This will be the 5th year of the college football playoff, and it will mark the first time that a team outside of the Power 5 conferences will be making an appearance. It was beginning to look as though we would never see an outsider get in, especially after the UCF Knights went unbeaten for two straight seasons and still couldn’t get close.

The playoff committee has broken from that trend this year, though, voting in the unbeaten Notre Dame Fighting Irish. There are some who will argue that an independent team who don’t play a Championship Game don’t deserve to be in, but it’s hard to argue against what the Irish have done this season. Let’s take a look at how they can beat Clemson in the Cotton Bowl on December 29.

The Irish Running Attack

This is a team that averaged close to 200 YPG on the ground during the regular season, as well as 265 YPG through the air. It is that running attack that is important, though, as they are going to need to get that going if they are to win two more games this season. Their success on the ground starts with their offensive line, which is arguably one of the best in the college game. Besides blasting holes open for running, they also deliver great protection for their QB. If the Irish are to go on and win this, they are first going to need to stop Trevor Lawrence and then likely Tua. The best way to slow down great QB’s is to keep them off the field, which they can do with an effective running game designed to keep drives alive.

College Football: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Review to Win Cotton Bowl_Ian-Book

The Front Seven

Another way to hurt opposing QB’s ability to get the job done is to apply as much pressure as possible, which is something that the Irish front seven has done all year. This is a group filled with veteran guys and big playmakers, which means that they always have a shot at creating turnovers on every snap. While Trevor Lawrence has been great for Clemson this season, we have to remember that he is still a first-year starter, so it’s going to be interesting to see how well he handles pressure from the defensive front of Notre Dame. We all saw how close Georgia came to ousting Alabama after a great performance from their front seven, so look for Notre Dame to use that against Clemson in the Cotton Bowl.

College Football: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Review to Win Cotton Bowl_Jerry-Tillery

Potential Mismatches on Offense

While the running attack gets a lot of the love for the Irish, as they should, we also cannot make the mistake of overlooking their wide receivers. In Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool, the Irish have a pair of big targets that are a nightmare to defend. Both are over 6-foot-4 and both have the ability to go up and get balls that rightfully should not be caught. Notre Dame are going to try and run the ball first, but they also know that they have a dual threat at WR if they are forced to adopt more of a passing game.

The Irish are going to be very much up against in the Cotton Bowl against a Clemson team with a ton of playoff experience, but they do have the tools to create an upset.

College Football: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Review to Win Cotton Bowl_Julian-Love

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