2021 Schedule Preview and Prediction: Clemson at Louisville
|Friday, July 16, 2021, 2:00 PM- -|
As the calendar turns to November, the Clemson football team will hit the road for the third time in four games, traveling to Louisville, Kentucky for a meeting with the Cardinals.
Clemson leads the overall series 6-0 dating back to 2014 when the Cardinals joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. The two programs last met in 2019 at Louisville, a resounding 45-10 win for the Tigers after a shaky start from quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The best matchup of the two teams was the Deshaun Watson vs. Lamar Jackson game back in 2016, when the Clemson defense held the Cardinals on fourth down in the red zone with less than a minute remaining to stay perfect on the season en route to the National Championship.
It is year three of the Scott Satterfield era in Louisville and it can be said that 2021 will be the make-or-break year for Satterfield. After an impressive 8-5 first season and a win in the Music City Bowl over Mississippi State, Louisville fans were hoping 2020 would be a stepping stone to competing in the Atlantic division. A 4-7 record last season did not help those dreams.
It's not an easy non-conference schedule for the Cardinals to open the season, starting in Atlanta against Ole Miss and a meeting with Central Florida in Kentucky before kicking off ACC play.
The departure of offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford to the NFL opened the door for Satterfield to take over the offense completely, which he will do in 2021. His first order of business will be replacing 60% of the Cardinals receiving yards and half of their touchdown production from last season with the talents of Dez Fitzpatrick and TuTu Atwell heading to the NFL.
They will have to cut down on the turnovers from last season, committing 24 in all, for 119th in the country. Starting quarterback Malik Cunningham did not have the season many hoped for him last year after a stellar 2019 campaign. Cunningham threw for over 2600 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, but the glaring 12 interceptions were often the deciding factor in the losses last season. Cunningham also led the Cardinals in rushing yards and added seven touchdowns on the ground.
The offensive line and the running back rooms have question marks written all over them and the offense could go through some bumps and bruises as Satterfield takes more control in 2021.
The Cardinals defense was a bright spot for them in 2020 and they hope that can be the same this campaign. A defense that held opponents to 26 points and under 400 yards of total offense returns just about everyone, including some fifth-year players.
C.J. Avery returns for Satterfield for his fifth-year after leading the Cardinals in tackles the prior two seasons. The linebacking units and the front four will be the strong suits for the Louisville defense but the secondary might have some issues as transfers try to learn the defense after three players departed from that group.
As November rolls around, the phrase “Championship Phase” will be flying around the campus of Clemson. Unfortunately for Satterfield and the Cardinals, they will run into the Tigers during this phase and we know how that usually turns out for opponents.
The Louisville offense won’t have that big-play threat they will be able to rely on against the Tigers, who by this point in the season should be showing flashbacks to that 2016 defense. The rushing attack won’t be able to crack the defensive line of Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy and Tyler Davis and Louisville doesn’t have receivers that will be able to run by Andrew Booth, Malcolm Greene and the Clemson secondary.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Cardinals might try to stack the box and force DJ Uiagalelei to beat them with his arm, which would be a grave mistake. As the calendars turn to November, the D.J. for Heisman campaign should hit the trail running, proving that Clemson and Dabo Swinney don’t rebuild but reload at the quarterback position.
Final Score: Clemson 52, Louisville 10