WHO: No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson (13-0)
WHAT: The 83rd Cotton Bowl Classic (and the game’s second College Football Playoff Semifinal)
WHEN: 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
THE SKINNY: The Echoes. The Guts. The Playoff.
Clemson finds themselves right back in another semifinal to nobody’s surprise after dominating from just about start to finish this season. The Tigers check off just about every box you’re looking for, ranking in the top five in both scoring offense and scoring defense in 2018 and winning all but two of their games by 20 or more points. You can pick your poison on offense as tailback Travis Etienne averages over eight yards a carry while wideouts like Tee Higgins can stretch the field with big play after big play. Old reliable Hunter Renfrow is also a frequent target for freshman QB Trevor Lawrence, who has been stellar since taking over for Kelly Bryant four games into the season and has more than lived up to his billing as the top player in the class of 2018.
Dabo Swinney’s squad is pretty impressive on defense too. While most of the conversation leading up to the game has surrounded the suspension of defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence due to a failed drug test, Clemson is still loaded up front with potential first rounders like Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins. The Tigers only give up 13.7 points per game and sport quite the rotation at every level of their defense, from sideline-to-sideline guys like linebacker Tre Lamar to a lockdown defender in corner Trayvon Mullen.
Going up against all that is yet another undefeated Notre Dame squad who has passed every test this year with flying colors. While some might have visions of the 2012 group getting blasted by Alabama in the BCS title game, head coach Brian Kelly will be the first to tell you that this year’s edition of the Irish is a lot better on both sides of the ball and more than capable of going toe-to-toe with anybody. One reason why has been the play of quarterback Ian Book, himself a signal-caller who took over mid-year and somebody who can beat you over the top with his arm or on the ground scrambling if needed. Playing behind an excellent offensive line, he forms a pretty good tandem in the backfield with either running back Dexter Williams or Jafar Armstrong, both of whom can turn a little space into a huge gain.
ND’s defense is no slouch either, ranking No. 4 in S&P+ and rolling out veterans like DT Jerry Tillery in the middle and Thorpe Award finalist Julian Love on the back end. The entire group doesn’t give up many big plays and have a good enough two-deep to throw a lot of different looks, players and coverages out there to stymie just about any attack.
Bottle it all up and you have the ingredients for a potentially epic semifinal matchup between two programs who are all too familiar with each other. The biggest key to the ball game will be which offense can more consistently move the chains and convert scoring opportunities, which has typically been the Tigers this season. The Irish will certainly be able to make things interesting and keep it close but eventually the ACC champs pull away and book their ticket to yet another title game.
THE PICK: Clemson 27, Notre Dame 17
A week after being a game-time decision against Ohio State, Indiana quarterback Michael Penix appears to be heading to a similar fate this week. Only this time, the Hoosiers are hoping to get their starting quarterback on the field this week.
Indiana head coach Tom Allen the likely plan this week will be to leave a decision on whether or not to play Penix as a game-time decision, similar to last week. Just before the Hoosiers kicked off at home against the buckeyes, Penix was ruled out for the game. Peyton Ramsey took over the offense for the game. Ramsey would likely get the starting nod if Penix is ruled out for this weekend’s game against UConn. Jack Tuttle also played for Indiana against Ohio State and could be used as well.
“I don’t foresee it, hopefully, not being a day-to-day thing the rest of the season, but at the same time, for this Saturday’s game, we definitely aren’t going to know for several more days,” Allen said to reporters on Monday. “He probably will eventually be a game-time decision with him, but I don’t expect that to keep being the case every single week.”
The nature of the injury that has sidelined Penix has not been confirmed by Allen. Penix started the first two games of the season.
As reports were swirling around about a possible injury to their starting quarterback, Texas Tech has announced Alan Bowan will be out for “several weeks” as a result of a shoulder injury. The injury occurred during Texas Tech’s road game at Arizona this past weekend.
Bowman was examined briefly on the Texas Tech sideline during a road trip to Arizona last weekend (which resulted in a loss to the Arizona Wildcats). Bowman did not miss any playing time, so news of a potentially lengthy injury comes as a bit of a surprise. Bowman was taken to the ground by a defender. No penalty was called on the play.
The Red Raiders will now likely go with Jett Duffey to lead the offense at the position. Texas Tech is off this week. While Texas Tech has not shared an expected timeline for Bowman’s return, prior rumors surrounding the injury were suggesting it could be anywhere from six to eight weeks before Bowman returns to the field.
If Bowman is out for six weeks, he would potentially miss games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas. If absent for eight weeks, tack on a game at West Virginia to the mix (Texas Tech has another bye week between road games at Kansas and West Virginia. That would be quite a tough stretch for Texas Tech to be without its starting quarterback, whether for six or eight weeks.
Bowman has thrown for 1,020 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions in three games this season.
As if losing a game to Virginia was not bad enough for the Florida State Seminoles, head coach Willie Taggart announce don Monday linebacker Joshua Kaindoh will miss the remainder of the season. Kaindoh, a former five-star recruit and a starter for the Seminole defense, is out for the year due to a lower-body ankle injury, according to Taggart.
Kaindoh suffered the injury in the second quarter of Saturday’s loss at Virginia. He was carted off the field. Kaindoh has appeared in every game since his arrival at Florida State in 2017. Because he has only appeared in three games this season, he is eligible to use a redshirt season this year to preserve two more years of eligibility beginning in 2020. The NCAA modified the redshirt rule last season to allow players to save a redshirt season as long as they appear in four games or fewer during the season.
With Kaindoh out of action, that will likely lead to Florida State using Janarius Robinson on more plays, as the two had been splitting playing time this season. But depth on the defensive line has become a growing concern for Florida State, who has been dealing with all sorts of issues on defense to start the season.
Kaindoh’s season comes to an abrupt end with nine tackles and a sack.
Taggart also made note that left tackle Jauan Williams is now “week-to-week” while he bounces back from an ankle injury form Week 2, the severity of which is far less troublesome than the injury to Kaindoh.
LSU safety Todd Harris will miss the rest of the 2019 season, head coach Ed Orgeron announced on Monday. Orgeron did not go into specifics regarding the injury to his junior safety. Harris was injured in the first half of Saturday night’s home win against Northwestern State, and he later returned to the field on crutches.
Orgeron only confirmed the injury was a season-ending injury, but he also explained Harris will be able to preserve a year of eligibility.
“We will use this year as a redshirt,” Orgeron said, according to The Advocate.
Because Harris did not appear in more than four games this season, he is allowed by the NCAA to use the 2019 season as a redshirt season, thus giving him two remaining years of eligibility beginning in 2020. The NCAA changed the redshirt rule last year to allow players to appear in up to four games without burning a year of their eligibility just for merely stepping foot on the field.
“It’s unfortunate. It was an unfortunate accident,” Orgeron said. “He just landed on the ground wrong.”
As for who replaces Harris on the depth chart, that job appears to be heading to junior safety JaCoby Stevens, who Orgeron noted was going to be used to fill the void.