Week One: Notre Dame vs Clemson
What better way to open up season five play than with a rematch of the season four Orange Bowl. Both teams travel all the way to Atlanta, GA to kick things off Tuesday night. Clemson should maintain a healthy near-home field advantage, but don’t count Notre Dame out as their fans are definitely going to travel for a game of this magnitude. Can a new look Clemson team show the same dominance as their previous iteration? Or will a Notre Dame squad headlined by a freshman QB pull the upset to start the season off with a bang? It’s time to yet again dive into this match up and see what kind of showing we can expect from these two CFSL juggernauts.
Still a young offense, this crop of players has a lot to prove on the field this season. Star halfback Joe Pantoja returns for his sophomore season poised for a breakout on the big stage. For a freshman season, 206 carries for 1121 yards is a more than respectable showing. His 5.4 yards per carry average is particularly impressive as any HB who breaks the 5 YPC mark against these stacked defenses is worth his weight in gold. In addition to Pantoja, Notre Dame gains wide receiver Albert Saenz from the now defunct FSU. The near 1000 yard receiver should be a huge threat on this overhauled offense on day one. The obvious question mark is new QB Leo Asiata. The young gun is highly talented, but playing against one of the best defenses in recent memory is not a great situation to play your first game in. If he can find a rhythm, Asiata can flash his talent and prove that he can ball with the league’s best.
The big story for Notre Dame’s defense is the return of Shane Razorback. Razorback, one of the most consistent and respected pass rushers in the league, is entering his final season poised to cap off an illustrious career. If anyone happens to get by him, the combo of Mason Miller and Duke Thomas are sure to clean things up. Our main question is about their secondary. Most teams are swapping to five defensive back looks, but the Irish have stuck with a group of four four star players for season five. That being said, it’s not like these guys are nobodies. Tyrell Solo and Jackson Stone are some of the most respected corners in the league for their high level of play. Returning Michael Jerome Pluth and Zeus Williams also gives their safeties a little punch. All in all, this team should be able to hold their own against anyone.
Our reigning national champions bring in a slightly new look on offense this year, particularly at quarterback. Out is DJ Moss, the former player of the year and number one prospect. In comes Senior Javon Mack after running the show for Michigan through the last three seasons. For all the jokes that get made about Mack being more of a runningback, I would be shocked if he wasn’t near the top of OPOY voting by the end of the year. His fit is perfect for this team and it’s going to show right away. Add in Mike Chadwick in the backfield with him and you’ll have to pick your poison. AR15 combines with Keith Blazer and Jay Moe to headline one of the more aggressive receiving groups out there. If you’re playing this team, make sure your defensive coordinator is doing his homework. Otherwise you’re going to have a very bad day.
Last season defense was the biggest strength for the Tigers as they led in multiple categories when things were said and done. This year’s squad isn’t much different, but boasts another All-American addition in Jack Tyler. We don’t see many 5 star LB combos, but adding him to an already rock solid Kobe King poses an interesting combination to game plan against. As always, Barry Allen is going to roam the field and cause chaos every snap. But the real threat on this defense is Mike Miller. Money Mike was one of the most oppressive defensive lineman in the league last year, boasting some amazing pass rushing stats. His pressure causes guys like Dionte Bing and Nick Thompson to get plenty of chances to step up and make plays. Yet again, Clemson seems like a complete unit coming into the season.
Notre Dame DE Shane Razorback vs Clemson QB Javon Mack
With this being the debut of Javon Mack in orange, it’s hard not to put all eyes on him. To our viewers delight, he gets to line up across from Shane Razorback. If anyone is going to get a few hits on a mobile QB, it’s going to be Razorback. Watch the edge and see if he gets double covered early in the game. If he does, Mack may find room on the opposite side of the rush and get some huge yardage. If they decide to try their luck one on one, see if Mack runs into the end a couple times or pulls his usual Houdini act to escape.
Considering we just saw these two teams play in the Orange Bowl, it’s no surprise that they are both two of the most talented teams in the league. However, I think it’s safe to say that Clemson is a decent favorite in this matchup. The off season was very kind to them with the additions of Mack and Tyler. I expect both of them to show immediate results on the field and lead their team to victory.
Notre Dame 24, Clemson 31