TV Schedule: Thursday, September 17, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Location: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY
Line: Clemson (-7)
The No. 11 Clemson Tigers (2-0) have gotten off to a strong start to the 2015 season, winning a pair of tune-up games to start the year in dominant fashion. The Louisville Cardinals (0-2), conversely, have gotten off to a very disappointing start to their season and will be looking to get back on the right track at home against the preseason-ACC favorite Tigers in the conference opener for both squads.
Clemson was selected as the preseason favorite to win the ACC in large part because of the healthy return of quarterback Deshaun Watson. Through parts of two games (after getting sat early in a pair of blowouts), Watson is looking like the quarterback everyone expected him to be. He’s completing 77.1 percent of his passes as he has racked up 442 yards and five touchdowns in the early going. A rebuilt defense that has just three returning starters from last season’s top-ranked unit has been good early, holding opponents to just 10 points and 255.5 yards per game, including just 92.5 yards through the air.
Louisville came into the season as a potential darkhorse candidate in the ACC and College Football Playoff race but have fallen flat coming out of the gate. Their situation at quarterback is muddled, to say to the least, as they have shuffled through three quarterbacks in two games with no answers. The offense has turned the ball over six times already this season, the most of any Power 5 program, and the QB position, normally the lynchpin to Bobby Petrino‘s success, has been a major reason why. The Louisville passing attack currently ranks last in the ACC in passer rating, touchdowns, completion percentage, and yards per attempt.
Figuring out the quarterback position will be the first step to righting the ship for the Cardinals this season but that will be a tall task against a tough Clemson pass defense on Thursday night. With their hopes of a spot in the CFP likely done after their 0-2 start, can Louisville play the spoiler against the Tigers in their conference opener?
Prediction: Clemson 42, Louisville 21