Imagine for a second that you play on Clemson’s nationally ranked defense, and all you have heard about the last five days from ESPN, the media, opposing coaches and even your own fans is that there is no way you and your teammates can stop Lamar Jackson and the No. 4 Louisville Cardinals.
Las Vegas even has the Tigers listed as a two-point underdog at home, despite the fact they have won 18 straight games at Death Valley.
How would all of that disrespect make you feel? I would imagine you would be pretty upset about it, right?
However, that’s not the case for No. 3 Clemson as it gets set to host the Cardinals in a primetime showdown Saturday on ABC. Or at least that is what they are telling the media.
“No, we don’t sit around and talk about all that stuff,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’re very structured in what we do. We have our meetings. We study the opponent, and we focus on what we’ve got to do to give ourselves a chance to win and what we’ve got to do to be able to affect or stop or slow down, whatever it is, that opponent does, and that’s what we focus on. We don’t get focused on all that other stuff.”
What Louisville (4-0, 2-0 ACC) does is turn its superstar quarterback and all of his playmakers loose. In the first month of the season, it’s been an all-out assault by the Cardinals as they have punished every defense they have faced, including 63 points and 530 yards against then No. 2 Florida State.
“You have to respect your opponent. What they are doing is not luck, it is skill,” Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph said. “Coach (Bobby) Petrino is doing a great job with that offense so they deserve all the respect and they are getting it.
“It is going to be a great challenge for us to stop them.”
Though the Tigers (4-0, 1-0 ACC) respect the Cardinals in what they can do, they’re confident they can defend Louisville and its Heisman Trophy contending quarterback.
They practice against Deshaun Watson every day.
“Deshaun is the best quarterback in the nation. It is very tough to go up against him in fall camp and in the spring. I remember I was talking to Hunter Renfrow, and he says you go against better in practice every day,” Joseph said. “Once you get out there and see we go against great talent every day in practice, you use those same principals and know you put the work in for it.”
Don’t get the Clemson defense wrong. They know Jackson is a big deal, and he is perhaps the best player in college football. They’re excited about the challenge, but at the same time they know going against Watson every day—a guy who has made unbelievable throws and runs himself the last two years—will have them prepared to play Jackson.
“The (quarterback) that plays here is pretty similar,” linebacker Ben Boulware said. “Everyone loves to talk about Lamar, and Deshaun has kind of been in the background. I was like, ‘We have a pretty good quarterback here, too.’ They are both dual-threat guys, even though Deshaun hates that word. That’s what he is, so he just kind of needs to get over it. But they are very similar. They are almost identical.
“Getting to go against Deshaun all throughout fall camp the last three years is pretty good preparation for Lamar Jackson.”
— Photo Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports