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Clemson Football

Keys to Victory: Clemson vs. Notre Dame

November 4, 2023

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Each week, we review the game’s history, three keys to success, and Swanny’s prediction.

The Match-Up:

Clemson (4-4, 2-4 ACC) at Notre Dame (7-2)

Notre Dame has visited Memorial Stadium only twice, first in 1977 and again in 2015. The Irish's 2015 visit ranks among the most memorable contests in the facility's history, as 12th-ranked Clemson defeated sixth-ranked Notre Dame in ESPN College GameDay's featured contest. Amid a torrential downpour from the remnants of Hurricane Joaquin, Clemson jumped out to a 21-3 third-quarter lead. The Tigers withstood a furious Notre Dame rally and snuffed out a Notre Dame two-point conversion attempt with seven seconds remaining to hold on to a 24-22 victory that spawned Head Coach Dabo Swinney's famous "Bring Your Own Guts" postgame comments.

Series History:

  • OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 4-3
  • HOME: Series is tied, 1-1
  • ROAD: Clemson trails series, 1-2
  • NEUTRAL: Clemson leads series, 2-0
  • LAST MEETING: Nov. 5, 2022 (35-14, L)
  • STREAK: Notre Dame, Won 1


Stat of the Week:

Clemson enters the game having scored a rushing touchdown in 50 consecutive games at Death Valley, the nation's longest active home streak. The last team to hold Clemson without a rushing touchdown at Memorial Stadium was Troy in 2016.

Chasing History:

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney will attempt to pass College Football Hall of Famer Frank Howard for sole possession of Clemson's all-time head coaching wins record-- for a third consecutive weekend after falling at Miami 28-20 (2 OT) and NC State 24-17.

Key 1: Control the Defensive Front

Stopping the Fighting Irish offense will be a tough task, but the Tigers can improve their chances by forcing Notre Dame to become a bit one-dimensional. Running back Audric Estimé cast a huge shadow on the Irish victory in South Bend last season. Given the addition of Sam Hartman at quarterback, I don’t think Clemson can afford to allow Estimé get going.

The talk of the season was about the return of Tyler Davis and Ruke Orhorhoro, and to me-- this would be a game where those two need to come up big if the Tigers plan to sneak out of Death Valley with a win.

Key 2: Irish Turnovers

Turnovers have been a bug-a-boo for the Clemson offense, but to be fair, the defense hasn’t forced a lot of turnovers after making that an emphasis in the offseason. None of that excuses the offense being loose with the football, but if you expect to win today, Wes Goodwin’s defense needs to help out by giving the offense some short-field situations. 

This season, Clemson has six interceptions and six fumbles recovered this year, and today’s game feels like one of those where the Tigers need to finish +2 in the margin. I’m not saying you have to have scoop-and-score or a pick-six, but if the Tigers don’t force a few turnovers, a comfortable Sam Hartman will snag an elusive first win vs. Clemson after starting his career 0-4 against the Tigers.

By the way, if Clemson wins, Hartman will become the first quarterback since Chris Rix at FSU to lose five times to a single team. Rix lost five times to the Hurricanes while quarterbacking the Seminoles.

Key 3: Mafah Time

I said it last week, and I’ll repeat it-- feed Phil Mafah. Even if he might be a bit of a liability in pass-pro, Mafah is the best running back right now, given his size, power, and vision. With Will Shipley banged up, Mafah put together a good second half at NC State. Had he been given the bulk of the carriers all afternoon, I believe the Tigers would have had better success on the ground early-- even with the shaky offensive line play.

Today is Mafah’s time to shine, and he needs a big performance for the Tigers to pick up a win.


From the first quarter of the Duke game, nothing has felt normal for Clemson this season, and through the first eight games of the season, there hasn’t been a vast improvement. The offensive line woes have continued to plague the team, and now the Tigers face their second-toughest challenge of the year against the Fighting Irish defensive front.

As for slowing down Notre Dame, I don’t have a lot of confidence that Clemson can stand up against the Irish line after being pushed around last season.

To steal a line from Dabo Swinney-- to a degree-- I would certainly appreciate a win over Notre Dame, but I don’t expect it.

Notre Dame 31, Clemson 20


Swanny’s Predictions: 

Date Matchup Swanny’s Prediction Actual Score ✅ or 

9-4-2023 No. 9 Clemson at Duke 38-17 Clemson  28-7 Duke
9-9-2023 No. 25 Clemson vs. Charleston Southern 45-10 Clemson 66-17 Clemson
9-16-2023 Clemson vs. Florida Atlantic 45-10 Clemson 48-14
9-23-2023 Clemson vs. No. 4 Florida State 31-24 FSU 31-24 FSU (OT)
9-30-2023 Clemson at Syracuse 31-20 Clemson 31-14 Clemson
10-7-2023 Clemson vs. Wake Forest 42-17 Clemson 17-12 Clemson
10-21-2023 Clemson at Miami 27-23 Clemson 28-20 Miami (2 OT)
10-28-2023 Clemson at NC State 28-17 Clemson 24-17 NC State
11-4-2023 Clemson vs. Notre Dame 31-20 Notre Dame

✅ = Correct Prediction

Discussion from...

Keys to Victory: Clemson vs. Notre Dame

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