Brian Kelly is no stranger to Clemson and the Notre Dame head coach knows the Fighting Irish will be facing quite the test Saturday night against quality and consistent program. 

“Clemson is the No. 1 team in the country and deservingly so,” Kelly said in his press conference this week. “Everything they do, they do well in all phases of the game. Coach (Dabo) Swinney has an incredible job and consistency is really what is amazing about this football team and what Dabo has done.”

Kelly said Clemson is well-coached in all areas and that he’s excited for the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the country and a team he has a great deal of respect for. 

This will be the third blockbuster showdown in recent history between the two teams which has seen Clemson win 24-22 in a 2015 Hurricane-soaked Death Valley and roll past the Irish 30-3 in the 2018 Cotton Bowl. 

For the second straight meeting, Notre Dame will seek to cause havoc for a true freshman quarterback in a high stakes game Saturday night in South Bend. 

“We played Trevor Lawrence when he was a freshman but these kids are well-coached and they see a lot now,” Kelly said. “D.J. (Uiagalelei) will be well-prepared for the number of things we’ll show him. But the most important thing is to make sure he’s not comfortable back there.” 

Kelly commended Clemson’s on its overall consistency as a program but pointed out Notre Dame has also held steady over the last few seasons, too. While Clemson has created some separation between itself and the rest of the country, the Irish feel like they belong in this setting and won’t fall victim to the moment being “too big”. 

Clemson running back Travis Etienne (9) carries against Notre Dame during the 1st quarter of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T stadium in Arlington, TX Saturday, December 29, 2018. Clemson Notre Dame Goodyear Cotton Bowl

“We’re 29-3 in the last 32 games (have only lost twice since the 2018 Cotton Bowl) and we’re not a team that is easily overcome by the moment. We’ll be just fine,” Kelly said. 

Kelly said he feels good about where his program his and they will continue to develop their players and put them in situations to be successful. While Saturday is a monster ball game with ACC and College Football Playoff implications, Notre Dame realizes a loss Saturday isn’t the end of the world. 

“This is not the end-all for us. We could win this game but if we lose to BC, this game doesn’t mean anything,” the Notre Dame head coach said. “We’re still in pursuit of a conference championship so it’s about steady play, raising your level of competition on Saturday which we’re in the process of doing. It’s about consistency and performance and we’re well on our way to checking that box.”