Despite falling to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish earlier this season, the Clemson Tigers are big favorites in Saturday’s ACC Championship game.
As of now, Notre Dame is ranked No. 2 in the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, while Clemson is No. 3.
The winner will obviously make the CFP, but what about the loser? That might depend on their quality of performance.
Notre Dame isn’t typically part of the ACC for football, but it is this year. Thanks, 2020.
Here are the lines for this marquee clash at top Illinois online sportsbooks.
Notre Dame vs. Clemson odds
Clemson opened as a 7.5-point favorite at some spots, including DraftKings. That’s since been hammered up to double digits.
These two teams squared off on Nov. 7, and the Fighting Irish edged out the Tigers 47-40 in one of the best college football games of the year.
There’s one huge difference between then and now, though. Trevor Lawrence will be under center for Clemson this Saturday.
The likely No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft had to sit out due to COVID-19 in November. The Tigers were also missing some key defensive starters who will play on Saturday.
For what it’s worth, backup quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei was outstanding in relief against Notre Dame, throwing for 439 yards and no interceptions.
So, while Lawrence is obviously an upgrade, it’s not as if Uiagalelei was terrible in a loss against the Fighting Irish. Far from it, in fact.
Still, NCAAF oddsmakers see it making a big impact.
“Trevor Lawrence makes a big difference,” DraftKings Sportsbook Director John Avello told The New York Post. “This is the kind of game where he’s licking his chops to get a shot at Notre Dame.”
Lawrence, as expected, has been phenomenal since returning from the virus.
He has 20 touchdown passes to three interceptions on the season, and is averaging a career-high 9.7 yards per attempt.
Perhaps the biggest reason Clemson lost to Notre Dame in November, though, was the lack of a running game.
Running back Travis Etienne had 18 carries for 28 yards, which is 1.6 yards per carry. On the season, Etienne is averaging 5.1 yards per rush.
That’s easily a career low, by the way. Etienne averaged 7.8 yards per carry in 2019, and this Clemson offensive line is not what it was then.
Still, you have to figure Etienne fares better this Saturday with the Notre Dame defense having to account for the dual-threat Lawrence.
Notre Dame has struggled in big games under Brian Kelley
Three of Notre Dame’s highest-profile bowl games over the last decade have happened in 2012, 2015 and 2018.
The 2012 game was for the national title against Alabama, the 2015 game was the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, and the 2018 bout was a College Football Playoff semifinal against Clemson.
Notre Dame is 0-3 with a -71 point differential in those three contests. And the Irish lost 30-3 to Clemson in 2018, with Lawrence and Ian Book as the starting quarterbacks.
They’ll square off again on Saturday, and though both QBs have more experience in 2020, their season stats are similar now to what they were in 2018.
Book is actually averaging a lower yards per attempt as a senior.
Regardless, the spread is big, and Notre Dame is undefeated this year with some quality wins over Clemson and North Carolina.
Just how angry will the Tigers be about that November loss? It might be the most pressing question if you’re thinking about betting Saturday’s game.
Kickoff is at 3 p.m. CST on ABC. The game will take place at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, home of the Carolina Panthers.