​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.

​​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.

​​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.