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Game Day: Louisville vs. Clemson

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Go Cards.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Music City Bowl - Mississippi State v Louisville Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (4-4, 2-3) vs. CLEMSON TIGERS (5-3, 4-2)

Game Time: 7:30 p.m.

Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ACC Network

Announcers: Dave O’Brien (play-by-play), Tim Hasselbeck (analyst) and Kelsey Riggs (sideline)

Favorite: Clemson by 4

All-Time Series: Clemson leads, 6-0

Last Meeting: Clemson won 45-10 on Oct. 19, 2019 in Louisville

Series History:

Statistics:

Louisville Uniforms:

Louisville Depth Chart:

Relevant Videos:

Excitement Level: 7.3

I know we’re all down, but it’s still a huge recruiting weekend and it’s still a chance to beat Clemson under the lights. I’ve got more juice than I probably should for a 4-4 team hosting a 5-3 team in early November.

Game Attire: Long-sleeve, red old school Louisville Cardinals shirt

Trying to recapture some old magic.

Pregame Meal: No Clue

Probably going to be a DoorDash night at the suddenly super busy CC Headquarters. Where we go with all the DoorDash gift cards we’ve been given since baby John’s arrival is anyone’s guess.

Bold Prediction: Louisville intercepts multiple passes

An 0-for-12 season on bold predictions is very much in play right now.

Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Pesto (good)

Best the alert level has felt since calling Marshall’s actual touchdown.

Predicted Star of the Game: C.J. Avery

Gotta shut down the run.

About Clemson:

via Keith Wynne

OFFENSE

Clemson’s offense is very bad this year. Clemson’s offense is also very dangerous. Both of those things are true because Clemson still has an offense full of talent and the vast majority of that talent has shown that they can play at a high level. Tony Elliot has come under a bit of fire this year as fans blame him for the offensive struggles but the former Broyles Award winner didn’t forget how to coach over the summer. This offense is just looking for an opportunity to put it all together again.

The Tigers only have two scholarship Quarterbacks right now and neither has played well this season. DJ Uiagalelei has been very pedestrian after being flat-out dominant in his limited time last season. DJ has been slow in his decisions, inaccurate, and ineffective as a runner. Essentially all of the things that Trevor Lawrence was good at, DJ has struggled with. There are plenty of theories of why he’s struggling but it seems to me that the elevation to “The Guy” status has been hard for him. The talk in Clemson this week is that he is coming around as a leader but we will have to wait and see.

Clemson also lost one of the best Running Backs in school history with Travis Etienne going to the NFL. They replaced him with 5-star speedster Will Shipley but things have been a real struggle at times. Shipley took on the starting role but Clemson lost two backs to the transfer portal early this season. Lyn-J Dixon was a proven commodity but fell out of favor for some reason. That left the Tigers with Shipley and Kobe Pace as the main options in the run game. Phil Mafah is a big back who looked very good last week so the Tigers do have some options to work with.

The most disappointing group for Clemson has been the Wide Receivers. Clemson just reloads at this spot but there have been some fair questions about their recruiting at this position. Clemson has a group of Receivers who are all extremely similar. They are all some form of 6-4/210 and very long. That causes some issues when you need to diversify your passing game. Every guy has a similar skillset which means you have to call plays that fit what they do and can’t do much else.

While Justyn Ross has returned to the roster and he looks like his former self most of the time. The issue is that he is playing in the slot this year and he hasn’t been able to be the big-play threat down the field like we saw in his freshman year. He and Joseph Ngata are the main targets for DJ but Ajou Ajou and Beaux Collins have had some moments. The player to keep an eye on is Davis Allen at Tight End. He has come on lately in different areas of the field.

The Offensive Line for the Tigers has been a mess all year with injuries and lack of depth being a big factor. Dabo Swinney has been fairly criticized this year for having a policy of not taking transfers. That has led to a numbers issue with the line and the injuries they’ve suffered put a spotlight on their depth. The mix of DJ’s indecision with the line’s struggles with sustaining a clean pocket has been a big reason for the offensive issues overall. Where Clemson has done well is opening running lanes for the backs. Shipley is coming off a 128-yard game while Pace has had a 100+-yard game this year and Mafah is a huge back that can wear you down.

DEFENSE

Brent Venables had something happen last year that hadn’t happened in nearly a decade. His defense allowed more than five yards per play. Personally, I think the mark of a good defense is holding teams under that number because you’re typically going to be in the top-20 or so teams in the country if you do so. Venables’ defense did all of the other things well like they normally do, but they gave up more yardage than usual and they ended up being exposed in the playoff.

One of the reasons that Venables’ defense has improved is the wealth of talent he has up front. Clemson is young on the Defensive Line but the experience that they earned last year has gotten this group back to where they are expected to be. Myles Murphy leads the team in tackles for loss and sacks for the second straight year while Xavier Thomas has returned from Covid complications to look like his old self. UofL has done well to protect Malik Cunningham with pass protection and play calls but this is a different animal with the pressure Clemson can bring off the edge.

The interior of the line has been a focus for Clemson fans due to the injuries they’ve suffered but I think it’s the most important group on the team and I think they’ve played better than they’ve gotten credit for. Tyler Davis appears to be fully healed and back to making plays in the middle. This group’s ability to eat up blocks is what has impressed me. If they’re not making the play, they’re clearing out space for the Linebackers to make the play. Their ability to make plays behind the line is what UofL needs to focus on but I just find it so impressive how much havoc they cause on each play.

Linebacker is always such an important group in Venables’ defenses and this year is no different. James Skalski and Baylon Spector are combining to average about 16 tackles per game which is the most for the top two tacklers for Clemson since 2016. It should also be pointed out that no one is even remotely close to them. James Skalski is always running free in the middle of the field and he is such a sound tackler. He doesn’t miss often and that makes it really hard to run the ball.

Spector is a really good athlete and runs things down on the edges. He is also typically free to run in the middle of the field because of the disruption of the Defensive Line. For what Clemson wants out of their Linebackers, Skalski and Spector are about as good as it gets. Trenton Simpson has a chance to be one of the best they’ve ever had at the second level once he grows as a player. Simpson is a former 5-star who is a freak athlete. He does just about everything well but you can tell that he’s getting by on his athleticism more than anything.

The secondary is where Clemson has been suspect for years but they have really improved at the Cornerback position, in my opinion. Andrew Booth has some of the best ball skills in the country and he always steps up when he’s tested. Mario Goodrich doesn’t get the attention that Booth does, but he is having a great season with 8 PBUs. Louisville has done well to get quick passes completed on the outside but I don’t know that they will have the opportunity to go after these guys down the field.

The middle of the secondary is where I expect UofL to attack. Nolan Turner is a fantastic player but he (and pretty much every other safety) doesn’t have the type of speed to keep up with a guy like Tyler Harrell if UofL can scheme up a play to get him in coverage. Andre Mukuba has been really great as a true freshman but I think he and R.J. Mickens are both inexperienced and could be put into situations where UofL could have a slight advantage. I think that Louisville should utilize their play-action pass game to try to exploit this group.

Notable:

—Clemson remains the only ACC opponent Louisville has faced multiple times without defeating.

—The first three games in this series were decided by a total of 15 points. Clemson has won the last three by an average of 40.6 points.

—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 12-1 when winning the turnover battle, and just 2-14 when losing it.

—Louisville is a home underdog for the second time this season. The Cardinals were a 6.5-point underdog for their 42-35 win over Central Florida in September.

—Clemson is undefeated in games televised by the ACC Network. The Tigers went 4-0 on ACCN in 2019, 3-0 on ACCN in 2020 and is 2-0 on the network this season

—Clemson’s six-game winning streak to start its series with Louisville is its third-longest to start a series against any opponent in program history. The Tigers won their first seven games against Furman, and their first 29 games against Virginia.

—Louisville is 5-0 under Scott Satterfield when scoring 40-49 points, and 2-0 when scoring 50 or more.

—Clemson is 1-2 in true road games so far this season.

—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 55-7 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 14-4 in such games under Satterfield, but has lost two in a row — a 37-34 loss to Wake Forest and a 34-33 loss to Virginia.

—Clemson is attempting to score at least 40 points in five straight games in a series with a single opponent for only the third time in school history. The Tigers gave scored 42, 47, 77 and 45 points in their last four meetings with Louisville.

—Louisville is 31-32 in league games since joining the ACC in 2014.

—Louisville will honor former head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who died on March 27, with a helmet sticker that will be worn for the entirety of the 2021 season.

—Clemson is 91-3 against unranked teams since the start of the 2012 season.

—Clemson is 19-4 in night games since the start of the 2018 season, and 38-7 in night games since 2015.

—Louisville is a 4-point underdog in this game, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Cardinals are 1-3 straight up as an underdog so far this season, but 1-0 as home underdogs.

—Louisville averaged 5.2 yard per carry in the loss to NC State — the third-straight game of averaging better than 5.0 per carry. Louisville ranks 25th nationally with an average of 5.1 yards per carry.

—Clemson enters Saturday’s game averaging 42.3 points per game against Louisville in six all-time meetings, their highest all-time scoring average against an opponent presently in a Power Five conference.

—Louisville is 156-170-52 all-time during the month of November, with Scott Satterfield posting a 3-4 mark in his first three seasons during the calendar’s 11th month.

—The Cards are 96-78-2 all-time in November home games.

—Clemson is attempting to defeat an ACC Atlantic Division opponent for the 41st time in its last 43 opportunities.

—Malik Cunningham accounted for 295 yards of offense against NC State and became the sixth player in school history to surpass 9,000 yards. He ranks 15th nationally at 307.2 yards per game.

—Clemson enters the game having surrendered only 11 offensive touchdowns this season, tied for the second-fewest in the country. Clemson has surrendered only nine offensive touchdowns in regulation in eight games this season.

—Louisville is 0-7 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.

—Louisville is 13-2 under Scott Satterfield when leading at halftime, and 15-3 when leading at the end of the 3rd quarter. Two of those losses have come this season — against Virginia and NC State.

—Louisville is 0-13 under Satterfield when trailing at the end of the 3rd quarter.

—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 269 games dating back to a 31-0 loss to Florida State during the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the second longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech, and the 11th-longest nationally.

—Louisville is 193-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-120 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.

Quotable:

—“It would be awesome to get a win. It’s a team, as I mentioned, that’s won national championships, played for it a bunch of times, and basically just run through the ACC over the last seven or eight years and have not lost very many games. And to be able to beat a team like that this year would be incredible.” —Scott Satterfield

—“Clemson is Clemson, whether it be 2010 or 2021. Each game is an opportunity to come out and show the world that we can do something great. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, it’s just a matter of what we can do and how we can focus.” —Jalen Mitchell

—“For us, it’s foundation, just expanding on that. Mental effort, it’s got to be amazing. We got to physically win the matchup. We got to take care of the ball, can’t have stupid penalties. Don’t help them. But the main thing offensively is just to be opportunistic.” —Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney

—“They may have this record, but they’re still Clemson and still have a lot of really good players. We just got to go out and make sure we perform and execute like we have.” —Bryan Brown

—”This is another team that is way better than their record. They’re 4-4 but literally two games that they’re tied in in the last minute that they lost, Virginia and Wake Forest — Wake Forest is a top-10 team, having a great year, at Wake Forest. So this is a 4-4 team but again, they’re a handful. They do a great job coaching over there. (Scott) Satterfield has got these guys playing hard. They do a good job with their schemes on both sides and positioning their players. The quarterback is another great player. Seems like every single week and I look up and we’re playing a freak show at quarterback. A lot of veterans guys. These guys have played a lot of football and (Malik Cunningham) is a great player. He’s got a great skill set.” —Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney

—“I think for us it’s not giving up the explosive (play) and make them have to drive the ball down the field. We’ve got to make them keep snapping it. You know they’re explosive. It’s kept them in some games.” —Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney

—“It would be great for our program; it would be great for our guys. They are a brand that everybody knows throughout the country, and if comes across the ticker that Louisville won the game then that’s huge in a lot of aspects, not only just for the win purposes but also for the program moving forward in recruiting and all of those aspects that are part of the program so it would obviously be a huge win for us.” —Scott Satterfield

Card Chronicle Prediction: Clemson 23, Louisville 17

Go Cards.