Kurt Hinish dives for a Clemson running back during the CFP Semifinal game in 2018 (Photo: William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)

Notre Dame, Clemson: two powerhouse programs that have been playing the game for a very long time.

But there have only been six matchups between the two in their long histories, and each game has had national title implications.

In the 1977 season, Joe Montana and company traveled to Clemson and escaped with a 21-17 victory.  The Irish went on to win the National Championship that year. 36 players that participated in the game went on to NFL careers.

In 1979 Clemson set a Notre Dame Stadium record by running the ball 74 times and came from behind to defeat the Irish 16-10.  The Clemson program, it is said turned the corner that day under second year head coach Danny Ford. Two years later the Tigers won their first ever national title.

In 2015, Clemson was led by Deshaun Watson, ND by Deshone Kizer and both teams were undefeated. The game was played as the outer rings of Hurricane Joaquin engulfed South Carolina.   ND had fallen behind 21-3 going into the 4th quarter before a furious Fighting Irish comeback fell just short when Kizer was stopped inches short of the goal line on a 2-point conversion attempt with 7 seconds left. Clemson prevailed 24-22 and went on to a 14-1 season, their only loss coming to Alabama by five points in the National Championship game.  

In 2018 the two teams met in the College Football Playoff semifinal.  After one quarter the teams seemed evenly matched but a key injury to Irish cornerback Julian Love in the second quarter was the only opening sensational freshman Trevor Lawrence needed. Lawrence tossed 3 TD passes before half and Clemson cruised to a 30-3 win.  A week later the Tigers pounded Alabama 44-16 to win the National championship.

In the 2020 pandemic season the Irish and the Tigers met not once, but twice.

The first of the match-ups saw the then 4th ranked Irish emerge victorious against #1 ranked Clemson in an epic, two overtime struggle.  Kyren Williams ran for 3 TDs, one on the first play of the game, the other two in overtime and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had a memorable 23-yard scoop and score. The Irish prevailed 47-40.

A few weeks later in the ACC championship game rematch, the Irish did not fair nearly as well as Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne had their way, 34-10.  Both teams went to the College Football Playoff, which was eventually won by Alabama.

This week CFP implications once more are in play but only for #5 and 8-0 Clemson as they look to break into the national top four.  As for the Irish, who stand at a disappointing 5-3, they bring some momentum after dismantling Syracuse a week ago and are looking to complete a turnaround of their season.  If they could reach 6-3 suddenly a decent bowl, and double digit wins would be within their grasp.

Whatever the result of this week’s 7th ever match up between the two programs, it will once again have a major impact on each team’s season.

By Phil Houk

For 25 years, bringing you the glory of Notre Dame football.

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