ACC College Football Saturday Showdown, Trends: (3) Louisville Cardinals vs. (5) Clemson Tigers

DeShaun Watson has 996 passing yards on the season through four games.
DeShaun Watson has 996 passing yards on the season through four games.

(3) Louisville – (5) Clemson
Time: 8 PM ET
Spread: LOU -1
Total: 67

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

Clemson rolled over Georgia Tech 26-7 in Week 4 to improve to 4-0 and a No. 5 national ranking. Now it hosts the hottest team in the ranks, No. 3 Louisville.

The Cardinals have been riding strong since knocking off two top-10 teams and come into the game as 1-point favorites against one of the best teams in the ACC. Lamar Jackson is that good, and his Heisman push can gain even more momentum if Louisville can upstage Clemson on its own field at 8 PM (EDT) on ABC.

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Clemson has been riding the brilliance of its own Heisman candidate DeShaun Watson. Watson has already thrown for 996 yards at a 60 percent clip and rushed for another 120 yards on 35 carries. Wayne Gallman also has been moving the chains with 256 yards on 63 carries and three TDs.

Wide receivers Mike Williams and Ray-Ray McCloud lead the way with 303 and 250 yards, respectively, and have three of Clemson’s 11 receiving TDs between them. Artavis Scott also has 143 yards on 16 catches. Clemson is a versatile offensive team, but its pass attack ranks No. 27 in the nation at 293 yards per game.

The Tigers average 33.5 points per game, but are holding opponents to just 11 per contest, which ranks No. 3 overall. Clemson blanked South Carolina State in Week 3, but other than a 30-24 let down against Troy in Week 2, the Tigers have been very stingy. Last week against Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets managed just 124 total yards.

Clemson had three sacks and seven tackles for loss as Ben Boulware had 10 tackles and Dorian O’Daniel wrecked havoc with nine tackles, including a sack and two for loss. Watson was an absolute monster offensively with 304 passing yards and two TDs and an additional 36 yards on his 12 carries. Watson has thrown 60 percent for completion this year, and his 66.7 percent from last week trails only his ultra-efficient 12 of 15 showing against South Carolina.

Last season, he was good for 67.8 percent and 8.36 yards per attempt, but the yards per have fallen to 6.64 this season. The Tigers have to do a better job of establishing middle-gain routes while also making sure to get adequate offensive variation by handing it off to Gallman. No other backs on the roster are getting many touches, though Tavien Feaster and Tyshon Dye have both had successes (see: 6.9 yards and 6.0 yards per carry, respectively, yet just 23 touches between them).

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Louisville

The Louisville Cardinals have absolutely dominated, though only its Week 3 opponent was ranked (The Then-No. 2 Florida State Seminoles). Week 5 represents the Cardinals second big test of the season, with precious few more to follow. If Louisville can establish itself in this game, they could easy roll until they face No. 6 Houston on Nov. 17. Other than that matchup, there is little to present problems to Jackson and his immense talents.

Jackson has thrown for 1,330 yards at a 58.7 percent clip with 13 TDs and just three interceptions. His passer rating of 176.7 makes his Heisman case by itself, and yet there is more: He is rushing for 8.6 yards per attempt on 61 carries and has 12 (!) rushing TDs on the season, including a 72-yard stint. It has rendered leading back Brandon Radcliff an accessory, though he, too, has done his damage to defenses. Radcliff averages 9.3 yards per carry on his 46 attempts and has three TDs to his name (including a 48-yarder).

James Quick and Jamari Staples have cleaned up on the pass routes, with 30 catches and over 600 yards between them. Quick has caught three TD passes, as has No. 4 yardage leader Cole Hikutini. Hikutini is a 6’5” tight end in his senior season and he is primed for a bigger role this season after catching 19 passes for 348 yards last season.

Kicker Evan O’Hara has been somewhat disappointing for Louisville, having hit just 2 of 4 FGA, and one of those misses came from less than 30-yards. He is 26 of 26 on PATs, but that is small consolation because the Cardinals will need him to hit tougher FGs against these better opponents.

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