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2018 Cotton Bowl Pick

College Football

2018 Cotton Bowl: Teams, Facts, and Pick

Let the Playoffs begin.

We know who is in, and the 2018 Cotton Bowl will answer which team is the first one off to the national championship.

I bet you thought that Clemson was going to get into the Orange Bowl just because they are in the ACC. That would be incorrect, because Clemson got sent out to the DFW area for their national semifinal game. The opposition: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, CFP virgins about to give it a go for the first time. You know, for some, your first time is scary, a little weird, a producer of inexplicable and otherwise unforeseen sensations, and ultimately not very satisfying. Notre Dame hopes the first time is the charm, but even if not, experience makes you better. Well, I mean, it didn’t make the Buffalo Bills better in the Super Bowl, but as a general principle let’s stick with that.

Clemson, on the other hand, has plenty of experience. This is their fourth appearance in the College Football Playoff and they are a national champion from a few years back. Some believe they are the only team that can beat Alabama, although Georgia came very close earlier in December. So many are looking forward to Alabama-Clemson IV that they forget it may not happen if the Fighting Irish, er, fight back.

Which of these elite teams moves on to the final round?

Previous Bowls Picked: Cure | New Mexico | Las Vegas | Camellia | New Orleans | Boca Raton | Frisco | Gasparilla | Bahamas | Idaho Potato | Birmingham | Armed Forces | Dollar General | Hawaii | First Responder | Quick Lane | Cheez-It | Independence | Pinstripe | Texas | Music City | Camping World | Alamo | Belk | Arizona | Peach (NY6)

2018 Cotton Bowl: This Year’s Bowl Info

Saturday, December 29, 2018, 4:00pm ET (1:00pm PT)
AT&T Stadium, Arlington Texas
College Football Playoff Semifinal #1
Broadcast on ESPN
Payout dervied from CFP Revenue Pool (Link: College Football Poll)
Clemson is a 13-point favorite

2018 Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

12-0; FBS independent
Best Win: Michigan
Offensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Offense 34th, Total Offense 28th, Rushing Offense 48th, 3rd Downs 28th, Time of Possession 85th, Turnover Margin 34th, Sacks Allowed 27th, Red Zone 48th
Defensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Defense 10th, Total Defense 20th, Rushing Defense 33rd, Opponent 3rd Downs 58th, Sacks Per Game 36th, TFL Per Game 63rd, Interceptions 34th, Opponent Red Zone 31st
Special Teams Ranks (out of 130): Field Goal Kicking 31st, Punts Per Game 112th

2018 Cotton Bowl: Clemson Tigers

13-0 (8-0 ACC); 2018 ACC Champions
Best Win: Syracuse
Offensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Offense 5th, Total Offense 5th, Rushing Offense 9th, 3rd Downs 31st, Time of Possession 99th, Turnover Margin 44th, Sacks Allowed 14th, Red Zone 12th
Defensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Defense 2nd, Total Defense 4th, Rushing Defense 3rd, Opponent 3rd Downs 7th, Sacks Per Game 3rd, TFL Per Game 2nd, Interceptions 75th, Opponent Red Zone 11th
Special Teams Ranks (out of 130): Field Goal Kicking 94th, Punts Per Game 72nd

2018 Cotton Bowl: Head-to-Head

With the stakes never higher in a Notre Dame-Clemson game, this will be the fourth all-time meeting of the two programs.

These teams last met in 2015, with Clemson squeaking out a 24-22 win at home. Clemson leads the all-time series, 2-1. (Link: Winsipedia)

2018 Cotton Bowl: Pick

Clemson and Notre Dame have 25 wins and zero losses between them. Someone is going to pick up their only “L” while the other plays for the whole bag of marbles in Santa Clara. If that’s not pressure, what is?

The Tigers know of this pressure. You don’t make the College Football Playoff four years in a row without being acquainted with your old friend stress. This year, they got an assist from a pillowy-soft Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson cruised most of the year and seldom have they been tested. Notre Dame is going to be a significant increase in level of competition from their norm in 2018. This is not to say Clemson played nobody, but it was obvious that they were the best team in a conference that could have been better. Their ACC Atlantic division was a walk-over save for a much improved Syracuse.

Notre Dame, of course, has no division. They do have wins against Michigan, Northwestern, and Syracuse. With Notre Dame being a quasi-ACC team, there is some schedule overlap, but both navigated those games with ease.

Ian Book and Trevor Lawrence are two quarterbacks with which each respective team should be pleased. Here’s what Clemson has that Notre Dame does not: Travis Etienne and his 21 rushing touchdowns. Another thing Notre Dame does not have that Clemson does: under 100 rushing yards allowed per game. Both teams can get after on defense, with guys like Christian Wilkins (Clemson) and Te’von Coney (Notre Dame) on the prowl. Clemson just has more capability on offense, or so it would seem. Etienne, Lawrence, and Clemson can do things that Notre Dame cannot in terms of explosiveness in different facets of the offense. Notre Dame is fine at it, but Clemson is better.

Pick: Clemson

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