ESPN College GameDay is on Clemson’s campus for just the fifth time in the show’s history. Four of those five times have come within the last four years. The local media had the opportunity to meet with Desmond Howard, Kirk Herbstreit and Rece Davis to pick their brains about Saturday’s matchup between No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Louisville.
Here is what we heard:
ESPN College GameDay loves coming to Clemson for many reasons. Howard said the people make all the difference.
“Each place brings its own unique flavor. I think Clemson does that. The people have been very extraordinary and just very nice. This is probably, I think, the best weather we have had so far,” Howard said.
Herbstreit agreed and had high praise for the passionate fan base.
“Passion. They love their team. They love the Tigers. They love college football. They love tailgating. They love the celebration of the fall. I think that it is very obvious whether we are here or not, you are here for six or seven Saturdays every year. You could make a really strong argument that this is one of the best settings for a Saturday in the fall,” the ESPN analyst said. “We are just happy to be here whenever we get the chance to come and be a small part of it. We never take that for granted. Every time we set up and the fans show up to show their support for their team, we just feed off of their energy.
“We just love coming here. Every time we get the chance.”
This ACC Atlantic Division matchup has generated a lot of hype for plenty of reasons, but a huge contributing factor is Louisville’s video game-like quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“Because of the hype of Lamar Jackson, you know it is just a month, but he is the flavor of the month. That is why it is so big,” Howard said.
Herbstreit said the key to Clemson’s success lies within the defensive line.
“If you can collapse the pocket. If you can get to him before he gets through that initial surge and gets to the linebackers, you have a real chance. With Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, these guys are as good as there are in the country and you have to win up front,” Herbstreit said. “If they don’t win up front, it is going to make it really hard to stop him, so that is a big key.”
Davis thinks that an important aspect to Clemson’s success will be running the ball a little more.
“I do think it takes a little time to gel and I have learned from my good friend Tim Bourret’s friend a long time ago, Lou Holtz, you get a different team every week,” he said. “Just because the offensive line hasn’t been as consistent as you may like in the running game for the last couple of games, it doesn’t mean it will be that way Saturday night.
“I imagine they will be engaged and focused. I would also imagine you will see (Deshaun Watson) run a little bit more, just as he did when we were here a year ago and they sort of broke it out against Notre Dame with great effect,” Davis said.
Herbstreit also brought up the point that it is still early in the season to say that this particular matchup will prevent the losing team or quarterback from still accomplishing incredible things.
“As much as I want to say everything is at stake on Saturday, I still think there is a chance that a losing team and a losing quarterback still to can have a magical year,” he said.