Stayin Sharp with Evan Sharpley. Irish aim to win ACC Championship Game

Irish aim to win ACC Championship Game

WHO will get the invite to the College Football Playoff

The 2020 college football regular season has nearly concluded. Now, the attention turns to WHO will get an invite to the College Football Playoff. With conference championships still to be played, there are several scenarios that may occur. For Fighting Irish fans, though, the future looks bright.

The USC Trojans needed a last-minute drive last Saturday night to avoid heartbreak at the hands of their hated crosstown rivals. It turns out the Trojans' narrow survival boosted their College Football Playoff chances in a major way.

Just as USC was polishing off a 43-38 victory over UCLA, Florida was falling in 37-34 fashion at home to LSU, a combination of results that helped take the Trojans from just 7% to reach the College Football Playoff last Saturday night, per the Allstate Playoff Predictor, to 49.7% after Week 15 results. Clay Helton & Co. will meet Washington for the Pac-12 championship Friday night -- coincidentally, it was the Huskies who last represented the Pac-12 in the CFP back in the 2016 season. Hopefully USC loses because we Irish fans don’t really like them all that much.

The Florida loss also slightly improved Texas A&M's chances of reaching the playoff for the first time. The Aggies, who were idle after a scheduled game against Ole Miss was canceled, moved from 30.0% last week to 33.7% to make the CFP. Jimbo Fisher's squad is scheduled to face Tennessee in its regular-season finale Saturday. Fisher has called for an expansion of the playoffs, but obviously his views are biased given A&M has not locked in a spot to the playoffs, yet.

The team on the business end of Week 15 results was Clemson, which was idle but fell from 52.6% to 45.5% -- and behind USC -- to reach the playoff. The scenario means the Tigers, who fell to Notre Dame in a thriller in South Bend on Nov. 7, likely need a victory over the Fighting Irish in the ACC championship game in Charlotte on Saturday to reach the CFP field for the sixth straight season.

Cincinnati also saw its chances plummet, as the idle Bearcats dropped from 24.1% to 8.7% in advance of their American Athletic Conference title game meeting with Tulsa.

While observers obsess about the makeup of the four-team field over the next week, Alabama will maintain a stranglehold on the odds to win a national championship. The Crimson Tide, 52-3 winners over Arkansas in Week 15, have a 58.7% chance to win it all according to the Allstate Playoff Predictor. Ohio State, at 22.8% is the nearest team to the Tide on that list.

A complete look at this week's Allstate Playoff Predictor:

TEAM (RECORD)

MAKE PLAYOFF

WIN TITLE

Alabama (10-0)

99.3%

58.7%

Ohio State (5-0)

87.7%

22.8%

Notre Dame (10-0)

69.2%

5.9%

USC (5-0)

49.7%

1.8%

Clemson (9-1)

45.5%

8.4%

Texas A&M (7-1)

33.7%

1.6%

Cincinnati (8-0)

8.7%

0.3%

Indiana (6-1)

3.1%

0.1%

Northwestern (6-1)

1.0%

<.1%

Georgia (7-2)

0.7%

<.1%

Oklahoma (7-2)

0.7%

0.1%

Iowa State (8-2)

0.3%

<.1%

Coastal Carolina (11-0)

0.3%

<.1%

Florida (8-2)

0.2%

<.1%

Clemson News & Notes

Bank of America Stadium is just a two-hour drive from Clemson, but the Tigers won’t enjoy as much of a home-field advantage this year as they have in previous ACC title games in Charlotte Attendance for this contest has been capped at seven percent of the stadium’s capacity, meaning a maximum of 5,240 fans will be in the stands. Clemson has won all five of its ACC championship game appearances at Bank of America Stadium, with four of those five wins coming by 28 points or more.

While the Tigers are 2-0 SU and ATS since Lawrence returned from COVID-19, their 45-10 blowout of Virginia Tech in their regular-season finale was misleading. Clemson led just 17-10 at halftime and three of the Tigers’ six touchdowns in the game were set up by Virginia Tech turnovers, including a 66-yard fumble return for a TD.

After posting a 17-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in six games prior to contracting COVID-19, Lawrence has thrown three touchdowns and one interception in two games since.

At least Clemson’s defense looks in better shape coming into the title game. The Tigers have allowed an average of 13.5 points in their last two outings since getting shredded for 47 points and 518 total yards against the Irish in Week 10, which was the third straight game they’d allowed at least 21 points.

Notre Dame News & Notes

The Irish will be without a big piece of the offensive line that pushed Clemson around in the teams’ previous meeting this season. Center Jarrett Patterson underwent foot surgery last month and will be out for the rest of the year, weakening a unit that helped Notre Dame outgain Clemson 208-34 on the ground on November 7 in South Bend.

Fifth-year senior guard Tommy Kraemer should be at full strength again, however, after undergoing an emergency appendectomy that limited his playing time in Notre Dame’s last two games.

Led by senior quarterback Ian Book, the Fighting Irish offense enters the ACC championship game on fire. Notre Dame has scored at least 45 points in three of its last four games and four of six, and it has failed to crack the 30-point plateau just once since the opening week of the season.

Book has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just two interceptions this season, aided by a ground attack that ranks 13th in the nation by averaging 235 yards per game.

Notre Dame’s rush defense has also keyed the team’s 10-0 season, holding opponents to under 100 yards per game on average. Travis Etienne, Clemson’s star running back, managed just 28 yards on 18 carries against the Irish earlier this year.

Winning Pick: Clemson 

Lawrence’s absence dominated the headlines in the earlier meeting this year, but Clemson was also without several key starters on defense. Now that the Tigers are back to full strength, expect a strong effort in a revenge spot with a national playoff berth on the line.

Clemson and Notre Dame each had last week off and will now meet in the ACC championship game on Saturday in Charlotte. The Irish already beat Clemson once this season, but the Tigers were without several starters that night, including Heisman candidate Trevor Lawrence.

Notre Dame is currently ranked No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings and has likely already clinched a spot in the CFP. Clemson can lock up a spot in the playoff with a win over the Irish. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney believes Clemson should be in the playoff win or lose.

How to Watch:

When: 4 p.m. Saturday
TV: ABC

Who are YOU taking? Stay Sharp & Go Irish!

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