You wouldn't know it by watching Clemson, but Dabo Swinney and the Tigers embarrassed Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl without a potential first round draft pick on their defensive line. Due to a failed drug test, star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, in addition to tight end Braden Galloway and offensive lineman Zach Giella, were ruled ineligible for the Cotton Bowl.
Though Clemson is filing appeals on behalf of those suspended, all three of them won't play against Nick Saban and Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Clemson filed appeals w/NCAA but DT Dexter Lawrence, TE Braden Galloway & OL Zach Giella will not play in @CFBPlayoff title game vs. Alabama— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 3, 2019
Lawrence is far and away the biggest loss-- both literally and figuratively. The 340-pound defensive tackle recorded 36 tackles and 1.5 sacks while eating up space down in the trenches. He's also a surprisingly explosive pass rusher for his size.
With Lawrence out, Clemson will roll with Albert Huggins and pass rusher Xavier Thomas. Huggins is so talented that he is still getting NFL looks as a backup, while Thomas was the consensus No. 3 overall recruit behind Justin Fields and Clemson's own Trevor Lawrence in the 2018 cycle. Those are pretty solid backups, but you can't fake the kind of experience big Dexter brings.
Backups Xavier Thomas and Albert Huggins causing chaos on back to back plays. This roster is just unreal. pic.twitter.com/EFCFVqvoCH— Tiger Commenter (@TigerCommenter) October 28, 2018
While most teams would think the sky is falling after a star defensive lineman gets suspended, Clemson has the depth to shoulder that loss.
Alabama is a totally different beast than Notre Dame, however.