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What you need to know: No. 2 Clemson at No. 14 Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Irresistible force meets an immovable object Saturday night at Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville, Ky., when second-ranked Clemson’s nationally ranked defense takes on reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and No. 14 Louisville.

Jackson leads a Cardinals’ offense that is averaging 614.5 yards per game, fifth best in the nation. The Tigers on the other hand rank second in the nation in total defense at 118.5 yards per game allowed.

Game information:

Where: Papa John’s Stadium, Louisville, Ky.

When: 8 p.m.

TV: ABC

Radio: 105.5 in the Upstate (Clemson Tigers Radio Network)

Injury Report: Clemson: Safety Van Smith (will play); Corner Marcus Edmond (doubtful). Louisville: Corner Jaire Alexander (out).

Latest Line: Clemson by 3 points

Three story lines

Can Clemson stop Lamar Jackson? Last year, Louisville’s quarterback went off on the Tigers in the second half as he totaled 457 yards of offense and totaled three touchdowns. Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins called Jackson wiry strong and the best player in college football. It’s hard to argue with Wilkins. Through two games, Jackson already has eight touchdowns and more than 1,100 yards of total offense.

Can Louisville’s offensive line block Clemson well enough to let Jackson take over the game. Let’s look at it this way. Auburn has a better offensive line than the Cardinals’ front and those Tigers gave up 11 sacks. Jackson is going to get his own, but can a constant pass rush affect Jackson. When Houston and LSU got to Jackson last year, he struggled to make plays and wore down as the game went on. Can Clemson’s Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant to the same.

How will Kelly Bryant react in his first road game? Will the junior be able to handle the adversity of playing in a hostile environment for the first time? Bryant passed his first test with the way he played against Auburn after getting knocked out of the game midway through the second quarter. He came back and led Clemson to back-to-back touchdowns to end the first and start the second half. He also hit Hunter Renfrow on a key third down play late in the game to ice the victory for the Tigers.

Three Louisville players to watch

Quarterback Lamar Jackson: Do I really need to say anymore? Jackson is the best player in college football and every time he takes a snap he has a chance to either throw a touchdown pass or run for one.

Running back Malik Williams: He came off the bench and rushed for 149 yards and one touchdown following Jeremy Smith’s injury last week at North Carolina. Smith is out for the season with a broken foot.

Wide receiver Jaylen Smith: He leads the ACC with 300 yards on 17 catches. Smith is averaging 17.6 yards per catch and scored last week on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Jackson.

Louisville Scouting Report

  • It is safe to say Louisville is an offensive football team. The Cardinals are averaging 614.5 yards and 41 points per game. Jackson, no surprise, has been unbelievable averaging 505.0 yards per game and totaling eight touchdowns already this season.
  • The offensive line for Louisville is horrible. Though the Tar Heels got just one sack last week, they lived in the Louisville backfield all afternoon. They had opportunities to bring Jackson down, but they could not make the plays. Though Jackson will make his fair share of plays on Saturday, Clemson’s defensive line and linebackers, unlike UNC’s, will make theirs too.
  • Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander is doubtful to play against Clemson due to a knee injury he suffered in the Purdue game in Week 1. If Alexander can’t make it then the Cardinals could get exposed by Clemson’s talented receiving crops. Louisville ranks 126 out of 130 FBS schools in pass defense, giving up 338.5 yards per game through the air. Quarterbacks are completing 65 percent of their passes and have thrown for seven touchdowns thus far. Opposing quarterbacks have an efficiency rating of 143.11.
  • As bad as Louisville is on the back end, they are just as impressive on the defensive line. Defensive ends Trevon Young and James Hearn, along with linebacker Stacy Thomas, have helped the Cardinals lead the country in run defense through two games. Louisville has yielded just 68 yards rushing. However, North Carolina and Purdue both gave up on the run early and combined for just 44 carries. To compare, Clemson’s first two opponents—Kent State and Auburn—combined for 86 carries.

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