Louisville football fans are far too familiar with the pain that has accompanied facing Clemson since joining the ACC. In the Cards’ first season in the league, the Tigers were on the up and up, and since Louisville joined in 2014, Clemson has been in four championship games and won two national titles. They are as close to the gold standard in college football as you can get, and the newest powerhouse in the sport.
Since joining the ACC, Louisville is 0-6 against the Tigers, which accounts for 27 percent of their total conference losses. If you remove Bobby Petrino’s final season with the Cardinals where they dropped every conference game, Clemson has accounted for 36 percent of Louisville’s conference losses.
Regardless of how good or bad each team is, Clemson has found a way to pull out a victory. However, people soon forget how competitive the series has been.
In the first three seasons that Louisville was a member of the ACC, the game came down to the very last play.
In 2014 in Death Valley, James Quick took a reception over 70 yards down into the Clemson red zone, but the Cardinals failed to score in four tries as time expired.
2015 saw Louisville in a bit of a down year, but they stayed within a score, but a Kyle Bolin pass was intercepted in the end zone to end the game.
In 2016, Louisville’s perfect season bid came to an end when the Cards came up a half-yard short on fourth down to end one of the greatest games in school history.
Then 2017 and 2018 were all Clemson. The Tigers went into Cardinal Stadium for their second-ever College GameDay appearance and embarrassed the Cards in a blowout win. Then 2018 was… well, 2018. Clemson literally won by 60.
Year one under Scott Satterfield finally saw Louisville look competitive again. Though the final score was 45-10, it wasn’t indicative of how close the game truly was. A few head-scratching calls went in Clemson’s favor, a couple of Cardinals dropped would-be touchdown catches, and the Tigers took advantage of some miscues down the stretch.
Cards fans can take away some Hope from that game. Clemson was only up 17-3 near the end of the third quarter. Louisville was also the first team to boast a 100-yard rusher against the Tigers in over two years.
Why Louisville can win
The most frustrating part of last season’s game against Clemson was how many points Louisville left on the field. Two would-be touchdowns were dropped by Tutu Atwell, a punt was muffed which turned into a weird touchdown for Clemson, and a whiffed interception that turned into a last-second touchdown at the end of the first half – all of that to say a competitive first half could’ve easily turned to Louisville putting themselves in a place to win.
Clemson is reloading an offense that guided them to the title game last season, but the Cardinals are also reloading. Louisville returns eight offensive starters from 2019 and is beefing up its offensive line. In addition, the Cardinals defense is likely to take a step forward in 2020 with the addition of some instant-impact players on the defensive line and a secondary that returns almost completely intact.
Beating Clemson is a daunting task, but if the Cards are going to spring the massive upset, it feels like they hit the sweet spot in terms of scheduling. They won’t have to kick off the season against a Tigers team that is traditionally strong in week one, and the Cardinals will have a chance to get their feet wet against an upset-minded NC State squad in week one.
Louisville will catch the Tigers before they can get into a rhythm. That’s exactly what Texas A&M did last season when the Aggies traveled to South Carolina in week two. Like Louisville, the Tigers will open with a conference foe, Georgia Tech, on Thursday, September 3rd.
If Clemson is going to finally fall again to a conference opponent, it feels like this is a great opportunity.