For years, I’ve always kind of snickered at the official name of the Cotton Bowl game. That’s because organizers have insisted on calling it the “Cotton Bowl Classic.” While this bowl certainly has a long, proud history, most of their matchups recently have been far from classic.
Today’s game may actually live up to the name.
That’s because this year’s game features a pair of undefeated teams in the #2 Clemson Tigers and the #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish with a berth in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on the line.
If you’ve ever read a school’s game notes, you typically get all sorts of crazy little factoids that are intended to lead you to the conclusion that that school will win the game. Looking at Clemson’s game notes, the superlatives abound. For instance, since 2011, Clemson is the second-most winningest team in college football, both in terms of wins and winning percentage. Only Alabama has won more games or has a better winning percentage.
Of course, Notre Dame has won 21 of their last 23 games since the Irish beat Boston College on September 16, 2017. That’s a pretty impressive run in their own right.
Irish quarterback Ian Book has completed 70.4% of his passes this season, but Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is that far off with his 65.0% completion rate. These guys are also remarkably similar in terms of passing efficiency. Book’s ranks eighth in efficiency with a 162.50 rating while Lawrence isn’t far behind with a rating of 154.02. Lawrence has the edge in terms of total touchdown passes this season with 24 to Book’s 19.
Clemson looks to be more of a balanced attack offensively. If Lawrence doesn’t beat you with his arm, running back Travis Etienne can do it on the ground. Etienne ran for more than 1400 yards and 21 touchdowns this season while averaging 8.31 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Dexter Williams ran for “only” 941 yards and 12 touchdowns and averaging 6.63 yards per carry.
Defensively, Clemson looks to be weaker against the pass while Notre Dame looks to be weaker against the run. These weaknesses appear to play into the other team’s strength.
Overall, this game looks to be a great matchup and, ultimately, it will likely come down to which team is able to turn the ball over and score off those turnovers.
Personally, my prediction is that I think Clemson wins it. There’s just something about Dabo.
This is your College Football Playoff Semifinal Cotton Bowl Classic open thread.