Though Louisville has to play Marshall tonight, it does not mean we can’t look ahead to next Saturday’s game as the Cardinals come to town for a matchup which should be between two top five teams. ESPN’s College Game Day will be on hand, and the game will be ABC’s Primetime Game of the Week.
Of course the storylines will mostly be about Lamar Jackson vs. Deshaun Watson. Jackson is the media darling right now and deservedly so with his 18 total touchdowns, which leads the nation. Watson came into the season at the media’s darling, but the Tigers’ slow start on offense has taken some of the attention away from him and Clemson for that matter.
Though the media will talk about the two offenses, the story of this game will be about the defenses. If the previous two meetings have told us anything, it will be the team who can make the most plays on defense who will win the game.
It’s been Clemson’s defense that has just outshined the Cardinals’ in both games. DeShawn Williams batted down a fourth down pass near the goal line in the last seconds to preserve Clemson’s 23-17 victory in 2014, and then last year Jadar Johnson intercepted a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game to secure a 20-17 victory at Louisville.
In each game, Clemson’s defense held Louisville under 270 total yards, while the Tigers did not do much better. The Tigers had just 229 in 2014 and last year they had 397. So with all the talk that will be around the two quarterbacks and the offenses, I can see this being another defensive struggle in Death Valley.
The Cardinals are good on defense. Their front seven has a lot of speed and power and can be very disruptive. If you don’t believe me, ask Florida State. The Cardinals held the Seminoles to 284 total yards, including 113 passing as they harassed FSU’s talented freshman quarterback, Deondre Francois, all day. He completed just 7 of 18 passes for 101 yards, while being sacked five times.
Granted Florida State has some issues on the offensive line, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless. FSU’s talented running back Dalvin Cook was held to 54 yards on 16 carries. Heading into tonight’s game, the Cardinals rank 20th nationally in total yards allowed, allowing an average of 304 yards per game.
We all saw what the Tigers did to Georgia Tech the other night in Atlanta. It wasn’t just the fact that Clemson held the Yellow Jackets’ option offense, in particular their running game, to 124 total yards as much as it was the way the defensive line battered and bruised Tech’s offensive front. The Tigers were so quick off the ball, Justin Thomas had nowhere to go and could barely even start the play, much less try and carry it out.
The Tigers rank fourth nationally in total defense (218.0) heading into today’s games, and they could go up based on the other outcomes. In three of their four wins, they have held the opposition under 100 rushing yards, including 87 at Auburn and 95 at Georgia Tech, two teams who take great pride in running the football.
So let the talking begin but please, let’s do not forget to talk about the defenses because odds are, one of them will more than likely win the game for their respective team.