By: Travis Pulver
Clemson has owned the Atlantic Coast Conference in recent years. They’ve won the conference title in each of the last five seasons. With how the rest of the conference looks, they will probably make it six in a row this year.
But due to circumstances, the conference will include a new team this year, Notre Dame.
As one of the few FBS teams without a conference affiliation for football, the Fighting Irish have watched their schedule disappear. With most of the Power Five deciding to go with an all-conference schedule this year, they need opponents.
Since Notre Dame has a preexisting relationship with the ACC in every sport other than football, joining up with them just made sense. To make the temporary marriage a little more exciting, the Fighting Irish will be eligible for the ACC title game.
Clemson is still the top dog, of course. But while the rest of the pack is quietly sitting at the bottom of the porch stairs, Notre Dame is more than capable of running with the big dog. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Clemson has anything to fear.
Or does it….
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Let’s not waste time or mince words here. No one in the ACC is ready to step up and take down the mighty Clemson Tigers. Yes, Clemson will have to rebuild its offensive line this year and replace a few guys on defense. But when you win as they have been, it is not hard to attract top-notch recruits.
From those recruits, they should not have a hard time finding guys where they need them.
So, yeah—Clemson is going to be tough this year and quite possibly one of the best teams in the country, again. If we are being real, then anyone in the conference could beat the Tigers; you know, that ‘any given Saturday’ logic. Theoretically, it is true. Miami has a lot of potential, after all.
According to the odds at FoxBet.com, so does North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Florida State:
- Atlantic Coast Conference Winner
- Clemson -300
- Miami (FL) +1200
- North Carolina +1400
- Virginia Tech +2000
- Florida State +2500
- Louisville +3300
- Virginia +4500
- Pittsburgh +5000
- NC State +7500
- Wake Forest, Duke +10000
- Boston College, Syracuse, Georgia Tech +20000
But honestly— no one inside the conference has much of a chance of pulling off the upset. It would take another team widely considered to be one of the best in the country.
Enter Notre Dame (+350).
Unlike every other team in the ACC, the Fighting Irish are actually good. The NCAA’s latest top-25 has them listed as the No.11 team in the country. With a Heisman contender at quarterback, Ian Book, and a veteran offensive line, the offense will be as good as ever. While the defense lost a couple of guys, they have enough coming back to hit the ground running.
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Can they beat Clemson, though?
The Tigers will have Trevor Lawrence back at quarterback and Travis Etienne back at running back. Lawrence lost some great receivers to the NFL, but he’ll still have Justyn Ross to work with. However, the offensive line will have to be rebuilt. But with how well Dabo Swinney recruits, that shouldn’t be a problem.
On the defensive side, last year’s unit was outstanding. But many of those guys are now in the NFL, leaving the Clemson defense full of holes. However, the Tigers have arguably the best defensive coordinator in the nation, Brent Venables.
If anyone can figure out how to make a young group of relatively inexperienced guys play like a top-20 unit, he can.
Okay—but can Notre Dame beat them?
The odds still heavily favor Clemson, but Notre Dame should not be ignored. Can the Fighting Irish win against Clemson? Of course!
After all, any team can win on any given Saturday.