Not everyone is fortunate enough to be born and raised in a great city like Louisville, Kentucky. For all of us that were born here, an even smaller group of individuals, including myself, count their blessings on a daily basis because of our immediate induction into the Louisville Cardinal fan base. Thank you mom and dad for making me a Louisville Cardinal.
Louisville was a great place to grow up, and I have lived here my entire life minus the four amazing years spent in Columbia, South Carolina receiving my degree from the University of South Carolina. Being a Cardinal and a Gamecock is an honor, and more importantly gives me two teams to cheer for against UK. Upon arrival in Columbia, the Clemson/Carolina rivalry was foreign to me, but the baptism by fire into the Palmetto State Civil War began long before orientation.
As a Cardinal and a Gamecock, it feels like my duty to properly introduce Clemson to the Cardinal masses and offer a little background on the school that boasts "Tater" as a nickname. Clemson was originally founded as an agricultural school and features very strong agricultural and engineering programs. It is located in the town of Clemson, South Carolina and when looking up "middle of nowhere" in the dictionary, Clemson is the definition commonly found. The biggest structure in the city is the football stadium, and aside from spending 4-10 years chasing a degree, there is very little to do.
"Tater" is a nicknamed adorned upon the Clemson faithful by their friendly rivals from Columbia. Some time ago, a booster club was established by Clemson supporters named IPTAY, which originally stood for "I Pay Ten A Year", the cost of annual membership dues. Gamecock supporters unearthed the true acronym and believed it to be "I Plant Taters All Year" due to their humble beginnings as an agricultural institution. The word Tater had a good ring to it, Gamecock enthusiasts spread the news to their children and their children's children, and it is commonly uttered throughout the Palmetto State in present day.
Clemson is coached and led by an extra-large sweatshirt wearing character named Dabo Swinney. Dabo is not on his birth certificate, it is a shortened version of his childhood calling card "Dat Boy". Swinney is entertaining for a lot of wrong reasons, and like many coaches in the southeast, constantly loses the media battle against his Palmetto counterpart Steve Spurrier.
Clemson has always been known for blowing the big opportunities, "Clemsoning" is actually a universally used verb, and West Virginia just scored again. Swinney's era at Clemson has started egregiously slow, but his fate was altered in 2011 when Chad Morris was hired as offensive coordinator. Prior to Morris's arrival, Swinney had an uninspiring 19-15 record, and many in Tater Nation were ready to part ways. Mr. Morris saved the day, and since 2011 Clemson has had one of the most exciting offenses in college football while achieving a record of 34-10.
Even though Clemson has had some success since 2011, their recent seasons, and current season, are mired by the inability to win the big game or get over the hump against their most crucial opponents. Clemson often falters on the biggest stage, however many point to their victory last year over Ohio State as a turning point. The Big 10 has become a joke of a football conference so taking down the Buckeyes does not overcome a 2-9 record against Florida State and South Carolina since 2009, including five straight losses against the Gamecocks. Clemson finds excruciating ways to lose big games, and more often than not the spotlight scares the Tater out of them and Clemson lays a sizeable "spud".
Louisville will encounter their first true hostile environment Saturday afternoon in Memorial Stadium. The unique facility holds just over 80,000 and it has been a source of stability for Clemson when not playing Florida State or South Carolina. Handling the raucous purple and orange clad Clemsonites will be vital to springing the upset, and as already reported, Clemson is 25-0 at home as a double digit favorite.
I bleed red and black, and fully believe Louisville has one of the best, if not the best defense in college football. Do I expect to Louisville to win Saturday? No. The trend of self-inflicted fallacies is too hard to ignore, but the Cardinals will certainly have an opportunity again to stop beating themselves. The best thing Louisville has going for it is the return of DeVante Parker. Mr. Bonnafon, Mr. Quick, Mr. Grantham, and Mr. Petrino's shoulders lightened just a bit this week with the announcement of Parker's inevitable return.
In all honestly the Cardinal's key to the game is going toe to toe with Clemson and committing everything they have to smart, disciplined football. Clemson is 0-2 this fall when their opponents are still in the game at halftime and within shouting distance in the fourth quarter. Clemson had an early lead against Georgia, but over the course of four quarters the Bulldogs wore the Clemson defense out and ran around them, through them, and over them on their way to a 24 point victory. Florida State trailed the entire contest against Clemson, but held on close enough and took advantage of late fatigue and errors by Clemson.
Louisville has shown great stamina and focus in fourth quarters so far this season. If Louisville can battle through and ignore their past, the fourth quarter should be a thrill ride Saturday afternoon. If the game remains close, a Cardinal victory is more than realistic, it is the likeable outcome. That is a big if ladies and gentlemen based on the Cardinal offense's infatuation with yellow flags and unforced turnovers. Welcome to the ACC Louisville, Saturday will be a blast, and for those of you traveling to Clemson you will know when Clemson is getting close. The smell of cow will be in the air, civilization will be left behind, and Tater Nation will welcome you city slickers with open arms.
All Hail UofL!!