How often do big games live up to the hype – 25% of the time 50% of the time? It’s hard to say, but one game lived up to the pre-game hype. Clemson vs Louisville was everything we thought it could and more.
If these aren’t 2 of the 5 or 6 best teams in the country, then I really question if you have follow college football at all. This game had everything, Heisman trophy contending QBs, momentum shifts, a raucous home crowd, divisional and playoff implications. So in an epic game like this that Clemson won 42-36. What did we learn?
1) Even in a loss, Louisville’s playoff chances are very much alive.
Louisville doesn’t control their own destiny. They do need help, but not as much as you’d think. With non-conference struggles and lack of depth in the Pac 12 and Big 12, an 11-1 Louisville will be a interesting dilemma for the committee. In particular a 1 loss Big 12 champ doesn’t look they would reach the playoff. Louisville is the highest ranked 1 loss team and they still get a showcase game later in the year with Houston. Right now Louisville needs to root for Washington to lose, Baylor to lose, and West Virginia to lose. Louisville just needs to keep winning and see what happens.
2) Lamar Jackson will be in NYC for Heisman Presentation
Lamar Jackson did nothing to remove himself from being the front-runner for the Heisman. He’s going to put up video game like numbers the rest of the year, because he won’t see anything close to Clemson’s Defense the rest of the year. He still had success against the Tigers elite group, especially in the 2nd half.
3) Deshaun Watson might be ready for his Heisman run
Jackson will be in NYC, and as I said he’s still the front-runner, but you can’t hand him the Heisman just yet. His nearest competitor might be from his own division – Deshaun Watson. Watson threw 5 TDs, and brought Clemson back from down 8 with under 8 minutes left. He’s showing signs of being his late 2015 self. Yes he threw a couple of shaky passes, but I think Watson is about to go on an offensive run. He’s having fun again.
4) Clemson’s front 4 on defense might be nation’s best
Look there was no way Clemson was stopping a player like Lamar Jackson for an entire game, but what they did in the 1st half containing Jackson is something possibly no other in the country is capable of. Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Carlos Watkins and company manhandled Louisville up front and continually harassed Jackson into looking like a normal QB in the 1st half. Someway somehow Brent Venables has again turned Clemson’s Defense into one of the best units in college football.
5) Clemson’s offense is starting to come together
The Tigers had over 500 yards of offense against a very good Louisville defense averaging nearly 10 yards a pass and 6.5 yards per run. Clemson’s offense had struggled against every credible team they’ve played. It wasn’t perfect Saturday night, but it was a lot better. If Clemson can run the ball which they did Saturday night watch out.
6) These are the two best teams either Louisville or Clemson will face prior to the playoffs.
I’m not saying Clemson and Louisville won’t lose a game the rest of the season, but it’s going to take a spectacular effort from the opponent and help from the Tiger and Cardinals. Clemson won’t face an offense or QB that can approach what Louisville does, and Louisville won’t see anything like what Clemson can bring on defense.
7) It’s a new era in the ACC
Did you watch the game or check out the ratings for the game? Hello? The ACC is a far cry from the dubious “football” conference it once was a few years ago. The conference is now among the Big Boys in college football. Last night was just another example of that.