When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Papa John’s Stadium, Louisville, Ky.
Line: Clemson by 2.5
Three story lines
1. There is no doubt that Clemson’s defense would love to shut down Lamar Jackson after the Louisville quarterback was named the Heisman Trophy winner over Deshaun Watson last year. Jackson rushed for 162 yards, passed for 295 and had three total touchdowns in the 42-36 loss in Death Valley in 2016. The Clemson defense praised Jackson’s play after the game, but Tigers coaches and players said throughout last season that they felt Watson was the best player in the country.
2. The Louisville offensive line is its biggest weakness, while Clemson’s defensive line is probably its biggest strength. The Tigers should have a big advantage up front and are coming off an impressive 11-sack performance against Auburn.
3. Louisville will have revenge on its mind after losing to Clemson three consecutive years by less than a touchdown. Last year’s game ended with Louisville turning the ball over on downs at the Clemson 3. In 2015, Louisville missed a short field goal late and lost 20-17. Three years ago, Louisville drove to the Clemson 1 in the final minutes but was stuffed at the goal line and lost 23-17.
Three players to watch
1. Lamar Jackson won the Heisman last year after accounting for more than 5,000 total yards and 51 total touchdowns and is off to a strong start in 2017. He has eight touchdowns in two games and had 393 passing yards, 132 rushing yards and six touchdowns last week against North Carolina.
2. Receiver Jaylen Smith is Jackson’s favorite target. He has 17 grabs for 300 yards and a touchdown in two games. The Cardinals lost a lot of skill players from last season, and Smith has stepped up early on this year.
3. Jaire Alexander is one of the best cornerbacks in the country and had two interceptions last season against Clemson, but he did not play this past week against UNC because of a knee injury and his status for Saturday’s game in unknown.
▪ Louisville lost its starting running back and top three receiving targets off last year’s team. The playmakers around Jackson do not appear to be as good as they were a season ago.
▪ If it’s possible for a quarterback to put up the numbers Jackson did last year and still get better, it appears that he has, particularly as a passer.
▪ Louisville has a new defensive coordinator in Peter Sirmon, who was previously at Mississippi State.
▪ Former South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward is the associate head coach and secondary coach for the Cardinals.