For the third time in four years, the Clemson Tigers will compete for a national title. The Tigers squared off against Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon in the Cotton Bowl, and while Clemson was favored to come out with a win, Dabo Swinney’s group was still dominant en route to a 30-3 victory.
The Tigers were able to dominate for two reasons. Offensively, true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who won the starting job early in the season, was outstanding, going 27-for-40 with 327 yards and three scores.
The exclamation point on the win, though, came after a 62-yard touchdown run by star running back Travis Etienne. While he was bottled up most of the night, all he needed was a little room on his third quarter score. Etienne got a little bit of daylight thanks to his offensive line and did the rest, exploding out of the backfield and into the end zone.
On the defensive side of the ball, Clemson was outstanding, even if star defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence did not suit up due to a suspension. The funny thing about the Tigers, though, is that even though Lawrence didn’t play, they still have three defensive linemen — Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, and Clelin Ferrell — who are going to play in the NFL sooner rather than later.
The Clemson front absolutely owned the line of scrimmage, making life miserable for Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book. While Book is known for his accuracy and ability to extend plays with his legs, Clemson rarely let him get cooking, as he was sacked six times and pressured on seemingly every dropback. In all, the Tigers outgained Notre Dame, 538-248, as Book couldn’t get anything going through the air and star running back Dexter Williams wasn’t able to find room to operate on the ground.
Next up for Clemson is the national title game, where it will either play Alabama for the fourth time in the College Football Playoff era or Oklahoma for the first time since the semifinals in 2016-17. The Crimson Tide and the Sooners will square off in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night, with the national title game taking place on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara.