Clemson has an extra two days to prepare for the match-up because they played last Thursday night in Atlanta and won 26-7 over Georgia Tech. The last two games have been decided by a total of 9 points with the Tigers winning both of those games. In 2014, Clemson beat Louisville 23-17 and last season the Tigers won on a Thursday night 20-17.
The Cardinals have one of the most potent offenses in college football averaging 63.5 points per game (1st in FBS) and are averaging 318 rushing yards per game along with passing for 363 yards through the air. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is the Heisman front runner at this point in the season and is leading this offense with poise and confidence. Jackson has completed 58.7% of his passes for 1,330 yards with 13 touchdown passes and 3 interceptions. However, he is lethal when he breaks contain and leads the team with 526 rushing yards averaging 8.2 yards per carry along with 12 rushing touchdowns.
Running back Brandon Radcliff is a tough inside runner that has rushed for 427 yards averaging 9.2 yards per carry with 3 touchdowns. Radcliff will need to have a solid game on Saturday night to take the pressure off of Jackson to single handily win the game by himself. He will need to move the chains between the tackles and help take time off the clock to keep DeSahun Watson and the Tigers offense on the sidelines.
Louisville has an underrated wide receivers corps in James Quick, Jamari Staples and Jaylen Smith. All three are solid route runners that are not afraid to go over the middle of the field. The trio has combined for 38 receptions for 875 yards with 5 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Cardinals are allowing 22 east jump points per game and are very solid in run support giving up 122 rushing yards to opposing offenses. The secondary has allowed 156 passing yards per game and is led by safety Josh Harvey-Clemons who is a fierce tackler that is not afraid to come up in run support.
Louisville will need to force turnovers on the road and that could be a cause of concern where they enter this game -3 in turnover margin. The front seven has played very well led by linebacker James Hearns (4.5 sacks) defensive end Devonte Fields (2 sacks) and has recorded 15 sacks through the first four games.
The Tigers enter this game coming off a solid 26-7 victory over Georgia Tech in Atlanta and played very well in the first half of the game jumping out to a big lead. Clemson is averaging 33.5 points per game and is passing for 293 yards per game led by quarterback DeShaun Watson.
On the year, Watson has completed 60% of his passes for 996 yards with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Last year, he rushed for 1104 yards averaging 5.5 yards per carry and accounted for 12 rushing touchdowns. However, through the first four games in 2016, Watson has rushed for 120 yards with no touchdowns. As a team in 2015, the Tigers rushed for 224 yards per game and passed for 291 yards per game while averaging 38 points per game. This the passing numbers are slightly higher (293 passing yards per game), but as a team, the offense is averaging 159 yards on the ground.
Running back Wayne Gallman will need to be more involved in the offensive play calling this coming weekend if the Tigers are to get the home win. On the year, Gallman has rushed for 256 yards averaging 4 yards per carry with 3 scores. Last season, Gallman led the team with 1,527 rushing yards averaging 5 yards per carry with 13 rushing touchdowns.
Wide receivers Mike Williams, Ray-Ray McCloud and Artavis Scott have combined 57 receptions for 701 yards with 3 touchdowns. The group must be able to stretch the Cardinals defense vertically to open up running lanes for both Gallman and Watson. If they have success early on, it will allow the offense to get into a tempo and allow Watson to pressure the perimeter with his legs.
Defensively, the Tigers are allowing 11 points per game and have been getting better each and every week. The front seven has been solid in run support giving up 92 rushing yards per game and is yielding 125 passing yards to opposing offenses.
Some analysts have said the defense was better last season, however, the number show a different story. Last year, the unit allowed 21 points per game compared to this season (11 points per game +10 in 2016). In 2015, the defense gave up 125 rushing yards per game and 186 passing yards per game. This season entering week 5, they are 33 rushing yards per game better along with 61 passing yards per game better.
More importantly, the defense is holding opposing quarterbacks to 47% completion percentage and will be challenged by the most lethal quarterback in college football this Saturday.
Clemson enters this game +3 in turnover margin and has recorded 7 interceptions through the first four games. Clemson has also been able to generate a pass rush and has 13 sacks on the year.