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Friday morning Cardinal news and notes

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Paisley Jean has perfected her “one day ‘til kickoff” look.

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—Spread check: Clemson by 3.

—Jeff Greer compiled 38 local and national predictions for Saturday’s game. Nineteen people picked Louisville, and 19 people picked Clemson.

—Is Lamar Jackson a future NFL quarterback or future NFL bust? Pat Forde says that’s the question everyone’s asking right now.

Jackson came from a very simple high school offense in Florida, and Louisville kept his decisions simple in order to get him on the field and maximize his talents as a true freshman. Last year Petrino upped the complexity, and there were some struggles along the way – particularly late in the year, when defenses got a read on Jackson and Louisville’s offensive line collapsed.

That led to a lot of offseason work on reads, particularly in the middle of the field (safeties and linebackers). So far, Louisville coaches are beaming about Jackson’s improved ability to stay still, recognize coverages and find secondary receivers.

“I think you can see his presence in the pocket, how calm he is in there,” said Cardinals quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino, Bobby’s son. “I think he’s come a long way in terms of being comfortable in the pocket and not freaking out when he sees a little flash.”

Nick Petrino was especially impressed by two reads Jackson made on a touchdown throw to freshman Dez Fitzpatrick last week at North Carolina. Jackson had an “alert” check pre-snap, recognizing a potential mismatch created by the defensive alignment; then he had to read a dropping linebacker to decide whether to go over the top to Fitzpatrick or check down to an underneath receiver. Jackson went over the top, delivering a strike for six points.

There was also a 75-yard touchdown in which Jackson flitted away from an unblocked corner blitz, set himself and threw a Vick-style wrist-flick downfield to Jaylen Smith.

“That’s just a play you don’t see most people make,” Nick Petrino said.

Lamar Jackson can make a lot of amazing plays. How many he makes Saturday against Clemson – especially with his arm – will further frame the most intense player debate in college football.

—Our own Justin Renck answered some questions for Shakin’ the Southland.

—The main storylines of college football’s third week are the races heating up in both the ACC and SEC.

—It’s crazy that all this is from two games.

—Kelly Bryant’s high school coach talks about what makes the Clemson quarterback special.

“In his first game, I think about the third time he carried it, he went about 75 yards for a touchdown, and we really didn’t block anybody,” Tate says. “And I looked at one of our assistant coaches, and he looked at me and said, ‘Oh, he’s one of those?’

“I believe he is.”

During Bryant’s junior season at his new school, he threw for 2,800 yards and 28 touchdowns along with 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. As a senior, he set school records, throwing for 3,579 yards and 41 touchdowns with 720 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing.

“We had one Division I receiver, who’s playing at Furman, so the other guys were really good high school football players, but he didn’t have an exceptional player who would have 1,200 to 1,400 yards himself,” Tate says. “So he was just one of those guys that understood that he had a role, and he knew how he was supposed to do it.”

Tate describes Bryant having several “popcorn droppers,” or moments “when people jump up and popcorn goes everywhere.”

“It’s magic,” Tate says. “There’s a lot of different things that people would say when they saw him play, because you’d never seen it before. You’d think ‘How does he do that? What an athlete,’ because he would make a throw and you’d go, ‘Oh my goodness, what the, woah.’ And then he would scramble, and you’d think he’s down and he’d pop out, and he’d be gone. He could fly; he’s a 6’4 kid who runs like he’s a 5’10 kid.”

—With the ACC releasing its schedule, we now have the complete 2017-18 U of L women’s basketball schedule.

—We’ve had plenty of hype videos from the Louisville perspective this week, so here’s one from Clemson.

—Tough news for Lorenzo Mauldin, who will reportedly miss the rest of the 2017 NFL season.

—The Texas A&M regent who has been so vocal about Kevin Sumlin being fired bought a $600,000 tank so he can "blow things up and run over things." Seems like a chill dude.

—Pretty high praise for Lamar Jackson here from Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

—Isaiah Wright, one of the main characters from the hit Netflix doc Last Chance U, and his brother, former Indiana wide receiver Camion Patrick, have been arrested and reportedly charged with homicide in relation to a stabbing death.

—Mel Kiper said on ESPN Thursday that he currently has Lamar Jackson as his No. 13 overall prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft.

—Whole staff checking out Romeo on Thursday.

Langford will be attending the Louisville-Clemson game on Saturday.

—DJ K-Dogg’s Clemson tailgate mix is here.

—-Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says he’s “never seen players so heartsick” as they were went Teddy Bridgewater went down in practice last year.

That was the path the Vikings were on one year ago. Coming off a 2015 season in which quarterback Teddy Bridgewater emerged as a budding star and the Vikes snapped the Packers’ string of four division titles, expectations were high. They had but one flaw. “I can still remember talking to [Minnesota GM] Rick [Spielman] before last season and saying, ‘Man, if Teddy goes down, we’re in trouble,’” Zimmer says. “ ‘We can’t lose Teddy.’”

The freak injury that felled Bridgewater during a preseason practice last August—leaving his left knee dislocated and nearly all of its connective tissue torn—was devastating. “I’ve never seen players so heartsick,” Zimmer says.

“The best way to describe it,” says Spielman, “is that all the air came out of the balloon. But Zimmer is never gonna be an excusemaker. And his attitude trickled down.“

“One of the first things I did was call Parcells,” says Zimmer. “He said, ‘Well, they’re not gonna cancel the games. You gotta figure it out.’”

Four days later the Vikings sent a first-round pick and a conditional fourth-rounder to the Eagles in exchange for Sam Bradford. The five-year veteran quarterbacked Minnesota to a 5–0 start, but the team’s success was short-lived, and nearly a year later many of the tsunamis created by Bridgewater’s injury have yet to reach shore. It wasn’t just the draft picks they gave up; it was the additional $21 million ($25 million, including the roster bonus) they have had to spend for Bradford’s services. Zimmer makes it clear that he loves Bradford, who will hold the keys in 2017 while Bridgewater continues to heal, then he adds, “Something like [Bridgewater’s injury] affects you for years. Financially, draft-wise, everything. Everything.”

—Next up for the 12th-ranked U of L men’s soccer team is a road test against No. 7 Syracuse. Here’s a preview.

—And it begins.

—The U of L women’s soccer team closed out its non-conference season Thursday night by doing what Kentucky basketball can’t and drubbing Gardner-Webb by a final score of 4-0.

—DeVante Parker was among a group of Miami Dolphins players who helped bring a group of stranded Miami Central High School football players back home.

—For the unaware, both Louisville’s offense and Clemson’s defense are really good.

Clemson’s defensive numbers are more impressive than Jackson’s on offense.

In defeating Kent State and Auburn, the Tigers yielded 237 yards, three field goals and no touchdowns. Feel free to dismiss the 56-3 dusting of the Golden Flashes, but the suffocation of then-No. 13 Auburn demands notice.

Clemson recorded 11 sacks, most by an ACC team since the NCAA began charting single-game totals in 2000. Eight of the sacks came in the second half.

Eight! On only 29 Auburn snaps. That’s more sacks than 115 of the Bowl Subdivision’s 130 teams have this season, and they came in every variety, with four-man rushes and blitzes. With the secondary blanketing receivers.

And how’s this for bookends: The Tigers sacked Stidham on Auburn’s first play and its last three plays.

On the game’s first possession, Auburn drove 69 yards in 15 plays. Guz Malzahn’s team gained 48 yards the rest of the game, 11 drives and 51 snaps.

That’s less than a yard per play during the final three-plus quarters. Not bad for a defense that’s had to replace 12 NFL draft picks in the last three years.

“I can’t say enough good things,” Swinney said of a D coordinated by Brent Venables.

—Speaking of Parker, he says his goal for the 2017 season is more than 1,000 receiving yards.

—The Comeback’s John Cassillo says Lamar Jackson is incredible, but wonders if he’s enough to overcome Louisville’s defensive woes against Clemson.

The transition wasn’t necessarily supposed to be that rocky, from a coaching perspective. Sirmon’s 3-4 defense is similar to Grantham’s, with the added benefit of simplified play-calling. But that hasn’t translated to better results. According to Bill Connelly’s advanced numbers, Louisville isn’t generating the same sort of havoc at the line as they did last year. And they’re among the country’s worst teams on passing downs. Louisville doesn’t face a ton of proficient passing teams (Syracuse, NC State, maybe FSU) beyond this week. But the cause for concern has definitely been laid out already.

It’s week three, and there’s still time to course-correct. However, Saturday should be telling for the Cards’ conference championship hopes. Having a player the likes of Lamar Jackson is a luxury few teams have. Even with that skill set running your offense, though, Louisville will still need to find a way to stop other teams. The wheels fell off this defense late last year, playing a large part in the team’s crawl to the finish. With a more open ACC Atlantic this time around, another slip-up squandering Jackson’s talent would be crushing.

—Here’s another U of L-Clemson tailgate mix from DJ Prize.

—Regardless of how you felt about Baker Mayfield’s postgame celebration, history shows that payback usually comes later in the season for players/teams who engage in such behavior.

—Game face.

—U of L volleyball has announced its promotion schedule for home matches.

—Analytics gawd Bill Connelly likes Clemson on Saturday.

4. S&P+ projects a 29-26 Clemson win, right at the Vegas line of Clemson -3.

Between Clemson’s obscene pass rush and the Tigers’ desire to protect Bryant from awkward downs and distances, one could see an early lead — for either team — blowing up pretty quickly.

It’s hard to imagine the Tigers finding too much success on the ground, aside from a Bryant keeper or two, but going from Auburn’s defensive backfield to a more mortal one could be like taking the doughnut off a baseball bat. Louisville’s defense isn’t Kent State’s, but it isn’t Auburn’s either, and after brief success last week, the Tigers should find a little more this time around.

And with just a few big pass plays, Clemson could open up a lead and force Jackson to play at a superhuman level, just to keep things within reach.

Of course, Jackson has done that before. The second half in Death Valley, for instance.

—The Lexington Herald-Leader wonders if Louisville-Clemson is the biggest college football game ever played in the state of Kentucky. For now, they say the leader is the ‘06 Louisville-WVU game.

—Johnny U officially has a new home.

Five games not to miss this Saturday. You should know what No. 1 is.

—Clemson relives the sights and sounds from last year’s game for the ages.

—According to The Athletic, Jaylen Smith is the 17th most efficient wide receiver in the country.

—It’s UofL-UK in volleyball on Friday night in Lexington.

—Clash of the titans.

—The city of Seattle has an agreement in place to build $600 million NBA-ready arena by 2020.

—Clemson is preparing for a different type of environment on Saturday.

“The environment at Louisville, it’s probably one of the loudest stadiums we’ll play at this year. It’s definitely a different environment… They’re loud,” Clemson left tackle Mitch Hyatt said. “That’ll play a little bit of a factor. The atmosphere up there, it’s just different. The fans are loud. They come to support their team. They’re very passionate about their team.”

Making matters even more difficult for Clemson is that the Tigers have so many new starters on offense.

Clemson lost its starting center, quarterback, running back and top two wide receivers off last year’s team.

Their replacements, Justin Falcinelli, Kelly Bryant, C.J. Fuller, Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud, got a taste of starting in a prime time game last week against Auburn.

Now they will get an opportunity to start in a prime time game on the road with College GameDay in town.

“Every week it’s like a new challenge with this new offense,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “This week, now we’re on the road. It’s going to be a loud environment, and so we’ve got to get some of that communication stuff cleaned up, and I’m confident we will.”

The Tigers spent time in practice this week preparing for the noise they will face on Saturday and getting used to nonverbal communication.

“We’ll pump plenty of noise in here this week. I think the biggest thing for our guys is just being sure that we’re on the same page and looking back and getting the signals, being able to line up, do all those types of things so it doesn’t cost us a timeout,” Scott said.“

—Brendan Mckay drove in the game-winning run in game one of the New York-Penn League finals.

Here’s the video:

—Lindy’s pegs Louisville-Clemson as its game of the week.

—Louisville is awfully tough to beat when Lamar Jackson hits triple digits on the ground.

Over his career at Louisville, Lamar Jackson has played in 27 games; the Cardinals are 18-9 in those contests — a win percentage of 66.7 percent. He’s made 23 career starts, including eight during his freshman campaign back in 2015. Louisville is 17-6 in games that Jackson has started — a win percentage of nearly 74 percent.

Going slightly deeper, though, Jackson — officially — has 15 career 100-yard rushing games. He’s run for over 100 yards in 55.6 percent of his career games at the school. Louisville’s record in those 15 games is none too shabby, either: 12-3.

—Again, it’s all happening.

—A repeat Heisman Trophy winner is a unicorn. Maybe Lamar Jackson is one, too.

—While its pass defense has been less than stellar, Louisville’s front seven has been terrific against the run so far this season.

No. 14 Louisville, who hosts No. 3 Clemson at 8 p.m. on Saturday, has the nation’s second-best rushing defense, behind LSU.

“Defensively, the biggest thing that jumps out is all the guys back that have played a lot of football for them. They’ve got 12 or 13 guys that started at some point last year and nine maybe full-time starters back on last year’s defense,” Swinney said. “It’s a really big group.”

Louisville’s defense gets overshadowed by its high-scoring offense led by Heisman Trophy quarterback Lamar Jackson, but Clemson will be challenged when it comes to running the ball. The Tigers should dominate the Cardinals in other areas, as Louisville’s defense as an entire unit ranks a measly No. 72 in the country, and its red zone defense is tied for 74th.

Much of how Clemson will fare in the passing game could depend on the health of Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander, who is injured and whose status is unknown. With or without Alexander, Swinney says the Cardinals could present problems for Clemson.

"They’ve got good, quality people all across the board and a new coordinator this year so we’re just trying to really get a bead on who they are and how they’re using their personnel similarly and differently from the previous staff there,” Swinney said. “But again, another big challenge for us going against their defense, especially at their place.”

—STS has a full film preview of Saturday’s game.

—Despite the painful opening, this is very good.

—And finally, beat Clemson.