Unranked Clemson under fire with No. 15 Notre Dame up next

Field Level Media

November 01, 2023 at 3:25 am.

Each of the last four times Notre Dame has met Clemson on the football field, at least one of the teams has been ranked in the top five of The Associated Press poll — and two of those meetings have come in the postseason.

This time around, much less is at stake as an unranked Clemson team hosts Notre Dame — No. 15 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings of the season — on Saturday in upstate South Carolina.

Clemson (4-4, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) is coming off a 24-17 loss at N.C. State and is enduring its first season with at least four losses in league play since 2010, which was the second full season on the job for coach Dabo Swinney.

In their defeat to the Wolfpack, the Tigers fell behind 24-7 in the third quarter after quarterback Cade Klubnik threw a pick-6 and then the Clemson defense allowed Wolfpack receiver Kevin Concepcion to score on a 72-yard touchdown pass.

Earlier this week, Swinney felt the heat from fans during his weekly radio show. They criticized the 53-year-old’s inability to adapt in the changing landscape of college football, where the top programs are embracing the transfer portal and name, image and likeness opportunities for players. Swinney seemed to take offense when a fan named “Tyler from Spartanburg” mentioned his 10-year, $115 million contract.

“Is this a bad year? Yeah, and it’s my responsibility,” Swinney said. “Take 100 percent responsibility for it. But all this bull crap you’re thinking, all these narratives you read. Listen, man, you can have your opinion all you want, and you can apply for the job.”

According to the website On3, Clemson brought in just one transfer this offseason, quarterback Paul Tyson from Arizona State, who has thrown just three passes this season.

By comparison, Notre Dame (7-2) brought in seven transfers. Among them are starting defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste (Ohio State), defensive back Thomas Harper (Oklahoma State) and starting quarterback Sam Hartman (Wake Forest).

Hartman didn’t play all that well in Notre Dame’s 58-7 win last weekend over Pitt, but he didn’t have to. The Irish led 44-0 at the end of the third quarter after notching a pair of defensive touchdowns and an 82-yard punt return for a score.

Still, Hartman ranks among the best quarterbacks in the country in various categories this season and is a big reason the offense is 12th in the nation in scoring with 38.3 points per game. Hartman is 14th in passer rating, with a 165.34 mark, and 17th with 18 passing touchdowns. He has led the Irish to a pair of wins over ranked opponents in Duke and Southern California.

Despite Hartman throwing a pair of interceptions against Pitt, Irish coach Marcus Freeman doesn’t plan to change his approach on offense.

“We’re going to continuously be aggressive, even if the result isn’t what we want,” Freeman said. “(Hartman) is a consistent individual and always responds with the proper response.”

Clemson is 4-3 all-time against Notre Dame. The Irish beat the Tigers 35-14 last season in South Bend, Ind.

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