The College Football Playoff is finally here and the postseason veterans are looking primed to lock up another trip to the title game.
Following a slow start in the first semifinal game on Saturday afternoon, No. 2 Clemson hit halftime holding a 23-3 lead over No. 3 Notre Dame at the Cotton Bowl in a tense battle between the two heavyweights at AT&T Stadium.
The Tigers didn’t really get going until the second quarter but appeared to find their groove once they settled in. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence looked nothing like a true freshman on the big stage, throwing for 264 yards and two touchdowns while also proving to be quite the threat as a runner with 13 yards on the ground and a handful of key first down pick-ups. Fellow true freshman Justyn Ross was also big early on and wound up with 137 yards and two trips to the end zone.
If there was any area of concern it might be that tailback Travis Etienne only had 19 yards rushing but CU will certainly take that with the lead they have in the locker room.
As for Notre Dame, only having three points hid the fact that their offense was able to move the ball for stretches. QB Ian Book threw for 107 yards despite heavy pressure and Dexter Williams was up to 38 total yards after getting involved both rushing and catching the ball. Still, things slowed down considerably for the group after the clock flipped over to the second quarter after a decent debut.
One other storyline to keep an eye on? The Irish defense loosing a number of starters in the first half.
Cornerback Julian Love missed most of the second quarter for unspecified reasons and could be seen in the injury tent and riding the stationary bike on the sideline. That would be a huge blow because his replacement give up the Ross touchdown catch and to make matters worse, safety Alohi Gilman was shaken up for a few plays before returning and giving up a touchdown. Defensive end Julian Okwara missed time as well.
We’ll see if Brian Kelly’s team can get things into gear after the break but at least so far, we’re seen one of the elite teams in the country this season assert control of the Cotton Bowl to put Clemson 30 minutes away from return to the title game.