Wow, what a week! Crowd noise controversy, a constantly fluctuating point spread, and I heard the American Horror Story Freak Show was crazy. I still don't know what that is (FX?), but that doesn't mean I didn't hear about it.
Thankfully, Brian Lewis of Shakin' the Southland (SB Nation's Clemson overlord) was kind enough to stop by with a six pack of Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale ("Oh my God, I hate pumpkin beer, it's so basic"...shut up, you'd love it if everyone else only drank the Heady Topper rip-off your friend Wallace brewed in his garage...shut up) and talk about all things Louisville/Clemson.
CC: I've been really interested to find out how Louisville is viewed by the other programs in the ACC. What's the perception of the Cards like at Clemson?
STS: Frankly it was a welcome breath. The departure of Maryland raised a lot of questions for the football side of the conference. The additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse weren't met with adulation in the streets of Clemson, or Tallahassee or Blacksburg for that matter. There was a real fear, probably justified, that ACC Commissioner John Swofford was going to try and add UCONN.
Also remember that there was a lot of chatter about Clemson and FSU leaving for the Big 12 because of how the conference prioritized basketball over football. Thankfully he realized the conference needed another school that put effort into playing football. It doesn't hurt that y'all have a pretty good basketball team and are a school on the rise athletically. Y'all were easily the best choice from an athletic standpoint and thankfully it worked out.
CC: We know DeShaun Watson is really good, we know his wide receivers are pretty big and really good. What less obvious reasons are there why Louisville fans should be scared of this Tiger offense?
STS: Wayne Gallman and Chad Morris are the big reasons. Gallman is now Clemson's starting RB and he is probably the best healthy RB we have. He looked great against NC State and we easily surpassed our rushing totals from previous games because of his ability. Even with our absolutely terrible OL Gallman is a threat to be respected.
Now most of y'all have probably heard of Chad Morris. He has risen to become one of the top OCs in the country, and his name is constantly mentioned near any job considering coaches with no experience as a head coach. But most fans aren't aware of some of his shortcomings. He has a tendency to abandon the run and also be a little bland in his playcalling. Last weekend we finally saw a return to the 2011 Chad Morris that swept the nation. Gallman and Watson give Morris a running threat that allows him to fully utilize a myriad of plays out of a single formation. Before everything was a screen or a deep pass. Now we might run out of the formation or even throw a 10 yard pass. It has been frustrating to watch this season, but last weekend was fantastic. If Chad continues to relearn what made him such an in-demand coach it could make things difficult for Louisville's defense.
CC: Everyone knows how talented guys like Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony are, but this is a Clemson defense that looked tremendous against FSU and NC State, but, shall we say, less than tremendous against Georgia and North Carolina. What's the deal there?
STS: The UGA game was 2 things. One was playing against the best running back in college in Todd Gurley. He ran for 200 yards and is an absolute stud. Honestly I was pleased with what happened given how our offense was fairly conservative and how good Gurley is. The other thing to remember is we were missing a few DL guys due to suspension. David Beasley, Shaq Anthony, Garry Peters and Corey Crawford all missed the game. Corey Crawford is a huge component to our DL, Gary Peters is one of our 2 starting corners, and Beasley and Anthony are the better parts of our shambolic OL. Georgia decided to run right at Crawfords position and in the 4th quarter the lack of depth finally hurt us and the game got out of reach. Do remember though that the game was extremely close until UGA broke it open in the 4th quarter.
The UNC game was interesting, obviously we gave up a lot more points than we would like, but the underlying stats were very similar to the FSU game for Clemson's defense. It wasn't quite as dominant, but I would argue it was a little unlucky to have UNC score so many points, and part of that came from a few big plays later in the game when Clemson had the game in garbage time. I would be surprised to see Clemson give up that many points with similar underlying stats and even more surprised to see them lose when doing so.
CC: If Louisville wins this game, how do you see it happening?
STS: I think it has to require Deshaun Watson having that freshman moment finally. Even if the Louisville offense is able to move the ball well I think the defense will have to force Watson to have a relatively terrible game. And even then Louisville is going to have to cause turnovers and capitalize on them. Clemson has way too much ability to capitalize quickly if all the Louisville defense does is force 3 and outs. You have to bring pressure, but even then you'll need to make sure you get to Watson. So far he's done well handling the blitz and it should continue. One area y'all may have success is letting Watson get greedy and try to force throws. He's gotten away with it in recent games, but it could pay if the secondary plays as advertised.
CC: Give one piece of advice for Louisville fans making the trip down for the game Saturday.
STS: Get to Clemson early enough to walk around. The campus is gorgeous and the downtown area, a single street, is something out of small town USA. If you're not going to tailgate, getting there early enugh will give you a chance to stop at Esso for some food. It will be crowded on gameday, but it is an experience everyone should enjoy.
STS: I think Clemson wins it, but it is going to be close. As in 7-10 points close. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it requires a moment of brilliance from Watson or Mike Williams to win it.