The following write up comes from Chris Hall, who is a big-time fan of the Clemson Tigers. In fact, his twitter profile says “my blood runs Clemson Orange.” So you have to appreciate that passion. Chris also has his own blog, sportstalkwithchrishall.blogspot.com, and he was nice enough to send us a personal game preview for this Saturday’s matchup between Louisville and Clemson.
Chris tells you all about Clemson’s team, which is great if you want to learn about the opposition before Saturday. For anyone traveling to the game, he also provides some tips on parking, eating, tailgating, and more.
Give him a follow on twitter @CHallSportsTalk and check out his preview!
What a difference two weeks makes. After letting one slip away in Tallahassee in overtime and dropping to 1-2 on the season, Tiger fans were understandably upset. Some of these “fans” were even calling for Swinney and Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris to be fired. Enter true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson. The 6-2 205 dual-threat gunslinger from Gainesville, GA has lived up to the hype and truly is a special player. In his first start against North Carolina, he threw for a school record and tied an ACC record with 6 touchdowns in a 50-35 victory. He makes it look easy and has the poise of a 5th year senior in the pocket. Watson has provided a spark to not only this Clemson offense but the entire team and fan base. The Tigers have posted back to back wins and are averaging 45.5 points per game with the freshmen running the show. Optimism in flying high again around Tigertown and everyone is excited to watch this special player develop and continue what looks to be a very promising career. More importantly, Morris and Swinney’s job security, according to fans, is safe again.
The loss of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins has been felt but the Tigers have found a reliable go-to guy in Mike Williams who leads the team with four touchdowns. The 6-4, 210 wideout has great speed and hands and is one of those “throw it up and let him go get it” kind of guys. Watson told the media that almost anytime he sees Williams in one-on-one coverage that he is going to look to #7 and give him a chance to make the play. Freshman Artavis Scott has 3 touchdowns on the year and has also shown some potential and is another good possession receiver who can turn on the jets. Adam Humphries is also a reliable option that can get you those tough yards. The tight ends haven’t produced as much as expected so far but that isn’t due to a lack of talent. Jordan Leggett and Stanton Seckinger are as good as anyone in the ACC. Sophomore Jay Jay McCullough is also on the rise and is becoming a factor.
The running game has been slow thus far but is slowly improving. Along with some zone read from Watson you can expect to see a handful of backs getting some reps. Coach Dabo Swinney has named Freshman Wayne Gallman the new starter, but you will also see C.J. Davidson, who leads the way with two touchdowns on the season, D.J. Howard, and Adam Choice toting the rock as well.
The defense’s stock is also on the rise following a shutout of North Carolina State’s offense; the same offense that dropped 41 on Florida State at home the previous week. Led by defensive end Vic Beasley, Clemson has more depth than ever before up front. Opposite of Beasley is senior Corey Crawford who is backed up by senior Tavaris Barnes. Seniors Grady Jarrett and DeShawn Williams fill up the middle and both have NFL talent. Vic Beasley came to Clemson as a running back but made the move to defense and has become a natural and one of the best in the country. He is now tied for the all-time sack record (28) at Clemson with Michael Dean Perry and the late Gaines Adams and looks to become the sack king this weekend when the Cardinals come to town. At the linebacker position, keep your eyes out for Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony while the secondary is anchored by redshirt freshman Mackensie Alexander at the corner position with Garry Peters playing the opposite side. Jayron Kearse and Robert Smith will get the nod at safety and both seem to be improving each week. The Tigers will be tested this week against Louisville’s big veteran line and will have to be ready to cover DeVante Parker ( if he is to return from his foot injury this week) along with Louisville other playmakers. A good start will be the key as the Tiger defense has started every game this season with a 3-and-out and will look to keep that streak going Saturday in front of who should be a sell-out crowd.
The Special Teams unit is a front-runner for the most improved group thus far this season. After giving up a kick-off return touchdown to Georgia’s Todd Gurley and failing on crucial field goal attempts both in Athens and Tallahassee, the Tigers are getting back on track and Ammon Lakip is 4/5 since then including going 2/2 in the North Carolina game. His confidence is growing and the Tigers seemed to have found a solution to the kicking problem. Bradley Pinion is averaging 44 yards per punt and has done his job pinning the opposition deep and kicking the ball into the endzone on kickoffs. The junior from Concord, North Carolina also is 3/3 on extra points this season.
The Game Itself
From a Clemson perspective, this game is very intriguing for a few reasons but mainly because Louisville is a new member of the ACC and is coming to Death Valley for the first time ever. The Cardinals are very impressive on defense giving up only 12 points per game and allowing just less than 4 yards per play. It will be interesting to see how Watson reacts to the Cardinals big and physical defense That being said, Watson handled himself well for the most part on the road against FSU’s defense and I feel confident in him this weekend. Another key will be Clemson’s offensive line which has been stretched so thin you can almost see through it now. Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris made it clear that was an area of concern but they will find a group of five they are confident in hopefully find a formula that works for them and gives Watson enough time to get the ball into the hands of the playmakers around him. All in all I see this being a much more competitive game than last week’s 41-0 win over North Carolina State. I think we will again look to establish the running game early and have some balance on offense. While I think Louisville will have success moving the ball I think our defense will take over again and make the difference. Add in the mix of Deshaun Watson’s playmaking ability and the Tigers playing at home and I like their chances but this one will be a fight early on. If Louisville can make some plays early and maybe cause a turnover or two and get Watson uncomfortable…watch out.
I think we are all looking forward to having Louisville make its first visit to Death Valley and the crowd should be rocking Saturday afternoon. If you are heading to Clemson and this is your first time, be sure to get there early!! Clemson is a small town and while they do a solid job of getting everyone in and out in an organized matter…keep in mind that this small town of about 13,000 turns into a population of nearly 100,000 every Saturday. So arrive early and be prepared for the traffic. Free general parking is limited but if you are tailgating I would recommend parking at the University Beach (YMCA) lot off of highway 93. I believe parking is $20 there but you can set up shop with your tent, tailgate etc and there are shuttle buses that will take you and pick you up from the stadium which is a about a 5-10 minute walk. Parking lots open at 8 am and trust that there will be people waiting at 7:30 for security to open up the gates. Tailgating at Clemson is a full day affair.
If you are looking to check out the downtown scene and get food/drinks I would recommend the Esso Club located on highway 93. You can find all the bars on College Avenue downtown including Tigertown Tavern, TD’s Food and Drink, Wingin’ It, 356 Sushi and Martini Bar, and Loose Change. There are also a few others located downtown as well where you will find people hanging out on gameday. In addition, there is also a Moe’s Southwest Grill, Chipotle, Subway, Jimmy Johns and Little Caesars’s and all of these are located on College Avenue as well which is about a typically about a 10 minute walk from the stadium. Lastly, the stadium gates will open at 1:30 (two hours prior to kickoff) and I would recommend you being in your seats at least 30 minutes before kickoff to avoid the last minute rush to the gates. You also do not want to come all the way here and miss seeing the pre-game festivities and the Tigers loading up the buses and running down the hill in what is truly one of the most unique and greatest entrances in college football.
Clemson fans are typically pretty nice and approachable people so if you need directions or have a question don’t be afraid to stop and ask. I personally work for the event staff on gameday so once you enter the stadium and need assistance look for someone wearing a lime green polo with EPI Event Staff on the back or someone with a purple polo wearing khaki pants…either should be able to help you find your way or answer any questions you may have.
In closing, I will include the official fan guide link from Clemson that includes this information and more including stadium and parking maps. Looking forward to what should be a great game Saturday afternoon in Death Valley!
P.S. Don’t forget your ear plugs!