Folks, the College Football Playoff is finally here, and we’re just hours away from the first semifinal. This year’s Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is sure to excite when two undefeated squads enter Jerry’s World for the opportunity to make it one step closer to glory.

How They Got Here: Clemson Tigers

Clemson found themselves in a peculiar situation after a trip to the College Football Playoff last year ended in failure. A quarterback standoff between incumbent starter Kelly Bryant and incoming freshman Trevor Lawrence headlined an otherwise quiet offseason for the Tigers.

Kelly won the job, only to be replaced by Lawrence on September 24th as the full time starter. Clemson has enjoyed another smooth run without any bumps in the road and Lawrence has taken the offense by the reigns. But it’s another Lawrence that’s drawn the attention during bowl season.

NFL prospect and top defensive lineman for the Tigers Dexter Lawrence won’t be on the field today. It was announced both his A and B drug test samples came back positive for Ostarine, an experimental supplement not legally found in the United States. He is ineligible for Saturday’s game. More importantly, this could have a dramatic effect on his draft stock in 2019.

How They Got Here: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame found themselves in a similar situation as the Tigers at the beginning of the year. Brandon Wimbush started all year the previous season, and while the Irish fizzled out toward the end, he earned back the lead spot in 2018. Although Ian Book mounted a comeback against LSU in the bowl game to finish their last season, he found himself stuck on the shelf… until the third game.

Suddenly, the offense became a well oiled machine. Dexter Williams, Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr seem freed up in the middle between the tackles with Book leading the a definitive passing attack.

And with a stifling defense led by “heart and soul” captain Drue Tranquill, this Irish team could control the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and find themselves on College Football’s biggest stage next week.

Player To Watch: Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame

Eye-test’s create quite a stir this time of the year. Notre Dame passes the eye-test with Ian Book, but had issues with a Brandon Wimbush-led offense.

Book has a better ability to make throws with pinpoint accuracy. While the defense should be able to keep it close, even against a high powered offense like Clemson’s, this game hangs in the balance with Ian Book. Mistake-free, aggressive play calling and execution, and exploiting the Tigers’ missing piece in Lawrence up the middle is the only way to win this one.

Gamblers’ Corner

I bet with my heart, which is a big no-no. The Irish are 12.5 point underdogs. I love it. Lull Dabo into a false sense of security and attack, right? We’ll know in the first five minutes who showed up to play and if the Irish are going to have another meltdown like in 2012. With a spread THAT big, it’s too tempting to pass up. I’m taking Notre Dame (+12.5).

Prediction

If they can keep it close, and if Ian Book plays solid football, along with a decent effort from the running backs, Notre Dame can steal it. I’m hoping they steal it. But Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne might be able to break through the Notre Dame defense, as they’ve done all season. Notre Dame, 26… Clemson, 28. 🙁

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