Cotton Bowl 2018 : The College Football Playoff begins on Saturday afternoon with a Cotton Bowl matchup featuring a pair of undefeated teams. Clemson, the ACC champions, begins its quest for a second national championship in three years as it takes on Notre Dame, which is making its first CFP appearance.
The Tigers enter the matchup at 13-0 after they beat Pittsburgh, 42-10, in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 1. The Fighting Irish are 12-0, but they haven’t played since beating USC, 24-17, to end the regular season on Nov. 24.
Although Clemson enters the Cotton Bowl as a heavy favorite, this could be a close game as two undefeated teams battle for the opportunity to play in the CFP National Championship on Jan. 7.
Cotton Bowl 2018
Date: Saturday, Dec. 29
Time: 4 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Watch ESPN or ESPN app
Odds (via OddsShark): Clemson -12.5; Over/Under: 56.5
Clemson may be the favorite, but it will be without three players after B samples of NCAA drug tests showed trace amounts of banned substance ostarine. Starting defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, tight end Braden Galloway and offensive lineman Zach Giella are all suspended for the game.
Lawrence is projected by many mock drafts to be a first-round selection in the 2019 NFL draft. He hasn’t practiced with the Tigers since the school learned of the initial positive test last week.
All three players will face a suspension of up to one year. Lawrence spoke to reporters on Thursday and said he didn’t know how the substance entered his body.
“We get tested regularly, and we know not to do anything stupid or selfish like that,” Lawrence said, according to ESPN.com. “That’s why this is such a shock.”
The Tigers will move on without that trio and focus on their matchup against the Fighting Irish.
Although Clemson will be missing a key defensive player in Lawrence, it will still have its top offensive players. That includes freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has passed for 2,606 yards, 24 touchdowns and only four interceptions this season.
Even without Dexter Lawrence, the Tigers have three other All-ACC standouts on their defensive line. It will be a difficult challenge for Notre Dame, which will likely rely on senior running back Dexter Williams (941 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) to try to break through Clemson’s strong front.
Without a conference championship game, the independent Fighting Irish hadn’t made the College Football Playoff in the first four years since the system was implemented. Now, they’ll be trying to prove they were worthy of inclusion this year with an upset win over the Tigers.
Cotton Bowl 2018 Prediction
Clemson 31, Notre Dame 17
The Tigers may be short-handed on defense, but they’ll still find ways to shut down the Fighting Irish. And Notre Dame’s defense won’t be able to stop the high-powered Clemson offense led by Trevor Lawrence.
Lawrence will make some big plays early for the Tigers to build a sizable lead, and Clemson will hold on to return to the national championship game after falling in a semifinal matchup last season.