WHAT WE ARE HEARING: PREVIEW AND PREDICTION FOR CLEMSON AT LOUISVILLE
- 2021-11-06 13:14:46
Welcome to another edition of What We Are Hearing!
The Tigers go back on the road to play Louisville for the first time since 2019. They have some nice momentum from a thrilling 30-20 win over FSU, beating the Seminoles for a sixth straight time, but now they have to play well on the road—something they have yet to do in 4 games away from home this season. Kickoff is 7:30 on ACC Network, and I’ll be on the field to bring you live coverage!
On to the matchup….
Clemson leads the all-time series with Louisville 6-0…Clemson (83-10) is three wins behind Alabama (86-6) for the most since 2015. The Tigers (126) trail only Alabama (135) for the most wins since 2011. They have 6 more than Ohio State. Clemson leads the nation in Power Five wins (89) since 2013. Alabama has 87 and Ohio State has 83 over that span....Clemson has beaten at least 12 Power Five opponents in 4 of the last 6 seasons. In college football history, that feat has only been achieved 4 other times. Alabama, LSU, Georgia and FSU each accomplished it once….The Tigers have won 10 or more games for 10 straight seasons, the third-longest streak in history behind FSU (14) and Alabama (13), which is also an active streak…The Tigers’ streak of 6 straight outright conference titles is tied with Oklahoma’s active streak for the third-longest in history. Oklahoma won 12 in the 40’s and 50’s and BYU won the WAC 7 straight times in the 70’s and 80’s. However, Clemson is the only program to have won 6 straight conference championship games….Clemson has finished in the top-4 of the AP Poll in 6 consecutive seasons, tied with Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma teams for the fourth-longest streak in history. FSU did so 13 straight seasons under the late great Bobby Bowden, while USC and Miami have each done so 7 straight seasons….Dabo Swinney has the best active win percentage in the nation at .807. Nick Saban is second at .798….Dabo’s 143 wins are already tied with Steve Spurrier for 6th-most by a coach in his first 15 seasons, but Dabo is only in his 13th full season. He could quite conceivably top Urban Meyer’s record of 165 wins in his first 15 seasons….Dabo is tied for fourth-most games as an ACC head coach….Clemson has been ranked No.1 in the AP Poll in each of the last 6 seasons, which is the third-longest streak of all time behind Alabama (14) and Miami (7). Alabama’s streak is also active….Clemson had by far the longest active streak ranked in the top 5 of the AP Poll at 57 straight weeks before dropping to No.6 because of a pick-six in the opener against now No.2 Georgia. Alabama was second at 21, followed by Georgia and Oklahoma with just 4 each. If Clemson had remained in the AP top 5 until the end of the regular season, it would have surpassed Alabama’s all-time record of 68. Clemson’s current streak of 97 straight weeks in the AP top 10 is tied with Alabama for the longest streak in history behind Miami (137)…Since 2011, Clemson has finished with an equal or higher ranking than its preseason ranking every year except for 2019 and 2020, the only two years the Tigers have been ranked No.1 preseason. The Tigers were ranked No.2 and No.3 in the 2021 preseason polls…
Head Coach Scott Satterfield is in his third season at Louisville after leaving App State, where he lost big to Clemson in 2015. The Tigers went on the road and blew out his Louisville team in his first season in 2019, but it is a much-improved team this season. The Cards’ record is just 4-4, but they could very easily be 6-2 and almost beat Wake on the road. They also missed an easy last-second field goal to beat Virginia. The Cardinals have lost 3 of their last 4, though, including a 28-13 loss at NC State last week.
Fourth-year junior quarterback Malik Cunningham is in his third year as the starter, and he’s about as dynamic as they come. It seems like the Tigers are facing a dangerous quarterback every week, and this game is no exception. He’s like a bigger version of Lamar Jackson but obviously not as much of an athletic freak as Lamar. But he is extremely dangerous both running and passing. Cunningham is completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,900 yards this season. He only has 9 touchdown passes, but he has 13 rush TD’s to go with 556 yards and 5.1 yards per carry. He has 5 interceptions this season.
5’11, 175-pound freshman Jordan Watkins (#1) leads the way in the passing game with 26 catches for 375 yards and 2 touchdowns. 6’3, 213-pound junior Justin Marshall (#18), a Conyers, GA native, has 20 catches for 274 yards but just one score. 6’0, 194-pound sophomore Tyler Harrell (#8) from Miami has just 8 catches but averages 34 yards per catch and 3 of his 8 catches have gone for touchdowns! Sophomore Louisville native Marshon Ford (#83) leads the team with 33 catches from his tight end position and has one score this season.
Cunningham is the leading rusher, with exactly one more carry than 5’10, 221-pound freshman running back Jalen Mitchell (#15), but the freshman leads the backs with 493 yards and 3 touchdowns. He averages 4.5 yards per carry. The veteran, fourth-year junior Hassan Hall (#19), is a 6’0, 204-pound Atlanta native. He’s averaging 7.5 yards per carry this season but only had 4 carries in each of their last 2 games.
Defensively, Louisville doesn’t have a prolific pass rusher on the defensive line, but as a team, they average 2.75 sacks per game, which is tied for 26th in the nation. Junior linebacker Yasir Abdullah (#22) leads the team with 6 sacks. Freshman defensive end Ashton Gillotte (#97) is next with 3 sacks. The defense also has 9 interceptions this season, which is tied for 22nd in the nation. Sophomore Kei’Trel Clark (#13) leads the team with 3 picks.
Place kicker James Turner is not having a great season. He is 11-16 and just 5-9 over 40 yards. As I mentioned earlier, he missed a relatively easy game-winner as time expired against Virginia. His season long is 46 yards.
The Tigers have 3 key players that will be game-time decisions. Freshman RB Phil Mafah rolled his ankle last week after running 63 yards for the Tigers’ longest play of the season. Starting offensive guard Will Putnam and starting center Mason Trotter will also be game-time decisions. Otherwise, the Tigers are about as healthy as any game this season, which is isn’t saying much. Fortunately, sophomore RB Kobe Pace will be back after missing last week.
The offense looked much better last week than they did at Pitt the week before. Again, that’s not saying much, but you can see the gradual improvement, including from DJ. True freshman RB Will Shipley had a breakout game last week against FSU, rushing for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry. His 21-yard, tackle-breaking, game-winning run against FSU was one for the highlight reel. He returned early from his knee injury against Pitt and averaged 5.2 yards per carry but only had 10 carries. He had more than twice that last week. The offense still had some bad plays last week, and they have to avoid turnovers this week in hostile road environment at night. The Tigers have turned the ball over 5 times in the last 2 games, including 2 for scores after no turnovers in the previous two games. Defensively, the Tigers have been incredible all season and just need to keep doing what they do. They did have a few bad offsides calls last week, similar to the ones that cost them the NC State game, but they did a phenomenal job containing dynamic quarterback Jordan Travis. He is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the nation to sack, but the Tigers got to him 6 times last week after he had been sacked just twice in the previous three games.
As for special teams, punter Will Spiers had a great game last week and has been solid all season, but BT Potter had probably the worst game of his career. He was just 1-4 on field goals, missing from 30 yard and from 37. The Tigers should have had a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter against the Seminoles, but thanks to the 3 missed field goals, it was another one-score nail-biter. Fortunately, the offense came through in the clutch for the first time all season, getting the game-winning touchdown with under 4 minutes left. And the defense came through with the stops they had to have like they almost always do, so Potter survived his dreadful game. In his defense, he’s been money all season and almost single-handedly won the Boston College game, so hopefully he’ll bounce right back!
For a final player availability report, be sure to click HERE about two hours before kickoff!
If the Tigers can finally put together a clean game offensively, they should win this one by a couple scores. However, we are in November and still haven’t seen that—especially on the road. The offense is playing better, as I noted, and I suspect that they will protect the football better after 5 turnovers in the last 2 games. Malik Cunningham is tough to contain, but the Tigers have done a remarkable job at doing just that against the likes of Garrett Shrader of Syracuse and Jordan Travis of FSU, so I think they will be able to do the job on Cunningham. The Tigers are 6-0 all-time against Louisville. Make it 7-0!
CLEMSON 27 Louisville 17
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