The first and only time Notre Dame stepped foot on Clemson soil was on Nov. 12, 1977, in a matchup between two top-15 teams with their eyes on a national title. The contest produced 36 NFL players, 14 Super Bowl winners and seven first-round draft picks. It also produced the eventual national champions.

Talk about a first impression.

The media was in a frenzy. The matchup drew the most national interest in Clemson history at the time, and to this day ranks second only to the 1999 Bowden Bowl.

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The game did not disappoint either. Led by a young quarterback named Joe Montana, the No. 5 Fighting Irish overcame a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to take a 21-17 victory over the No. 15 Tigers.

Montana marched his team into the end zone twice in the final eight minutes to clinch a win over a Clemson team that would feature future San Francisco 49ers teammate, Dwight Clark, who would go on to make "The Catch" in the 1982 NFC championship game.

The teams would meet one other time. In 1979 Clemson traveled to South Bend and avenged its loss by scoring 16 unanswered points in the second half to beat the Irish, 22-17.

This Saturday, Notre Dame will make its first trip back to Death Valley since the famed 1977 matchup and the similarities are impossible to ignore.

Two top 15 teams with national championship dreams? Check. Media frenzy? Check. Star quarterback, and a slew of NFL talent? Check and check.

The Fighting Irish (4-0) arrive in South Carolina as the sixth-ranked team in the AP Poll and kick off in a prime time matchup against the No. 12 Tigers in a nationally televised game.

"The atmosphere with the fans is going to be nuts," said Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, the preseason ACC player of the year. "They're going to be wild and crazy and loud. It's going to be very energized, and that's where we're get our energy from."

Yes, like the late, great Yogi Berra once said, its déjà vu all over again. Except the Tigers are hoping that isn't exactly the case.

The loss to Notre Dame is just one of a few instances in Clemson history where its national title dreams came to a screeching halt.

In 2011, the Tigers busted out of the gate with an 8-0 start only to have their championship dreams derailed by ACC rival Georgia Tech, who rumbled its way to a 31-17 victory.

In 2013, Clemson won its first six games of the year before Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles dented its perfect record with a 51-14 thrashing.

Saturday's game doesn't promise a College Football Playoff appearance to the winner, but it virtual guarantees that the loser will be watching the national title game from home.

"This game is the biggest game of the year simply because it is one step closer to being the best," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "That's what we're ultimately trying to do around here. It's hard to do.

"Last 40 years Notre Dame has won one national championship, we've won one. It's hard to do. Georgia has won one, we've won one. Everybody is chasing that ultimate -- now it's 15-0. It gets harder and harder every year."

Clemson, whose lone national championship came in 1981, has scored 15 wins over teams that were ranked in the top 10 of at least one poll in its history, with five of those victories coming during the Swinney era.

A win would go a long way toward silencing the naysayers that claim Clemson can't win the big game, and Tigers standout defensive end Shaq Lawson can't wait for the opportunity to do just that.

"We are going to show everyone in the world what we're made of, and make people see what we are made of," Lawson said.