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#14 Louisville hosts #3 Clemson on Saturday
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 9/15/2017  at  9:09:00 AM
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Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium – Louisville, KY
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Clemson -3.0, Total: NA

Lamar Jackson and #14 Louisville will be hoping to upset #3 Clemson at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday.

Clemson is the defending national champion, but this team is not satisfied with last season’s victory being the program’s only one. The Tigers have their hearts set on winning back-to-back championships, but they’re going to need to win this game in order to give themselves a chance. A loss this early in the season would make it very tough for Clemson to make it to the College Football Playoff, but the Tigers are going to be confident in their ability to win this game. They are coming off of a tough 14-6 victory over a good Auburn team last week, so they know what it takes to win a game against yet another elite program. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have defeated both Purdue and North Carolina this season. Both games were close heading into the fourth quarter and neither of those teams is very good. Louisville is going to need to play at a much higher level in order to earn this victory, but the team will have some extra motivation in this one. The Cardinals came up just short of beating the Tigers last year, falling 42-36 as a one-point road favorite on Oct. 1, 2016. They’ll desperately be hoping to finish this time around and it will help that they’re playing in front of their own fans. One trend that stands out when looking at this game is that home teams that outscored their opponents by 17 points or more per game in conference games the year before are 28-7 ATS since 1992. Clemson, meanwhile, is 42-25 ATS after allowing 75 or less rushing yards in the team’s previous game in that span.

Clemson is coming off of an impressive 14-6 victory over Auburn last week, and the defense made the difference in that one. The Tigers allowed just 79 yards through the air in that game, and they also held their opponent to just 38 yards rushing. A lot of that had to do with the fact that Clemson was getting to Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham at will. The Tigers will need to get similar pressure on Lamar Jackson in this one, but it will definitely be tougher to bring Jackson down than Stidham. On offense, Clemson QB Kelly Bryant (417 yards 1 TD, 1 INT) will be counted on to have big game for his team. Bryant rushed for 59 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Auburn last week, but he threw for only 181 yards with no touchdowns in that one. The good news for Bryant and Clemson is that the first-year starter did not throw any picks. The bad news is that former Clemson superstar Deshaun Watson needed 306 yards and five touchdowns through the air just to beat Louisville 42-36 at home last year. Bryant will not be able to put up passing numbers like those, but he’ll need to find a way to be a bit better as a passer in this one. If the Tigers don’t find any success in the passing game then this one will be a blowout.

QB Lamar Jackson (771 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT) had one of the best games of his career against North Carolina last week, as he threw for 393 yards with three touchdowns and no picks and also rushed for 132 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson has only gotten better since his Heisman winning season a year ago and he’ll be looking for revenge against Clemson in this one. One huge difference in Jackson’s game is that he is a more accurate passer right now. Jackson will not hesitate to beat Clemson from the pocket, but he is also improved as a runner. That is because Jackson put on a lot of weight in the offseason, so he is now breaking tackles at a ridiculous rate. Another guy that must be mentioned in this Louisville offense is WR Jaylen Smith (17 rec, 300 yards, 1 TD). Smith is one of the best receivers in the country and has a lot of chemistry with Jackson. He should be in for a big game when these two programs battle for ACC supremacy. Defense will, however, be crucial in this game and it’s hard to say the Cardinals look ready for a team like Clemson right now. The good news for Louisville is that Clemson has not shown much in the passing game. That means that Bobby Petrino’s team can focus on stopping the run and force the Tigers to try to beat them through the air.

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