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Clemson, Notre Dame Already a Headliner

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Past, present and future, this has the potential to be college football's signature showcase.

National Signing Day just ended. Spring practice has not yet started. That said, there are already headline games worth looking forward to for this fall. One that highlights the national schedule, both for current and classical reasons, is a November 7th showdown between Clemson and Notre Dame; it was recently announced that the NBC broadcast will fittingly kick off at 7:30pm, set for a well-deserved primetime national audience.

Past, present and future, this has the potential to be college football's signature showcase.

The Tigers and Fighting Irish have played three regular seasons contests all-time, with the trio of showdowns being decided by 12 total points. Notre Dame rallied to win 21-17 in the first-ever meeting between the two programs, with star quarterbacks Steve Fuller and Joe Montana leading their respective sides. Two years later, Clemson earned a landmark victory over the powerful Fighting Irish under the leadership a young head coach named Danny Ford. Just 31 at the time, he remains the youngest coach to win at Notre Dame since 1934.

In terms of recent regular season matchups, a heavyweight bout between the two in 2015 lived up to the hype. Quarterback Deshaun Watson paced the Tigers to an early multi-score lead, only to have the Fighting Irish march all of the way back in the game's final moments. After a dramatic DeShone Kizer touchdown pass brought Notre Dame within two points with merely seven seconds remaining, Clemson's defense proved true on the score's ensuing two-point conversion, keeping Kizer just short of the home goaline. The end result was one of the best games of the entire season.

A 2018 Cotton Bowl pairing in the College Football Playoff was one of the exclamation points on the Tigers' championship run. Clemson's penultimate performance was a powerful one, outgaining Notre Dame 538 total yards to just 248. The Tigers won by a final score of 30-3. It was a statement victory for Clemson, as the Tigers used their momentum as a springboard into a similarly-convincing triumph over Alabama in the title bout. 

This November's pairing will be a fascinating litmus test for both Clemson and Notre Dame, with some of the big names, beyond just head coaches Dabo Swinney and Brian Kelly, still involved. 

The Tigers are the clear choice for pre-season number one. In returning star quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, Clemson has one of college football's most accomplished backfields ever. Notable holdovers out wide, along the line of scrimmage and on defense will team with the most heralded recruiting class in program history. Swinney has built a modern day dynasty and the expectations for a team that has made five consecutive playoff appearances remain the same.  

Veteran signal caller Ian Book, back for yet one more year, leads Notre Dame's forward charge. Fresh off 34 touchdown passes and just six interceptions, he headlines a talented side for the Fighting Irish that is getting early top ten attention. Impressively, Notre Dame has gone 33-6 the past three seasons. The Fighting Irish have currently won six games in a row, with an 11-2 mark overall since the aforementioned loss to the national champions in the final four.

At a place where countless memorable games have been played, the first Saturday in November has a chance to be another special moment. A shared history, high expectations, a storied venue; Clemson-Notre Dame 5.0 awaits as a contest that just might be college football's most anticipated game of the year.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports