BOZICH | Three keys to Louisville vs. Clemson football game - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Three keys to Louisville vs. Clemson football game

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Clemson has limited Louisville to 71 yards (total) in rushing the last two seasons. (Associated Press photo) Clemson has limited Louisville to 71 yards (total) in rushing the last two seasons. (Associated Press photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville and Clemson have not played a common football opponent this season. 

The recruiting talent ratings favor the Tigers. The 2016 game results tilt toward the Cardinals. 

History favors Clemson, which beat U of L in 2014 and 2015. Louisville laughed at history when the Cardinals embarrassed Florida State two weeks ago.

Bobby Petrino has won games against Jimbo Fisher, Brian Kelly, Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt. So has Clemson's Dabo Swinney.

I could go on. But kickoff is approaching.

Clemson started the week as the favorite. Louisville remains the pick by 2 points Saturday night in Death Valley.

I've never been confused with Knute Rockne -- or even Cam Cameron -- but  ESPN's College GameDay is free to borrow my material. Here are Three Factors That Will Decide the Louisville/Clemson Game:

1. Louisville Rushing Offense vs. Clemson Rushing Defense

The Cardinals have scored 19 rushing touchdowns in four games. Clemson has allowed three rushing TDs in four games.

The Cardinals are averaging better than 7.8 yards per carry. Clemson is allowing less than 2.6 yards per carry.

Louisville has run for at least 272 yards in every game. No team has run for 272 yards on Clemson since Georgia beat the Tigers with Todd Gurley on Aug. 30, 2014, 32 games ago.

Louisville rushed for 19 (2015) and 52 yards (2014) the last two times the teams played. In the last two-plus seasons, two of Clemson's five best performances against the run have come against Louisville.

The four thumpers that Swinney will park on Clemson's defensive front average 305 pounds. Louisville's ability to move or dance around them will be Must-See TV Saturday.

2. Louisville Passing Attack vs. Clemson Pass Defense

Louisville has scored 15 passing touchdowns in four games. Clemson has allowed two passing touchdowns in four games.

We know how dangerous Petrino's offense becomes when he has an offensive line that maintains a pocket and a quarterback who throws the ball with accuracy.

Over the last three seasons, no team in the Atlantic Coast Conference has played pass defense better than Clemson. The Tigers have ranked first (2016), second (2015), first (2014) and third (2013) in pass defense during that stretch.

Guess which defense leads the ACC in interceptions this season?

Clemson with seven. 

In the last three-plus season, the Clemson defense has more interceptions (53) than touchdowns allowed (47).

The Tigers picked two Louisville passes last season. The Tigers collected two fumbles in 2014.

Clemson can't score with Louisville -- unless the Tigers get assistance from their defense. The Cardinals have rolled to four victories even though they're minus-3 in turnover margin. But that's a formula for trouble against a top five team on the road.

3. Louisville Rushing Defense vs. Clemson Rushing Attack

Somebody help me explain the following numbers:

In the final four games last season, Clemson averaged nearly 40 points per game against South Carolina, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Alabama.

In the first four games this season, Clemson has scored more than 30 one time -- against an FCS program that has lost three of four games.

Subtract the South Carolina State game and Clemson's offense has averaged 25 points against three unranked FBS opponents.

Why is a team that put 40 on Alabama, 37 on Oklahoma and 45 on North Carolina huffing and puffing to find the end zone?

The numbers say Clemson has averaged nearly 100 fewer yards per game rushing this season vs. the last four games of last season -- 159.5 vs 253. 

The Tigers rank 11th in the ACC in rushing, averaging a modest 4.2 yards per carry and one rushing touchdown per game. 

Clemson's leading rusher is Wayne Gallman at merely 64 yards per game. That total is a bad quarter for U of L quarterback Lamar Jackson this season. Gallman, remember, gashed Louisville for 139 yards in 2015.

Before the season Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson bristled at being characterized as a running quarterback. No reason for Watson to bristle any more.

Watson ran for at least 100 yards five times and scored eight touchdowns in Clemson's final seven games in 2015. Watson has yet to gain more than 55 yards or score a rushing touchdown this season.

Stopping Gallman and Watson from returning to their 2015 form will be key for Todd Grantham's U of L defense.

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