Clemson Tigers vs. Louisville Cardinals
Date and Time: Saturday, September 16, 2017, 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY
Opening College Football Odds: Clemson -2.5
Clemson vs. Louisville TV Coverage: ABC
The script is eerie in Louisville right now. The Cardinals have started at 2-0, Lamar Jackson is the Heisman Trophy favorite all of a sudden after two ridiculous statistical games in a row to kick off the campaign, and now, one of the top five teams in America is coming to town for a mid-afternoon game at home. Florida State needn't be reminded of what ensued in Louisville's season-defining 63-20 victory that could have been far worse in the end.
The Cardinals really aren't any different this year, save for the fact that they aren't sneaking up on anyone. Jackson already has two games this year with over 100 rushing yards and over 300 passing yards, and he's built a great rapport with his top receiver, Jaylen Smith, who has 300 yards on 17 catches.
But this Clemson defense is legit. The Tigers have yet to allow a touchdown this season, proving that they are still a National Championship caliber defense even though the offense has surely had some bumps in the road.
The biggest bump may have come early against Auburn when Kelly Bryant went down in a heap after a huge shot. He missed a drive, but when he came back on the field, he put together two magnificent drives against a great defense. The first was an 88-yard touchdown drive at the end of the first half that took a 6-0 deficit and turned it into a 7-6 lead. The second was a 79-yard touchdown drive at the start of the second half that set the tone for the rest of the 14-6 triumph.
The Last Meeting
As we all know, Clemson beat Louisville and went on to win the National Championship last season. But that was the game that the world realized that Jackson really had the chops to play at a ridiculously high level. He arguably won the Heisman Trophy on a night that his team was beaten.
The moment wasn't too big for Jackson, playing in front of a capacity crowd in primetime in one of college football's most daunting stadiums. He looked rattled a bit early, but Jackson went on to throw for 295 yards and run for 162 more with two touchdowns. He helped control the clock and took advantage of the few mistakes Deshaun Watson made in the game.
In the end, the Cards were beaten 42-36, but the fact that Louisville erased a 28-10 deficit and led 36-34 before Jordan Leggett's touchdown that won it for Clemson with 3:14 left in the game was remarkable.
Clemson vs. Louisville Free Picks
We hyped up this Louisville team quite a bit, but we think Clemson is going to be resilient and come out with a win. Jackson might have survived this defense last year, but this unit is a year older, a year wiser, and has a year of watching Jackson run all over people to try to diagnose.
It won't be easy for this defense, but it won't be easy for Jackson either. If he isn't at the very tip top of his game, we suspect Clemson is going to be the team making a huge statement at the 'Ville. This is going to be Bryant's moment to shine and serve as the moment that Clemson reasserts itself as one of the top teams in the land.
College Football ATS Pick: Play Clemson at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Clemson 41, Louisville 21