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The Associated Press | December 29, 2018

Clemson vs Notre Dame: Key matchups and players to watch in Cotton Bowl

Clemson vs. Notre Dame: Which undefeated squad moves on?

Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas: No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) vs. No. 2 Clemson (13-0), Saturday, 4 p.m. EST (ESPN)

Series Record: Clemson leads 2-1.

MORE: Follow live stats from the Cotton Bowl | Game predictions, info
MORE: All-time history, recent meetings between Clemson and Notre Dame

WHAT'S AT STAKE

A spot in the College Football Playoff national championship game. Clemson will try to get into the title game for the third time in four years — the Tigers beat Alabama for the 2016 national championship after losing to the Crimson Tide in 2015. Notre Dame, playing in its first CFP semifinal game, will try to reach 13 wins for the first time in program history. The Fighting Irish last played for the national championship in 2012. They last won it in 1988.

KEY MATCHUP

Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence against Notre Dame's pass defense with All-America cornerback Julian Love and safety Alohi Gilman. The Irish have allowed only 198 yards passing per game and seven touchdowns passes — only two TDs in the past six games. Lawrence, who became the starter in the fifth game, has thrown for 2,606 yards and an ACC high 24 TDs with only four interceptions.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Notre Dame: Ian Book is 8-0 as Notre Dame's starting quarterback, with at least two TDs in each of those games, since taking over that role in mid-September. Book has completed 70 percent of his passes (197 of 280) for 2,468 yards with 19 TDs and six interceptions.

MORE: Brian Kelley relishes Notre Dame's playoff role as 'new kids on the block'

Clemson: Senior Albert Huggins and sophomore Nyles Pinckney, the players taking on bigger roles with 6-foot-4, 350-pound All-America defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence out because of an NCAA suspension for a failed test for performance-enhancing drugs. Huggins and Pinckney both have 24 tackles — Huggins in 307 defensive snaps and Pinckney in 285 snaps. Lawrence has 44 tackles in 460 snaps.

MORE: Clemson's ultimate edge against Notre Dame could be experience

FACTS & FIGURES

This will be the eighth Cotton Bowl appearance for the Irish, who haven't played in any other bowl game more often. They are 5-2 in the Cotton Bowl. ... Notre Dame senior RB Dexter Williams is only 59 yards away from a 1,000-yard rushing season. He also has 12 rushing TDs after playing only eight games. ... Clemson and Notre Dame both have 13-game winning streaks. Only Central Florida (25) and Alabama (15) have longer active streaks. ... The Tigers average 6.75 yards per carry, and allow only 2.4 yards per rush on defense. They lead the nation in both categories — something that hasn't been done the last 10 years.

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