Clemson vs. Louisville Preview
•Clemson (6-0, 4-0) at Louisville (4-2, 2-1)
•Clemson ranked #2 by USA Today and #3 by Associated Press
•ABC TV, Noon (Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky, Allison Williams)
•At Cardinal Stadium (60,800), Louisville, Kentucky
•Clemson has won all five games in the series with Louisville that dates to 2014 when the Cardinals joined the ACC. This is just the second current FBS school that Clemson has beaten in each of the first five games. The Tigers won the first 29 games of the series with Virginia.
•Each of the first three games of the series were decided by six points or less as the Tigers won by scores of 23-17 in 2014, 20-17 in 2015 and 42-36 in 2016.
•DeShawn Williams battered down a last minute Louisville pass to preserve the win in 2014. Jadar Johnson intercepted a Louisville pass on the last play of the game at Louisville in 2015, and Marcus Edmonds tackled Mike Quick at the Clemson three with 33 seconds left to preserve the win in 2016.
•The 2016 game at Clemson featured current NFL quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson. Jackson would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, but Watson and the Tigers would win the National Championship. Jackson completed 27-44 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown and rushed 31 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Watson completed 20-31 passes for 306 yards and five touchdowns, and rushed 14 times for 91 yards.
•Clemson won the last meeting between the two teams at Louisville, 47-21, the first of a record six wins over top 25 teams that year. Clemson was ranked third and Louisville 14th entering that game. Kelly Bryant had a career high 316 yards passing in perhaps the finest game of his career to lead the Tigers.
•Last year Clemson won by a 77-16 score, the largest victory margin in an ACC game in school history and the most points Clemson has scored in a game since an 82-24 win over Wake Forest in 1981. The Tigers ran for 492 yards as Travis Etienne, Lyn-J Dixon and Tavien Feaster each went over 100 yards rushing. Clemson averaged a school record 11.6 yards per play, breaking the mark on 11.2 that had been set in 1903 against Georgia Tech when John Heisman was coach of the Tigers. Clemson also set a mark for yards per rush with a 13.3 average.
•Louisville Head Coach Scott Satterfield is in his first year at Louisville after a successful six-year run at Appalachian State. He was 51-24 at Appalachian State as a head coach between 2013-18, including three seasons of at least 10 wins. That includes his last year when he was 10-2 in 2018.
•Satterfield was an assistant coach at Appalachian State under Jerry Moore from 1998-2008 and the Mountaineers won three FCS Championships and 11 conference titles.
•In Satterfield’s last year at Appalachian State the Mountaineers were sixth in the nation in total defense (279.3) and sixth in scoring defense (15.7). On offense, Appalachian State was 20th in scoring at 36.7 points per game and 15th in rushing at 241.0 yards a game.
•Dabo Swinney is in his 11th full season (12th overall including seven games as interim head coach in 2008) at Clemson and has a 122-30 (.803) record entering Saturday’s game.
•Swinney is one of nine coaches in FBS history with at least 150 games coached and an 80 percent winning percentage. He is second to Washington Coach Chris Petersen in winning percentage among active coaches, minimum of five years coached. Petersen is 144-35 for a .804 percentage.
•Swinney’s record includes a 73-16 mark in ACC games and that .820 winning percentage is the best in league history.
Five Notes of Interest
•If Clemson defeats Louisville, and Oregon wins over Washington this weekend, Swinney will move to number-one among winningest active coaches on percentage basis, min of five years.
•Clemson has not allowed an opposing back to run for at least 100 yards in each of the last 27 games, dating to the 2017 Georgia Tech game.
•Clemson has some amazing streaks going. The Tigers have won a school record 21 games in a row overall; won 43 in a row when scoring first; won 92 of its last 94 when leading going into the fourth quarter; won 35 consecutive games played on Saturdays; won 74 in a row when holding the opposition to under 23 points; won 21 of its last 22 on the road.
•There are 12 unbeaten teams remaining at the FBS level. The list includes Power 5 schools Clemson, Alabama, Baylor, LSU, Minnesota, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State and Wisconsin.
•Clemson is averaging 6.87 yards per play so far this year, on pace to be the second best in Clemson history. The record was set last year when the Tigers averaged 7.35 yards a play.
Dabo Swinney on the Louisville Game
“Louisville has won four of its last five games and is coming off a win on the road over an undefeated top 20 team in Wake Forest. They are playing very well, especially on offense.
“I can’t say enough about the job Scott Satterfield has done. The difference in the team between this year and last year is just a polar opposite.
“Louisville has excellent schemes on both sides of the ball. On offense they have rushed for 200 yards on everyone but Florida State. They even got 200 yards against Notre Dame. That is where everything starts for them in the running game.
“Louisville is basically a Pistol Team with a lot of option principles. This is not an option team, but we will have to defend with option principles. They are committed to the run. This is not a drop back team that will throw it around the yard. We will have to deal with a lot of play-action pass plays.
“They played two quarterbacks in beating Wake Forest. Micale Cunningham is a Houdini Escape Artist. He knows how to extend plays and will be a challenge for our defense.
“Both of their quarterbacks are very accurate passers and their left tackle is probably the biggest player we will play against. They are strong at the tight end and wide receiver positions and their running back Javian Hawkins has made some long runs this year.
“No lead will be safe enough the way they can score. They were down 21-0 at Florida State and came back and scored 62 against Wake Forest. They average 6.9 yards a play, best in the ACC.
“Louisville puts a lot of pressure on your safeties and our cornerbacks are going to have to tackle.
“Defensively their effort is night and day better than last year. They have played physical and get after the quarterback.
“They have been outstanding on special teams and have had some big returns. This will be a three-phase challenge for our football team. It is a big game because it is a divisional game. Whoever wins this game will have a strong control of the Atlantic Division.”
Clemson Offense vs. Louisville Defense
Much has been written about Clemson’s offense not living up to expectations so far this year, but the Tigers average 6.87 yards per play, on pace to be the second best average for a season in Clemson history. The Tigers have been balanced, averaging 239 yards a game on the ground, 15th in the nation, and 258.2 through the air. Clemson’s 497 yards a game in terms of total offense is 12th in the nation. The Tigers are also averaging 25 first downs per game, 12th in the nation and will go against a Louisville team that gave up 40 first downs last week, most allowed in a game in Louisville history.
Trevor Lawrence is the quarterback and has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 1301 yards and 11 touchdowns against six interceptions. He is averaging 216.8 yards per game despite playing only seven of the 12 second half quarters this year. He has stepped up his rushing this year and has a five-yard average and five rushing touchdowns after averaging 2.8 yards a rush with one touchdown all of last year.
Travis Etienne has 45 career touchdowns, 42 rushing and three receiving and is just 10 touchdowns short of the league record for career rushing scores. He is coming off a 127-yard outing against Florida State off 17 carries and now has 589 yards for the year, a 7.0 average. For his career, Etienne went over the 3,000-yard mark on the ground last week against Florida State. He has a 7.6 average and 3,013 rushing yards for his career. Lyn-J Dixon averages 7.7 yards a rush for his career and already has 836 yards as a reserve over his 19 games.
Tee Higgins is the top receiver with 24 catches for 549 yards even though he did not play the last three quarters against Florida State due to a hamstring injury. He averages 23 yards a catch this year and 18.3 for his career. Justyn Ross had two TD receptions last week against Florida State and has 23-279. For his career he has 69 catches for 1279 yards and 12 scores.
Clemson will face a defense that has allowed 31.5 points per game, 97th in the nation. The Cardinals are coming off a game in which they gave up 59 points, 662 yards and 40 first downs, but still won. Louisville has allowed 435 yards a game, 101st in the nation.
Senior Khane Pass leads the team in tackles with 50 and has had three straight games with at least 10 tackles. The veteran of 40 games at Louisville is seventh in the ACC in tackles. C.J. Avery has 43 stops from a linebacker position, while Rodjay Burns has added 40.
Clemson Defense vs. Louisville Offense
This will be a strength vs. strength matchup when Louisville has possession of the ball. The Cardinals lead the ACC in yards per play at 6.93 and rank 16th in the nation I total offense at 489 per game. Like Clemson, Louisville has been balanced, averaging 227 rushing and 262 passing per game.
Louisville has played three different quarterbacks this year and all three have played well. In fact the Cardinals team passing efficiency is 176, first in the ACC and ninth in the nation. Micale Cunningham has been the starter of late, but was injured in the first half against Wake Forest. The last two games, Cunningham has been 18-24 for 387 yards and three touchdowns. Evan Conley, a freshman, has gone 22-34 for 336 yards and three touchdowns over the last two games. In relief against Wake Forest, Conley was 12-18 for 196 yards and added 79 yards on the ground, including a 41-yard touchdown run on a fourth-down play that gave Louisville a 10-point lead late in the game.
Javian Hawkins is the top rusher for the Cardinals and ranks second in the ACC in rushing with 103.7 yards per game. He opened the season with 122 yards against Notre Dame and had a career high 172 in Louisville’s 41-39 win at Boston College.
Louisville has two outstanding receivers in Seth Dawkins and Dez Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick averages 19.4 yards per catch and Dawkins is at 21.3. Overall, Louisville ranks fifth in the nation in yards per completion at 17.1. The Cards have 10 pass plays of at least 40 yards this season.
Clemson’s defense has been outstanding in pass defense, allowing just 150.3 yards a game, second in the nation behind Wisconsin’s 129.0 yards a game. Overall, Clemson ranks sixth in the nation in scoring defense at 12.3, better than the 13.1 average of last year when Clemson led the nation in scoring defense.
Isaiah Simmons has been Clemson’s top defender and is a prime candidate for ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors. The junior has a team best 46 tackles, including 40 first hits, eight tackles for loss, four sacks and three passes broken up.
•Clemson has been outstanding in many areas of special teams. That includes limiting returns. The Tigers are fifth in the nation in opponent kickoff return average at 14.6. That will be a big factor as Louisville is fourth in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 30.5 yards per return. Hassan Hall had a 100-yard return at Wake Forest for the Cardinals and is fourth in the nation as an individual with a 38-yard average.
•Clemson’s kickoff man B.T. Potter has 27 touchbacks on 32 kickoffs so far this year. He has 100 touchbacks in his two years handling this job. Louisville has returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Clemson two of the last four years.
•Steven Sawicki took over the placekicking chores against Florida State after Potter missed a 24-yard field goal. Sawicki has made 4-4 extra points and is 1-1 on field goals. Potter will still handle long field goals.
•Will Spiers is one of the most improved punters in the nation, as his average has gone from 38.9 to 43.4. More importantly, his net punting is 43.0, ahead of Dale Hatcher’s season net punting average of 42.7 which has lasted since 1984.
•Louisville has an outstanding kicker in senior Blanton Creque, who is 7-9 on field goals this year and has made 50 career field goals, third in Louisville history. He is also third in scoring in Louisville history with 303 points, three more than Lamar Jackson scored from the quarterback position for Louisville.