Clemson coach Dabo Swinney correctly pointed out this week that the Tigers aren’t allowed to carry over their 11 sacks against Auburn into Saturday’s matchup against Louisville.
While another 11-sack performance is unlikely, the Tigers have a clear advantage over Louisville’s offensive line.
Clemson finished in the top three in sacks each of the past two seasons and appears poised to do so again in 2017.
The Tigers have a pair of All-American defensive tackles in Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell is off to a strong start after being named the Defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl last year.
The only unproven player on Clemson’s starting defensive line was first-year starter Austin Bryant. But the junior tied a school record with four sacks in a game against Auburn.
Bryant isn’t being overlooked now.
“All three of them, Christian, Dexter and Clelin had great years last year,” Bryant said. “I came back (from an injury) in the middle of the season and was a role guy. Of course they got the majority of the publicity, which was fine with me. I play to have fun and be with my teammates.”
As good as Clemson has been getting after the quarterback, Louisville has been equally bad protecting Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.
Louisville allowed the third-most sacks in the country in 2016 with 47. Only Maryland and San Jose State allowed more.
The Cardinals replaced three offensive linemen from last year and have freshmen starting at center and right tackle.
Freshman center Robbie Bell will have the task of helping out against Wilkins and Lawrence, while freshman right tackle Mekhi Becton will be matched up with Bryant.
Clemson sacked Jackson five times last year, but only once in the second half. Not coincidentally, Louisville rallied in the second half and nearly knocked off Clemson.
The Tigers will try to get pressure on Jackson the entire game on Saturday.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables sees a capable Louisville offensive line.
“They helped (Jackson) when the Heisman,” he said. “They look about the same.”