The No. 3 Clemson Tigers throttled No. 14 Louisville 47-21 on Saturday night, and made a case for the nation’s top ranking in the process.
That last sentence probably sounds like an overreaction. Sure, Clemson already proved it has the best defense in the country last weekend against Auburn. But, heading into Saturday night’s game, many experts questioned whether the Tigers had enough firepower on offense to repeat as national champions in 2017.
Clemson’s offense removed all doubt about its effectiveness in this contest. Playing against a Louisville run defense that allowed just 34 yards per game, the Tigers ran for 297 yards and four touchdowns. While that output pretty much speaks for itself, it’s worth noting that three different running backs cranked out runs of 25 yards or more, including an 81-yard gallop by Travis Etienne in the fourth quarter that ended any hope of a Cardinal comeback.
Although the running game was impressive, it was the passing game that stole the show. Kelly Bryant had a fantastic outing, connecting on 22-of-32 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown. That total includes three completions of 30 yards or longer, highlighted by a 79-yard strike to Ray-Ray McCloud to put the Tigers up 16-7.
If those numbers don’t impress you, the fact that Deshaun Watson tweeted that “He will be better than me!” probably should.
He will be better than me! https://t.co/CUyyNcesZO
— Deshaun Watson (@deshaunwatson) September 17, 2017
As a result of this precision in both the running and passing game, Clemson held the ball for over 35 minutes, which made a 12-point lead seem much bigger than it actually was.
Of course, the Tiger defense was partly responsible for that as well. Yes, it gave up 433 yards. However, it did hold Lamar Jackson in check most of the evening, recording four sacks and a crucial pick-six that broke the game wide open in the third quarter. The backups on defense also stood tall at the end of the contest, turning Louisville away on downs after a long pass play gave the Cardinals first-and-goal at the Clemson 4.
So, what does this victory actually mean?
Simply put: it means that the Tigers are the number one team in the country right now. With all due respect to Alabama and Oklahoma – both playing extremely well – Clemson’s performance the past two weeks makes it look like the most complete team in the nation. Although that could change over the course of the season, the Tigers have done nothing to convince me that they won’t play for the national championship again in 2017.
[Photo & Video: ESPN/ABC]