After dropping another spot in the polls, the no. 3 Clemson Tigers will take their act on the road this week when they take on the Louisville Cardinals. Kickoff is at high noon on Saturday, October 19 at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC.
Current betting odds list the Tigers as 24-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 61.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s college football odds.
The Tigers are trying to win back a little respect on the national stage after their close call against North Carolina a few weeks ago. Last week’s 45-14 win over Florida State should help, as Clemson managed to cover the four-touchdown spread over their old rivals. However, the Tigers have gone from no. 1 in the polls to no. 3 in the span of a few weeks, which probably doesn’t sit well with Dabo Swinney, especially with a 6-0 record and 21 straight wins.
Nevertheless, as long as the Tigers hold serve and remain undefeated, there’s almost no chance for them to be left out of the College Football Playoff. Clemson’s schedule is also quite favorable, as they don’t have to play any ranked teams between now and the ACC Championship Game. However, unlike past years, one loss will likely be enough to take the Tigers out of the CFP, so there is no margin of error for Swinney and company.
As for the Cardinals, they are becoming one of the surprise teams in the ACC this year. Scott Satterfield seemed to have his work cut out for him when he came to Louisville. But after a road upset of previously-ranked Wake Forest last week, the Cardinals are 4-2 overall and 2-1 in ACC play. With just two more wins, Louisville can get back to a bowl game and take a huge step forward in Satterfield’s first season.
Of course, Louisville’s schedule is by no means easy. In addition to playing Clemson, the Cardinals face tough road games against Miami and in-state rival Kentucky, not to mention tricky home games with Virginia and Syracuse. If nothing else, they’ll want to avoid a blowout loss to Clemson that could destroy their confidence and momentum heading down the stretch.
Louisville would also love to get their first-ever win over Clemson. The Cardinals have lost all five games they’ve played with the Tigers since joining the ACC in 2014. Close games the first few years have given way to massive blowouts the last two seasons, including a 77-16 smashing in Death Valley last year and a 47-21 home loss in 2017.
Just as I thought last week, the close call against North Carolina should be enough for Swinney to get his team’s attention for the rest of the season. Clemson started fast last week, leading 28-0 at halftime and taking a 42-0 lead before conceding a couple of garbage-time scores. I envision a similar script this week, even on the road, so I’ll eat the points and take Clemson to cover.
Back-to-back wins for Louisville over Boston College and Wake Forest have helped hide the fact that the team’s defense is atrocious. They’ve allowed at least 35 points in all three of their games against ACC opponents. If the Louisville defense put up so little resistance against the likes of BC and Wake Forest, I don’t know how they’re going to stop the Tigers.
Coming off a bye the previous week, Clemson’s offense looked a little closer to peak working condition last week against FSU. Trevor Lawrence threw another interception, already his sixth of the season, but he was otherwise efficient. More importantly, the Clemson rushing attack dominated the game despite not hitting on any big plays. Against a defense that’s allowed over 240 rushing yards in back-to-back games, the Clemson running game should continue to excel, making Lawrence and the passing attack a complementary part of the offense, which is a scary thought.
To be fair, Satterfield’s offense has been clicking in a big way the past couple of weeks. Evan Conley took the lead at quarterback last week, giving the Cardinals more of a threat through the air. Meanwhile, Micale (formerly Malik) Cunningham also played, giving the Louisville offense a two-quarterback look that Wake Forest struggled to figure out.
But I’m not sure that’ll work against Clemson’s defense. The Tigers won’t care who’s playing quarterback; they will be the aggressors either way. Clemson forced four turnovers and limited Florida State to 253 total yards last week. They shut down both of FSU’s quarterbacks and limited Cam Akers to just 34 rushing yards. Even on their off day against North Carolina, the Tigers only allowed 20 points, which might be the most the Cardinals can hope for on Saturday.
Assuming Louisville is held to 20 points or less, which seems like a safe bet, I like my chances with Clemson being able to cover. Based on everything I’ve seen this year, the Cardinals are going to get ripped to shreds by Clemson’s running game. With Lawrence and the passing game also able to contribute, the Tigers should score at least 40 or 50 points, so I have no problem picking them to cover the 24-point spread.