The countdown is on to Clemson football first in Athens (Georgia) and then back in TigerTown on Sept. 6 (S.C. State).
We’re counting down the Clemson schedule – by strength of schedule – with a quick profile, team I.D. and prediction.
Next up is ACC newcomer Louisville, a program on rise under the command of a coach who’s made a name for himself (for better and oftentimes worse).
Clemson Countdown to Kickoff
12) S.C. State
11) Georgia State
10) Wake Forest
9) N.C. State
6) Georgia Tech
5) Louisville Cardinals
Plays Clemson: at Memorial Stadium, Oct. 11, time TBA.
2013 Record: 12-1 (7-1 in AAC play, 2nd overall).
Coach: Bobby Petrino (83-30 career record).
Offense (2013 ranks): Spread (Scoring offense: 25, 35.2 PPG; Yards per play: 12, 6.7; Field position advantage: 25).
Defense (2013 ranks): 3-4 (Def. yards per play: 3, 4.2; Scoring defense: 2, 12.2 PPG; 3rd down defense: 1, 26.7%).
Advanced stats: Success Rate – 6 (50.6%); Points per trip inside the 40 – 20 (4.8); Adj. line yards – 33 (108.9); Def. Success Rate – 7 (34.2%); Def. points per trip inside the 40 – 2 (3); Def. adj. line yards – 26 (111.8).
Returning starters: Offense – 8; Defense – 5; Kickers – 2;
1. Welcome back, Bobby - The prodigal son has returned after…interesting…stops in Atlanta (Falcons) and Arkansas (Razorbacks). Petrino went 41-9 at Louisville before the next-level jump after a Big East title and Orange Bowl win in 2006. He assumes a program that’s far from plateaued in his absence – former coach Charlie Strong taking the Texas job this offseason. Petrino plucked former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee from a head coaching stint at UAB, while the Tigers will see a familiar face on the other side in former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
2. New field general - Louisville finds itself in a similar position to Clemson in replacing a record-breaking QB, Teddy Bridgewater, who passed for nearly 10,000 yards over three seasons for the Cardinals with 72 touchdowns to 24 interceptions. Six-foot-five redshirt sophomore Will Gardner is set to step in his shoes. Gardner attempted all of 12 passes last year, completing eight with two scores, but this spring he made a strong statement with 542 passing yards and four touchdown throws in the Louisville spring game. He has the benefit of the one of the top targets in the ACC: senior DeVante Parker, who averaged 16.1 yards per catch in 2013.
3. Tough encore - The Cardinals led the nation in total defense and ranked second in scoring ‘D’ last season, returning five starters in ’14. Shifting to a 3-4 under Grantham, Louisville will have a different look, but there shouldn’t be a big dropoff with all units ranked in the top half of the ACC.
Projected Record: 8-4 (5-3 ACC).
(Way too early) Louisville pick: 47-38 Tigers.
Analysis: Louisville’s a wild card, there’s little doubt about that. They’ve won 30 games over the last three seasons, played just two top-25 opponents…and beat both of them (38-35 at No. 24 West Virginia in 2011 and 33-23 over No. 9 Florida in the 2012 Sugar Bowl). On the road, they’ve averaged 28 points per game in that span, winners in 12 of the last 13. They are certainly capable of keeping up in Death Valley, but it’s been since Oct. 2, 2010, that a team not named Florida State or South Carolina has toppled the Tigers in Memorial Stadium (No. 16 Miami, 30-21). Louisville would need a lot to go right to accomplish that come early October.
Next up: 4) North Carolina Tar Heels – Will UNC spring the trap?