The Louisville Cardinals have just started their third season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The first two football seasons were successful but both contained close losses to perennial conference and national power Clemson. The unanimous takeaway from both fan bases is just how friendly and hospitable the other fans were during their visits to the opposing schools. A mutual respect between Clemson and Louisville was earned and expected to continue. But will it continue after about 8:22 of Saturday night?
Clemson won the first game 23-17 at Memorial Stadium in 2014. In 2015, Clemson won the second meeting 20-17 at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. Both contests were hard fought and came down to the wire. A conference rivalry and mutual respect was born. Clemson was the hurdle that Louisville needed to clear to acquire validation as a major player in the ACC.
Clemson fans were happy to have Louisville in the conference. They wanted another contender besides Florida State to help the quality of the conference because, let’s be honest, everybody is sick of hearing about the SEC. So Clemson greeted Louisville and their fans with open arms but was it real ? Clemson was like the older cousin who put his hand on his little cousins head and said ” try to hit me.” Louisville was the little cousin who was furiously swinging but could never hit him because he was too far away. Well, guess what happened? Little cousin Louisville is all grown up and can hit pretty hard. That’s right, Louisville is now a threat. A real threat to take over the top spot in the conference. So I believe the fear of losing to Louisville will influence the hospitality and friendliness of Clemson towards Louisville. We are already starting to see it on message boards and social media. The fear of losing is becoming a reality. Louisville was cute to Clemson but now they are forced to look at Louisville as an equal. That is not setting well with many Clemson faithful.
But you can’t have a rivalry if one team wins all the time and any healthy rivalry will have plenty of competitive banter. Yes, some fans will take it too far and say or write some things that are classless but just remember that a few does not represent the whole. My belief is that the majority of Clemson fans will always be friendly to Louisville but if Louisville wins big on Saturday they probably won’t be as friendly in the future. There will always be a certain level of southern hospitality from Clemson but the nature of a rivalry will limit the level of hospitality.
We won’t know for sure if the friendly part of the rivalry is over until around 11:30 on Saturday night. I will be in Death Valley for the game and I will be wearing my Cardinal gear. If Louisville picks up the victory, I will quickly learn if the friendliness will continue as I exit the stadium. My hope is that Louisville and Clemson will both continue to be top 10 teams and the annual game will be to determine who takes the top spot in the Atlantic division of the ACC. My wish is for a very competitive game and that all student athletes come out of the game injury free. My prediction is that Louisville wins the game 42-21 with Lamar Jackson scoring 3 more touchdowns.
As Always, GO CARDS!