Tale of the tape: Who has the edge when No. 4 Clemson visits Notre Dame Saturday

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) runs the ball on a play that was called back during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

When Notre Dame has the ball

The Tigers rank 11th in run defense with 2.98 yards allowed per carry. They are tied for seventh with just five rushing touchdowns allowed, but four of those have come in their past four games. The longest scoring run against Clemson is 20 yards by Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis. The longest TD run by a non-QB against Clemson is 4 yards. … Michael Mayer, tied with Ken MacAfee (1974-77) for most career touchdown catches by a tight end in program history, has seen his catch rate drop to 52% of his targets after being at 70% through five games. Just one of Mayer’s six TD catches have come over his past three games, although he had one wiped out by penalty against Stanford and another overturned by replay review against UNLV. … Notre Dame is tied for 69th in points for game (28.4), while the Clemson defense is tied for 21st (19.9).

Edge: Clemson

More:'Mitch-A-Palooza:' How Mitchell Evans carved his post-injury role in Notre Dame's offense

When Clemson has the ball

Clemson running back Will Shipley (1) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

The Tigers have allowed 14 sacks and rank 53rd in pass-blocking efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus. Junior quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has 17 fumbles in 23 career starts. … Sophomore running back Will Shipley, a five-star recruit who strongly considered Notre Dame, has forced 32 missed tackles, including 30 on rushing plays. His 3.87 yards after contact account for 476 of his 726 rushing yards (65.6%). … The Tigers have a 48% conversion rate on third down and have returned to customary territory (21st nationally) after sagging to 87th last season. … Clemson is third in the country in red-zone efficiency, coming away empty on just one of 39 trips; the Irish are tied with Rutgers for worst in the country, allowing points on all 20 of their opponents’ trips to the 20-yard-line and in.

Edge: Notre Dame

Special Teams

Oct 29, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jordan Botelho (12) recovers a blocked punt to set up a score against the Syracuse Orange in the fourth quarter at JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson ranks first in special teams efficiency, as measured by Pro Football Focus, while Notre Dame ranks 13th. The Tigers have blocked two punts, both in a season-opening blowout of Georgia Tech, while the Irish have set a modern program record with five blocked punts, including four over the past three games. The all-time program record is seven, set in 1932 and tied in 1933 under coach Hunk Anderson, who lasted just three seasons after succeeding the late Knute Rockne. … Irish punt returner Brandon Joseph is 21st in the country with an average return of 9.88 yards.

Edge: Notre Dame  

Coaching

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (5) and Head Coach Dabo Swinney talk with 11 minutes left during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina Saturday, October 22, 2022.

Including the Fiesta Bowl loss, Marcus Freeman is 2-3 in games decided by one score, including 1-2 at home. … Notre Dame has outscored opponents 81-29 in the second quarter but has been outscored in the third quarter, 50-38. … Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is closing in on his 12th straight season with double-digit wins. Under Swinney, who took over in 2008, the Tigers are 15-2 when coming off a bye week with nine straight wins. With an extra week to prepare, they are averaging 33.4 points with a two-touchdown average margin of victory. … Notre Dame is among the top-20 least-penalized teams both in terms of penalties per game (4.6) and average penalty yardage (40.9). Clemson has been flagged for an average of 57.8 penalty yards (tied for 67th).

Edge: Clemson

More:Marcus Freeman on Notre Dame's latest crack at Clemson: 'It's not a David vs. Goliath'

Predictions

Tom Noie Notre Dame 23, Clemson 21: It's time for Notre Dame to play way above its previous levels at home. Time to go and win a big game. Time for some Irish magic. Time for Marcus Freeman. Time.

Mike Berardino — Notre Dame 10, Clemson 9:  Another narrow home upset at night over a top-five Tigers team, this one with a full house on hand to assist.

Justin Frommer — Clemson 31, Notre Dame 24: Home struggles continue for Marcus Freeman's crew as Clemson gets its revenge from the 2020 upset. 

Michael Wanbaugh — Clemson 27, Notre Dame 17: If there is going to be another ND field storming like 2020, Irish QB Drew Pyne needs to take a major step forward. Saturday's margin of error is too slim.