Cotton Bowl 2018: Latest Odds, Prediction for Clemson vs. Notre Dame Playoff

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 8, 2018

Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) runs for a touchdown against Wake Forest during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The first of two College Football Playoff semifinals to be played December 29 is being overlooked by the showdown after it. 

However, No. 2 Clemson's Cotton Bowl matchup with No. 3 Notre Dame is worth the same amount of hype as the Orange Bowl. 

The Tigers are the overwhelming favorite, but the undefeated Fighting Irish have plenty of big-play potential in their offense to try to keep up with the offense of Dabo Swinney's team. 

Clemson enters with an advantage in playoff experience, as it's been participated in the playoff on four occasions, while the Irish are making their first appearance since the new format was introduced for the 2014 season.

                 

Cotton Bowl Odds (via OddsShark)

Spread: Clemson -11.5 

Money Line: Clemson (-420; Bet $420 to win $100); Notre Dame (+375; Bet $100 to win $375) 

Over/Under: 55 

                 

Prediction

Clemson 42, Notre Dame 27

No opponent has been able to slow down Clemson's offense, and although Notre Dame possesses the ninth-best scoring defense, the Tigers will be able to put up another high total. 

In eight of their 13 victories, the Tigers eclipsed 40 points, and they've only scored fewer than 30 points twice. 

Running back Travis Etienne will be the top playmaker for the Tigers, as he follows up on a regular season in which he ran for 1,463 yards and 21 touchdowns

By setting the tone early on the ground, Etienne helps take whatever pressure freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence is feeling away. 

Although they won't have an answer for Clemson's ground game right away, the Fighting Irish will be able to provide a response through quarterback Ian Book and his experienced receivers. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Quarterback Ian Book #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish throws a pass against the USC Trojans during the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djanse
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Attacking Clemson through the air is the best way to go about scoring points since the rushing game has to go through the dominant defensive line of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell.

Brian Kelly's team will put trust in Dexter Williams to pick up yards on the ground, but that won't occur until it gives itself confidence it can keep up with the Tigers. 

Eventually, Clemson's front four makes an impact on the contest, but it won't be by stopping Williams, as instead they'll get pressure on Book and disrupt the Notre Dame quarterback to allow their teammates to create separation on the other side of the ball. 

Once Lawrence reaches a comfort zone at AT&T Stadium, he'll be unflappable, as he connects with leading receiver Tee Higgins for at least one score. 

Don't be surprised if Lawrence finds a way to get Hunter Renfrow involved either, as the senior, who feels like he's been around forever, is no stranger to the spotlight in playoff games. 

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 24:  Teammates Hunter Renfrow #13 and Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers react after a play against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Clemson Memorial Stadium on November 24, 2018 in Clemson, South Carolina.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

After slicing holes in Notre Dame's defense for three quarters, the Tigers finally open up a double-digit gap and shut down the Fighting Irish in the fourth. 

By limiting Notre Dame's offensive plays to its own half of the field over the final 15 minutes, Clemson should cover while advancing into the National Championship for yet another playoff showdown with Alabama.

                     

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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