In 2015, eventual national runner-up Clemson survived a huge scare on a Thursday night in Louisville. The next year, Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson beefed up his Heisman stats but fell to the Tigers when receiver James Quick couldn’t make it past the marker on a fourth down play late in the game.
At that moment in time, with Jackson and head coach Bobby Petrino continuing what Charlie Strong started at Louisville, it appeared that many more classic games between the two schools would follow. But the good times have not continued at the 'Ville, and this season has been a nightmare as the 2-6 Cardinals have lost each of their last five games by 18 points or more.
Louisville at Clemson
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 3 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Clemson -38.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Louisville’s offensive line block Clemson’s defensive line even a little?
Last week’s match up of the Florida State offensive line against the Clemson defensive line was a mismatch of epic proportions. The Seminoles had minus-21 yards rushing due in part to Clemson’s five sacks. This week could be worse. Louisville is last in the ACC — yes, behind FSU — and 119th in the nation in sacks allowed. They are also 119th in rushing offense. Against a Clemson defense that is among the nation’s leaders in both sacks and rushing defense, those stats don’t bode well.
2. Slowing down Travis Etienne
Really, it’s more than just Etienne, as Adam Choice and Lyn-J Dixon are also averaging over 7 yards per carry. But the sophomore from Jennings, La., is the star. He had just 45 yards rushing last week, but with the game in hand early on, others could get touches. Louisville has the worst rushing defense in the ACC and is 125th in America in that department. Somehow, someway, the Cardinals need to contain Etienne and make him earn his yards.
3. Clemson focus
The Tigers appear to be locked in. But next week Clemson goes to Chestnut Hill to play Boston College in a game that could determine the Atlantic Division title. Boston College is 3-1 in the league would be in control of the division with an upset win. Louisville is winless in the conference and has not been a threat to anyone. Could the Tigers be peeking ahead to next week? Would it matter if they are?
Complacency is the only thing that could slow down the Tigers this week, and I don’t know if that will matter. Not only is Louisville a bad team that may have given up the good fight, Clemson is also a horrible match-up personnel wise. Both lines should be dominated by Clemson, the Tigers have vastly better skill players, and Louisville is one of the worst teams in the land in turnover margin. Etienne will run, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will pass, and the Cardinals will do virtually nothing offensively. And the Tigers will destroy Louisville.
Prediction: Clemson 56, Louisville 7
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.