With two weeks of the NCAA football season in the books, several teams have impressed viewers and AP poll voters by defeating high-quality opponents and/or dominating the weaker competition. Two of these teams are Clemson and Louisville. Prior to this season, both teams were expected to compete for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship and this game could potentially end that chance for one of these two teams.
Clemson started the season with the weight of the world on its shoulders. Not only are the Clemson Tigers the defending NCAA football champions, but the university also had to replace the team’s starting quarterback in Deshaun Watson. In his college career, Watson led the Tigers to two consecutive championship games including a thrilling 35-31 victory against Alabama. In that title game, Watson was magnificent as he threw for over 400 yards along with 4 total touchdowns. As a result, Watson was drafted by the Houston Texans with the 12th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Replacing Watson is junior quarterback Kelly Bryant. Bryant, the 20-year-old from South Carolina, has looked promising in the first two games of the season and even led the Tigers to a 14-6 victory over the #13 ranked Auburn Tigers. Bryant is surprisingly similar to Watson in the sense that both players have tremendous speed and mobility which has made this transition somewhat easier.
However, the main reason for the Tigers’ success this season is its defense. Clemson’s defense sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham a staggering 11 times. Clemson’s defensive line has struck fear into the hearts of quarterbacks this season and will look to maintain that throughout the rest of the season. One player, in particular, to look out for is a junior defensive end, Austin Bryant. Bryant had four sacks against Auburn and will play a vital role if Clemson plans on stopping Louisville’s high-powered offense. Clemson is currently the #3 ranked team in the country and a victory against the #14 ranked Louisville Cardinals would help Clemson’s chances of returning to the college football playoffs for a third consecutive season.
The success of the Louisville Cardinals revolves solely around one man. That man is Lamar Jackson. Jackson made headlines last year for his astonishing season which culminated in a Heisman Trophy. In 2016, Jackson was responsible for 51 touchdowns and over 5,000 total yards. However, the Cardinals struggled down the stretch and lost its last three games including a bowl game loss to the LSU Tigers. In last season’s meeting with Clemson, Louisville lost a heartbreaker by the score of 42-36 after surrendering an eight point lead in the fourth quarter. This season, the Cardinals seek revenge in front of their home crowd. If they hope to accomplish this difficult feat, Lamar Jackson will have to lead the way.
Last week, Jackson was responsible for 525 total yards and six touchdowns in a 47-35 victory over ACC foe North Carolina. So far in his college career, Jackson has shown time and time again that he is the heart and soul of this program. He has shown that the team will only go as far as he can take them which can potentially spell doom for the Cardinals. If Clemson can pressure Jackson as much as it did last week against Auburn, Louisville does not have the playmakers on defense to stop this Tigers’ offense. If Louisville managed to give up 35 points to a below average North Carolina team, imagine how the team will fare against a top three team in the country.
As for my prediction, I have to side with the Tigers. Louisville has played two relatively average teams thus far and will now have to suddenly play against elite competition. The team needs Jackson to play well in order for the Cardinals to have a chance and I think Clemson’s defense is up to the challenge. Clemson managed to smother Jarrett Stidham last week and I can see this pass rush creating more havoc in the backfield.
I see Clemson winning this game by double digits as Kelly Bryant rises up to the challenge once more.
Clemson vs. Louisville: Game Time, TV Channel & Viewing Details
Event: Clemson vs. Louisville
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2017
Start Time: 8:00 P.M. EST
Location: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, KY
How To Watch Clemson vs. Louisville Online & Mobile
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