Week 3: Louisville vs. Clemson preview, prediction
By Mike Gilpatrick September 15th, 2017
Louisville RB No. 29 Malik Williams returns a kick against Duke on Friday, October 14th, 2016. The game was the last time Louisville played in a blackout game. Williams, a senior this year, rushed 13 times for 149 yards in Week 2's win at North Carolina. Photo by Jared Anderson, River City Cards.
cards look to fly high on college gameday
Much like week three last season, this one is HUGE. No. 14 Louisville hosts the third-ranked team in the nation, Clemson, Saturday; in front of a national audience. The game will be on ABC at 8 pm. The game time was moved up from 3:30 to get the primetime spot. It features teams with last season's best player and best team facing off in a budding rivalry. ESPN's College Gameday will broadcast live from Grawemeyer Hall on the campus of the University of Louisville. Both teams want to win.
The last three meetings were settled by less than a touchdown, all won by Clemson. The last meeting, at Death Valley Oct. 1st, 2017, ended when Louisville WR James Quick stepped out of bounds a yard short on 4th and 12. The meeting before when Kyle Bolin threw an interception on the final drive.
With as close as the past few meetings have been, I anticipate it to be just as close. This game will come down to the final seconds.
Getting to know the Tigers
Clemson lost a lot of players from 2016's national championship team. The most notable is QB Deshaun Watson. The Tigers also lost RB Wayne Gallman, WR Mike Williams, and TE Jordan Leggett. Despite the losses, the Tigers have maintained a high level of play. Their defense hasn't allowed a touchdown thus far.
Last week was the first real test the Tigers had. They played Auburn, and had a few miscues on offense, but squeaked by with a score of 14-6. In the game, QB Kelly Bryant went 19/29 with 181 yards from the air, and rushed 19 times for 59 yards on the ground. He scored both touchdowns himself, rushing. Clemson did fumble twice, but their defense held on against Auburn.
Clemson has the 2nd defense in the nation. The Tigers limit passing offenses to just 40 yards per game, and allow just 78.5 rushing yards. The stats do include Clemson's 56-3 rout of Kent State, but 68 net yards against a ranked team in Auburn is still eye-opening.
Keys to the Game
It's no secret the Cards have struggled on pass defense. Louisville allows 338.5 yards through the air. The Cards allowed 28 points to Purdue, and 35 to North Carolina. What Louisville does do well, however, is prevent the run, allowing only 34 yards per game. The front-seven is good.
Because of this, don't expect a great rushing game from Clemson. Nearly all of their yardage will come from the air. They have some weapons- Ray-Ray McCloud leads the team with 105 yards. Hunter Renfrow also gets his fair share of targets.
Clemson also is great at putting pressure on QBs. They have 11 sacks thus far.
If Louisville is to win the game, the offensive line has to step up. They've done a lot better of a job protecting the pocket thus far, only allowing two sacks so far. The line also has to commit less penalties. They committed 10 false starts in their first game. Clemson is going to score, you can't give them any help.
The Cards also have to do a better job on secondary. Clemson may have lost a lot on offense, but they still have the 36th in total offense.
This game will come down to an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson already has over a thousand yards, and hasn't left the pocket as much this year. Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino had said he wants to make Jackson into an NFL-style quarterback, so his passing game had taken the bulk of his snaps.
This is the game that Louisville doesn't want to keep practicing pocket passing with. Lamar Jackson will prove he still can turn on the jets, and test Clemson's good defensive front. It'll come down to the wire, but this is the year that Louisville comes out on top. The game will be tied heading into the final drive, and the Cards will win on a last-second field goal.