It was the same story as the last few years. Louisville going on field to play a favored Clemson team, with a potential to win, but coming up just a bit short as the clock hits zero. Saturday’s match-up in Death Valley was no different, except for the fact that the Cards proved something more: they proved that they could play with the next-level competition, and may make it to the Peach or Fiesta Bowl at the end of the season.
Everything about Saturday’s game favored Clemson, whether it was the GameDay crew, the TV coverage, even some questionable no-calls on the part of the officiating crew. All of that was evident way before the half, as Louisville found itself down 18 heading into the locker room for the half. Everything about the score at the half made it seem like this game would end up being a blowout, and you could see it on the player’s faces: the look of anger after a missed pass interference while the defender grabbed the jersey of James Quick, after a pass interference actually called when Louisville committed it, and after Lamar Jackson was placed in a headlock on a tackle made on him.
Every indication was that that game was over even before the half, but there was something said in the locker room that flipped a switch on the Cards.
Shortly after kickoff, Deshaun Watson threw a pick on second down to Chucky Williams to place Louisville in excellent field position to open the first offensive drive in the second half. After that, it looked like a switch was flipped, with Louisville scoring 19 unanswered points and gaining the lead early in the fourth quarter. But the Cards couldn’t hold on, as Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to a late victory that his team is so used to seeing.
But Louisville did have one of the best chances to win within the final minute of play: On fourth and 12, Lamar Jackson passed to James Quick on what would have gotten the first down, except for the fact that Quick stepped out of bounds just a yard short, giving Clemson the ball and ending the game.
But it was the fact that Louisville almost beat Clemson that still has them in the playoff conversation. Because they came back from being down 18 to gaining the lead against one of the toughest defenses in College football that keeps them in the conversation. Many teams have lost a game and went on to the Playoff, even Ohio State in 2015 and Alabama in 2016 had one loss on their record. The only difference: both of those teams still went on to win their respective conferences.
Louisville can still make it to the Playoff, provided that the Cards win out the rest of the year, and beat Houston like they should. But the Cards still need some luck on the way. The B1G now has two teams in the top four, Washington had destroyed Stanford in the Pac-12, and Houston is still beating any team it plays. If Louisville beats Houston, that will eliminate the Cougars from contention. Washington still plays some tough games on its schedule, including a trip to Oregon to take on the Ducks on the road, which the Huskies have not done well against historically.
iAnd then there’s the Michigan-Ohio State game that will determine the B1G conference. Both of those teams are in the top four right now, and that game comes in the last week of the season. If one of those teams wins by over seven, the other will more than likely get overlooked for the Playoff. You can survive an early season loss, as long as you recover accordingly, but if you lose late in the season, it may kill you.
And besides, we’re only in week six now, and there’s a lot of football left to play. It’s a long season, and we’re just now getting close to the middle of it. And even if there aren’t any conferences with two teams representing in the Playoff, Louisville has done well enough that they should go to the Orange Bowl at the minimum. Louisville may have lost the game at Clemson, but the Cards are far from elimination from the College Football Playoff.
The Cards return to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Friday, October 14th at 7:00 p.m., to take on the Duke Blue Devils. This will be the Black Out game.