller to Nebraska in 2000, and USC beat Notre Dame 34-31 in the “Bush Push” game in 2005.
Those four games were decided by a combined 10 points.
That is the stage that could unfold in November in South Bend when Clemson comes to town.
We’re counting on it to live up to the hype.
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