Louisville QB Lamar Jackson drops back to pass against Duke during the last blackout at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Photo by Jared Anderson, River City Cards
Louisville-Clemson means more than a game
That's all the Louisville Cardinals have lost by in two of the last three against Clemson, with 2015's spread being even closer- three points. Last year, Louisville had ample opportunity to win at Death Valley, but James Quick stepped out of bounds a yard short on fourth down. It was the play that almost decided the course of both teams. Clemson would go on to win the ACC and national championship, while Louisville stalled late in the season trying to catch up.
The same scenario exists this year. Louisville does not have a good schedule, and Clemson is one of the only good games appearing on the calendar. The Cards need to win this game if they're to make any noise in the College Football Playoff discussions, or make a New Year's Six bowl. Because of this, Saturday's game is more than just a win or a loss.
Yes, Louisville would still be alive if they lost a close game against Clemson, but it would force The Cards to have to win out the rest of the year, including against Florida State on the road. Louisville would have less control over their destiny. Louisville wouldn't have the same media attention. Even Lamar Jackson may be placed on the back burner.
If The Cards win, however, they practically guarantee a trip to the Orange Bowl. If they lost to Florida State, they may even go to the ACC Championship, dependent on having a higher ranking than FSU or Clemson, and Clemson defeating FSU. If Louisville wins the ACC, then they stamp their ticket to Pasadena or New Orleans this New Year.
But Playoff implications are not the only thing that matters about this game.
Since joining the ACC, Louisville has been seen as a perennial threat in most sports. They're almost always picked near the top in Men's and Women's basketball, the class of the conference in baseball, and a power in men's soccer. But football, on the other hand, is always overshadowed by Florida State and Clemson. The Cards earned respect last season after defeating Florida State, but still lost to Clemson, moving all eyes to the Tigers.
If The Cards defeat Clemson, then it could turn some heads. It may cause some four, or even five-star recruits begin to think about Louisville as a viable option. It may bring talent into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Then, Louisville may compete perennially.
The program has been on an upward trend. Beating Clemson is the next step.
Six points. As long as it's more than what Clemson scores, it's all the Cards need.