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Opponent Breakdown: Clemson Offense

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Louisville will travel to Clemson to face the best offense on the schedule outside of Alabama.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, Dabo Sweeney made the decision to switch his quarterbacks and with that change he set his offense up to be the best version of itself. Clemson’s offense has a very good offensive line, big running backs that can fly, and long and lanky wide receivers that can take the top off of a defense. While they had all of that last season, they didn’t have the quarterback that could take advantage of all of it. They do now.

Trevor Lawrence is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and he’s just a freshman. He does all of the things you want a veteran quarterback to do while minimizing the mistakes you expect from a rookie. Lawrence anticipates throws like an NFL quarterback and his arm strength makes sure that those throws end up where only his receiver has a chance at it. He is a remarkable talent and he’s improving each week because he’s only started 4 games in college.

Lawrence has two minor flaws in his game right now. One is that he’s not the runner that Deshaun Watson or Kelly Bryant were. He’s a serviceable runner but he doesn’t have the skills you need to depend on that ability. They will run some read option with him, but he’s not the type of guy that you have to fear breaking a long run on you. He also has had some struggles throwing the ball down the field. He’s been inconsistent in that area and I would expect for Clemson to push the ball a good amount against UofL to help him work on his timing and accuracy there.

The Clemson running game has struggled over the last couple of weeks but the Louisville’s defense will likely be the cure for that. Travis Etienne was a Heisman candidate for a bit but he would need to finish the season on a tear to have a shot at it. “ETN” is ranked second in the country right now with 14 touchdowns. He’s also averaging just under 8 yards per carry which is second among guys who have 100+ carries on the year. Louisville has avoided big plays much of the year, but after Wake Forest broke a few big ones, it’s obvious that this group of running backs could have a historic day running the ball.

Last year, Etienne had his first big game of the year and broke off a long touchdown run to put his name on the map. The same could happen this year with Lyn-J Dixon. Dixon looks like a clone of Etienne but he is a little more fluid and can make guys miss a bit better. I’d imagine that he and Tavien Feaster could see the field a lot and they could all have big games.

I think that Jeff Scott is the best receiver coach in the country and he now has receivers lining up to play for him. In the past, Clemson seemed to always get one guy in each class that was great and they coached up some others. Now they have four and five star guys that are coming in droves. Tee Higgins and Amari Rogers were the big time players they landed last year and both have really taken a big step in their second year. Some have said that Higgins would be the first receiver taken in the draft if he were eligible. Rogers is the guy they like to use on quick screens and bubble screens. He’s a great runner after the catch and he is really hard to bring down.

In the 2018 class, Clemson was able to land Justyn Ross and Derion Kendrick who were both ranked as top ten receivers in the class. They were even able to pull Ross out of Alabama. Ross and Higgins are both 6-4 and they can both run. Clemson also uses that size in the red zone very well. Kendrick plays the same role as Rogers as he’s more of an option on shorter routes where his abilities after the catch are most useful. What’s crazy is that Clemson has found a way to get the ball to all of these guys while also having Hunter Renfrow as the most reliable of them all. Throw in Diondre Overton and Trevion Thompson as veteran guys and the Tigers have an embarrassment of riches at receiver.

The Tiger offensive line is the best that UofL will have faced to this point in the season. They do just about everything well and they’ve actually helped Trevor Lawrence a lot in the passing game. Lawrence has a tendency to hold onto the ball for too long at times but because the line holds up so well, Lawrence is usually at the point of throwing it away or making a thought out decision with the ball once the rush actually gets to him. Most of the time you see guys throw into coverage or take a sack in these situations but he has all the time in the world. Clemson has some injuries on the line but they always rotate their linemen so the guys who have stepped in have plenty of experience this year.