LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (6-3, 3-3) at CLEMSON TIGERS (8-1, 6-0)
Game Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: Memorial Stadium: Clemson, S.C.
Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (analyst) and Tiffany Blackmon (sideline)
Favorite: Clemson by 7
All-Time Series: Clemson leads, 7-0
Last Meeting: Clemson won, 30-24, on 11/6/2021 in Louisville
Louisville Depth Chart:
Excitement Level: 8.3
I get goosebumps just thinking about the possibility of these losers having to storm their own field after a loss.
Pregame Meal: Chicken wings
Gotta keep it rolling.
Bold Prediction: Louisville scores at least one defensive touchdown
After a week with no forced turnovers, it’s time to get back in the pick six game.
Rance Conner Interception Alert Level: Pacific Blue (below average)
After a hot start, we have started working backwards here.
Predicted Star of the Game: Tiyon Evans
Feed the stud.
Dabo Swinney had something happen this offseason that was very new for him. He had a lot of staff turnover, including losing his coordinators to other jobs. Tony Elliot has moved on to Virginia and plenty of Clemson fans were hoping for a fresh start on offense with the change. That hasn’t really come to fruition as Brandon Streeter was elevated to the offensive coordinator role but has dealt with some of the same issues Clemson had last season. The offense is better, but it is far from meeting the expectations with the level of talent it has.
The quarterback position has been one of the few constants for Clemson for a decade but DJ Uiagalelei has to have had the most interesting career of any signal-caller for the Tigers during that time. DJU burst onto the scene with a big performance as a freshman two years ago against Notre Dame but once he because the full-time starter, he was woefully inconsistent. Coming into this season, the expectations weren’t as high but the pressure had grown with a five-star freshman waiting to take his job.
DJU has improved in every facet of the game but his inconsistent play has been an issue this season leading to him being benched a few times. He struggles to hit throws down the field which leads to a lot of quick throws that don’t always move the sticks. His 7.3 yards per attempt average gives a good example of how they haven’t been able to hit big throws as it’s slightly behind Malik Cunningham’s average of 7.4. As the season has progressed, his play has fallen off from a statistical standpoint. UofL can’t have a repeat of last year where he used this game to get back on track.
Running back is where Clemson is at their best and it is also where they worry me the most. Will Shipley is an extremely underrated back who can score at any moment and in a variety of ways. Shipley runs tough but he is not a power back in the traditional sense. What he is is a super violent runner who can break away in the open field and he can get there by running through arm tackles or by being slippery. Stop Shipley, and you have a much better chance of stopping the offense altogether.
Phil Mafah and Kobe Pace are the rotation guys at running back and both are capable of having a big impact as well. Mafah is a big back with solid speed but his power is the feature of his game. Pace has been out for most of the season but I get the feeling that this could be the game he returns to the lineup. Clemson started to run the ball a lot more before their loss to Notre Dame. I expect them to go back to the running game this weekend.
Clemson has been loaded with wide receivers for just as long as they’ve been loaded at quarterback but they haven’t been getting their normal production for the last two seasons. Some of that is on DJU but a lot of it is due to the fact that they’ve run out of mutant basketball players masquerading as wide receivers. Beaux Collins and Joseph Ngata are both big outside targets with good speed and both of them have not lived up to the standard of the guys that came before them. They both have shown flashes but the overall inconsistency of the offense seems to be an issue for everyone. Both of these guys can go off at any minute so UofL has to keep up with stopping the big plays.
Antonio Williams is the guy that I think will be the biggest worry for the defense in the passing game. He is a true freshman slot receiver who has been really good in their quick and screen games. Williams is super quick and he has great speed in the open field. He also doesn’t seem to be bothered by the big moments like some freshmen are. He leads the team in catches and yards and with UofL being so aggressive, I could see Clemson being even quicker with their passing game.
Clemson has been very good at including their tight ends in their offense this year. Davis Allen is in the top two in most of the receiving stats for tight ends in the ACC and he has shown that he can stretch the field and run after the catch. He has a well-rounded game and could cause some issues for a Louisville defense that has continued to struggle to cover tight ends in the middle of the field. Jake Briningstool is the other tight end in this offense who can be a problem. He has 4 touchdowns on the year and he is athletic enough to make plays after the catch.
The Clemson offensive line has been inconsistent this year but they have played well overall. The left side is the strength with Jordan McFadden manning the left tackle position and being one of the best in the country. Will Proctor is a veteran at center and he will be important as the player that makes the calls to get people set up to handle UofL’s pressure. The most important player of the group, in my opinion, is true freshman right tackle Blake Miller. PFF has some rough stats for him with 9 penalties, 11 hurries allowed, and 16 pressures allowed. The starting right guard, Walker Parks is the only player rated below him, so the right side of the line will be something to watch.
Clemson has been known for having a top-level defense for a very long time now but the loss of Brent Venables has tested the sustainability of that fact. Venables left for Oklahoma and he took with him a system that reloaded each year no matter who was lost to the NFL draft. This season has been interesting as Wes Goodwin was promoted to the defensive coordinator position with no prior coaching experience. The Tigers have had a few surprising performances on defense recently and Goodwin’s experience will be tested.
The defensive line for Clemson was heralded as one of the best potential groups in recent memory. Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis returned this year to provide a one-two punch in the middle to stop the run and get after the quarterback. Davis has battled injuries throughout his career and the senior is having a strong season with seven tackles for loss and he has been very disruptive. Bresee has missed time this season after his sister passed away. Ruke Orhorhoro is a guy to keep an eye on here. He has flashes of being the best of the group, in my opinion. He missed the Notre Dame game but I always assume that injured players will be back to play UofL.
Myles Murphy is a player that is expected to be drafted in the first round but I’ve been really impressed by K.J. Henry who lines up on the opposite side. Henry is a veteran leader who took some time to become an impact player but he does a little bit of everything for this defensive front. I think he’s done a good job of setting the edge and helping the run defense. He also has a bunch of quarterback hurries and batted passes. Murphy (and Xavier Thomas when he’s healthy) get a lot of the focus but don’t miss Henry’s impact on the game.
All summer long we heard about Clemson’s linebacker group being better because they were more athletic. While I do agree that they are more talented as a group, they don’t have that physical edge they’ve had since UofL joined the ACC. As good as this defense has been over the years, they didn’t put a lot of guys in the NFL. This position group has been built on guys who lead more than anything and they may be missing that this season with such a young group.
Trenton Simpson has seen his production drop off this season but he is still the most gifted player on their team, in my opinion. Simpson may not be a mutant like former star, Isiah Simmons, but he is at least an alien. He has great size and he can fly around the field like a safety or corner. He joins Jeremiah Trotter as the two linebackers we will see in the middle of the field. They cover a lot of ground but Notre Dame found a lot of space to work with in the run game last weekend. Barrett Carter rounds out the group as the outside linebacker who will have to contain UofL on the edges.
The defense has been inconsistent overall but each group has seemingly taken turns being the weak spot. Wake Forest made the secondary look beyond pedestrian a few weeks ago but they have looked very good in other games like NC State. From a talent standpoint, this group is one of the better secondaries UofL will see this year. However, they are a bit young and inexperienced.
At cornerback, Nate Wiggins leads the group in PBUs. He had a nightmare game against Wake Froest but his one PBU in the game was the one that ended it. He and Fred Davis will be the main players at the corner spot but Toriano Pride is a true freshman who could see some time in a reserve role.
Andrew Mukuba is the best player of the group and he will split time between free safety and slot corner. He was one of the best freshmen in the country last season and he has only improved in year two. Jalyn Phillips is one of the top tacklers on the team but he and Tyler Venables have some rough numbers in coverage. Could this be the game where UofL is able to use their play action to hit a big throw or two against a safety in coverage?
—Clemson owns the longest home winning streak in the country at 38 consecutive games.
—This game is being played on the six year anniversary of Clemson’s last home loss — a 43-42 defeat against Pitt on Nov. 12, 2016.
—Louisville is 0-7 against Clemson, with four of those losses coming by less than a touchdown.
—Clemson remains the only ACC opponent Louisville has faced multiple times without defeating.
—Louisville is currently riding its first four-game winning streak since the 2016 season.
—Louisville will be facing its second top 10 of the season. The Cardinals defeated No. 10 Wake Forest, 48-21, last month at Cardinal Stadium.
—Clemson is one win away from producing its 30th nine-win season in school history. It would be Clemson’s 13th under Dabo Swinney, more than doubling College Football Hall of Famer Danny Ford (six).
—At Louisville, head coach Scott Satterfield 2-6 against ranked teams in the AP poll and 1-3 against teams ranked in the top 10.
—Louisville is 0-3 all-time in games played at Memorial Stadium.
—Clemson has not lost back-to-back games since 2011.
—Louisville is 18-61-1 all-time against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
—The Cards are 6-3 for the first time since 2014 and have their best record through nine games since an 8-1 start in 2016.
—The Louisville defense hasn’t allowed a third-quarter touchdown since Virginia scored one on Oct. 8.
—Clemson is one win away from guaranteeing itself an outright Atlantic Division title.
—Clemson is attempting to win in its first eight games against a school for the second time all-time, joining Clemson’s wins in the first 29 games of its all-time series with Virginia.
—Louisville hasn’t won consecutive games against top 25 opponents since 2011 and 2012 when the Cards defeated No. 24 West Virginia (38-35) in 2011 and came back the next year to defeat No. 4 Florida 33-23 in the 2012 Sugar Bowl.
—Clemson is hosting Louisville for the first time since 2018. The two teams will play again in Death Valley in 2024. U of L won’t host Clemson again until 2026.
—Clemson is 3-9 against the spread in its last 12 home games.
—Louisville is 7-27-1 all-time against top 10 opponents. The Cardinals have never defeated multiple top 10 opponents in the same season.
—Clemson will be looking for its 59th win in its last 60 home games.
—Louisville QB Malik Cunningham needs one more touchdown to become Louisville’s career leader in TDs accounted for. He’s currently tied with Lamar Jackson at 119, including 70 passing after tossing three last week.
—Louisville ranks 25th nationally in rushing at 201.7 yards per game.
—Louisville is tied for second in the nation in sacks with 33, and third in the nation in interceptions with 14.
—Louisville is a 7-point underdog in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The Cards are 6-3 against the spread this season and 2-1 straight up as a dog.
—Louisville leads the nation in turnovers gained this season with 24. The Cards did not force a turnover last week against James Madison.
—Clemson is entering the game averaging 40.6 points per game against Louisville in seven all-time meetings, which is Clemson’s highest all-time scoring average against an opponent presently in a Power Five conference.
—Louisville’s win over James Madison last week was its first without a sack or a takeaway since Sept. of 2002.
—Clemson is attempting to win a 10th consecutive game against conference opponents, dating to last season. It would mark Clemson’s fifth conference winning streak of 10 or more games since the ACC’s founding in 1953.
—Louisville is 2-2 in road games this season and has lost 10 of its last 14 games away from Cardinal Stadium.
—Louisville is 159-172-52 all-time during the month of November, with Scott Satterfield posting a 6-6 mark in his first three seasons during the calendar’s 11th month.
—Clemson is attempting to improve to 48-2 in its last 50 games against ACC Atlantic Division teams, including games against typical Atlantic division foes in the division-free season in 2020.
—Over Scott Satterfield’s first four seasons at Louisville, 15 of his 44 games have been decided by one possession or less. The Cardinals are 5-10 in those games. Louisville is 2-7 under Satterfield in games decided by five points or fewer.
—Louisville is 1-16 under Scott Satterfield when trailing going into the fourth quarter. Their lone victory came last month when they outscored Pitt 17-0 in the fourth quarter on their way to a 24-10 win over the Panthers.
—Louisville is 21-6 when leading after three quarters under Satterfield.
—Clemson’s streak of 149 games (which dates back to 2011) without losing back-to-back contests is the longest in the country.
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 18-3 when winning the turnover battle, and just 3-17 when losing it. One of those three wins came last weekend against James Madison.
—The Cards have turned the football over seven times in their three losses this season and seven times in their six victories.
—Louisville is 8-0 under Scott Satterfield when scoring 40-49 points, and 3-0 when scoring 50 or more.
—Louisville is 1-9 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer, with their lone win coming earlier this season in a 20-14 triumph over UCF.
—Clemson is one of only two teams in the country that haven’t allowed a play from scrimmage of 50 yards or more this season (UCLA is the other). Clemson is the only team in the country to have not allowed a 30-plus-yard run or a 50-plus-yard pass.
—Clemson will be celebrating Military Appreciation Day during Saturday’s game against Louisville.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 283 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 197-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-121 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
“(Last year’s game) sticks with me, but this is a different year, different team. Just to get that close, it gave some of our guys confidence to know we can compete at the highest level. At the end of the day, we have to get it done. We gotta go win it.” —Scott Satterfield
—“The last time we lost a game we went on a 14-game winning streak. The goal is to try to start another one on Saturday.” —Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
—“That (Clemson game) definitely is double circled, for sure. When we see them again, it’s going to be a different outcome.” —Malik Cunningham
—”To beat a team so recognizable like Clemson, that’s won national championships, that has won 38 straight at home, certainly the future of your program looks really good. It impacts recruits and impacts the future that way, which is huge obviously. It also just proves that we’re headed in the right direction. Just to know that hey, we’re not there yet, but we want to continue to get better and better as a football team. This would be another step in the right direction.” —Scott Satterfield
—“They have a lot of athletes on the team. They have a good O-line, good backs. Obviously, Malik Cunningham’s a very dynamic, athletic quarterback. Probably one of the most, if not the most, athletic that we’re going to see. We have to be disciplined in our run fits, in our gaps, don’t try to do too much.” —Clemson LB Barrett Carter
—“We want to win the division, we don’t want to tie for the division.” —Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
—“I think we just come together, look at the mistakes we made, and find a way to fix those mistakes. To get our eyes ahead to Louisville, get the best game plan we can to beat those guys. We know who we are. This program is built on tough times. And you know, I have no doubt that we’ll be just fine and we’ll come back strong.” —Clemson tight end Davis Allen
—“We have our work cut out for us going against this team. We know we’re going to have to play a great game. We’ve got to win the turnover margin; we’ve got to win the big play side of the ball, on both sides of the ball. We should be ready to go.” —Scott Satterfield
Card Chronicle Prediction: Clemson 29, Louisville 23
I haven’t wanted to be wrong this badly in a long time.