"We give you scholarships. We give you stipends, meals, and a place to live. We give you nice uniforms. I can't give you guts, and I can't give you heart, and tonight it was BYOG. Bring your own guts."
This iconic Dabo Swinney quote at the end of an all-time classic between Clemson and Notre Dame in 2015 kicked off one of college football's greatest series. In five meetings over the next seven years, Clemson-Notre Dame shaped the National Championship race and was must-see TV.
In 2015, the rainy classic between Notre Dame and Clemson on ABC Saturday Night Football catapulted the Tigers into the national title race when Clemson stopped a last-second Notre Dame two-point conversion to preserve a 24-22 win.
Three years later, Clemson and Notre Dame met in the Cotton Bowl during the College Football Playoff at the end of the 2018 season, with Clemson easily dispatching the Fighting Irish.
In 2020, Notre Dame strengthened its playoff resume in front of the NBC primetime cameras with a 47-40 2OT win over the Tigers.
However, the Tigers got the last laugh late that year when they dominated the Irish in the ACC Championship.
Two years later, Notre Dame played spoiler when they upset the #4-ranked Tigers in another primetime game on NBC, ending their undefeated season.
The table below shows the ratings for each of these games:
This year, instead of the glamour of primetime, Clemson-Notre Dame is an afterthought in the Noon ET slot on ABC, with the network instead spending its promotional energy and focus on Washington and USC's clash on Saturday Night Football.
This may be the strongest symptom of Clemson's demise. Notre Dame will always be Notre Dame, one of college football's most iconic and polarizing brands, even with a 6-2 record and an outside shot at the New Year's Six at best.
However, Clemson's time as a college football blueblood is relatively short compared to college football's other power brokers like Alabama, Ohio State, and Michigan. Consequently, they are easier for the networks to pass on in down years, as evidenced by their game against NC State receiving a slot on The CW.
Now, a game between a 4-4 Clemson squad and Notre Dame is just another ACC-Notre Dame clash. It will get the ABC treatment, but not because of the merit of the ACC team opposite the Fighting Irish.
This week, there will be no national implications at stake for Clemson-Notre Dame, but maybe Pop Tarts Bowl implications. For the first time this millennium, the matchup will be a footnote on a college football Saturday rather than the centerpiece. It will be a strange feeling, but it could indicate the future ACC landscape.