CLEMSON — Under Tommy Bowden, there was an unfortunate verb that began circulating around college football. “Clemsoning” became a way to describe a team’s play when they defied explanation by losing to an unranked, overmatched opponent following quality wins over highly regarded programs.
“Clemsoning” ultimately is what cost Tommy Bowden his job. Since Dabo Swinney took over in 2008, the Tigers have steadily improved each year. Coming in to 2015, Clemson was 29-0 against unranked opponents the last three years.
Enter Appalachian State, the favorite to win the Sun Belt conference and one of the most explosive offenses in week one. At the end of the first quarter, Clemson had only a 3-0 lead and fans were starting to sweat. Then Clemson woke up, took care of business, and let the young players get in their time.
This week, the Tigers simply cannot afford the luxury of a quarter to wake up.
Clemson will be on the road at Louisville (0-2) and the Cardinals will be fighting with a sense of urgency after dropping heartbreakers to Auburn and Houston. Clemson’s first visit to Papa John’s Stadium should prove to be a close game, much like the match-up from 2014.
Louisville has been an enigma on offense in 2015. Against Auburn in week one, Louisville was largely ineffective in the air, but ran for 238 yards. Against Houston, Louisville managed only 70 rushing yards but threw for 325 yards. Freshman QB Lamar Jackson was pulled late in the game after his fourth turnover, and sophomore Kyle Bolin looked very strong throwing for 157 yards.
So who will get the start Thursday against Clemson? Bobby Petrino isn’t saying.
The good news for Clemson is the Tiger defense has been the strongest and most consistent unit on the field this year, and is even listed as the best defense in the NCAA according to ESPN’s defensive efficiency ranking. Shaq Lawson, Mackensie Alexander, Ben Boulware, Jayron Kearse and company have exceeded expectations. Expect to see them frustrate whoever takes snaps for the Cardinals.
Clemson’s offense has been somewhat inconsistent, but look for the vanilla performance to end as co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliot and Jeff Scott dial up their play calling. Charone Peake looked good playing in Mike Williams’s role this week, expect to see more of the same.
The Tigers will need to address a few issues still, specifically on special teams where kick coverage was not good against Appalachian State. Greg Huegel and Andy Teasdall have both looked good, kicking and punting respectively, for the most part. Huegel had some missed kicks Saturday, but only one miss counted.
The Cardinals and Tigers will kick off in Louisville on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
Reach James Inabinet at email@example.com