Clemson vs. Louisville prediction roundtable with the Campus Insiders staff. Breaking down what will happen in Saturday’s top game, an ACC clash between the Tigers and Cardinals in Death Valley.
Some forget this Louisville team gave Clemson fits last year with Lamar Jackson touching the ball only twice the entire game. Now he’s the Heisman Trophy frontrunner – supplanting DeShaun Watson, the sexy preseason pick. And this top-five meeting is going to come down to which of the two quarterbacks is able to navigate through the opposing defense with more efficiency. Clemson has outscored its last two opponents 85-7, but it hasn’t faced anyone like Jackson, who I’m expecting to account for 350 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. Louisville’s defense will frustrate Watson and intercept him twice as the Cardinals leave South Carolina with a win.
Welcome to this year’s BYOG game. Did everyone here bring their own guts? Okay, good. Flip a coin, really. I’ll go with Louisville, as the Cardinals seem to be catching teams at the right time. Josh Sweat and Derwin James missed FSU’s game against Louisville, while Clemson’s Austin Bryant and Aiden Baker are still not healthy enough to return for Saturday’s contest. Let’s go with the hot hand here, and all salivate knowing that if things play to form Louisville and Houston will both be undefeated on November 17 in a game that’ll decide CFP candidacy and perhaps the Heisman Trophy (Lamar Jackson vs. Greg Ward Jr.). Let’s also take solace in the fact that the ACC is doing right by itself by airing the game in primetime on Saturday; if this was the Pac-12, these two would be buried late-night on a Friday.
I love everything about the Clemson Tigers. Dabo Swinney is a phenomenal head coach. Deshaun Watson will be a top-five pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. I think Wayne Gallman is an undervalued tailback. But Lamar Jackson is on another planet right now. I watched him gash that Florida State defense and not think twice about stomping on FSU’s throat and finishing the job. Jackson will lead Louisville to a win, but Watson won’t go down without a fight. In the battle of two Heisman candidates, Jackson wins.
This is arguably the best game on the ACC slate this fall. The Tigers looked more like their 2015 selves both on offense and defense last week in the win over Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are faced with their second huge test after easily disposing of Florida State. And there’s no doubt that Lamar Jackson will find things difficult against one of the best defenses in the country. Of course, this Clemson ‘D’ has not faced a talent as special as Jackson. Dabo Swinney’s team almost knocked off Alabama last year in the national title game, so a tough Louisville defense won’t surprise Watson and Co. There will be fireworks on both sides of the football, but I think Brent Venables’ unit forces a big fourth-quarter turnover, which will be the difference in a very close one.
Wow. What a game in Death Valley. This will be exciting. Deshaun Watson vs. Lamar Jackson. It is the equivalent of Foreman vs. Ali. The Cardinals are riding high, but Clemson has the experience in big games. The Tigers will also have 80,000-plus Orange-clad fans on their side. Clemson wins in a classic.