As I wrote in an earlier article this week, everyone in the collective fanbase needs to take a breather. This week’s “Bless Your Heart” lays out that there is a more positive track to the season going forward for Clemson football. It may or may not involve the playoffs, but certainly it’s all still ahead of the Tigers going into week 11.
Clemson fans did exactly what I thought they would this week. I would say overreact, but it is to the point now where it’s comical. I get a kick out of people both within and outside the Clemson fanbase who offer an opinion that the results from last Saturday are just going to be where Clemson is stuck forever and ever, amen. It’s largely a double standard that I have seen presented by outside media and then propagated and given assurances by those who claim to wear the Orange and Purple.
Saturday’s loss was unfortunate and heartbreaking, but by no means is it a referendum on the program that everyone seems to be making it into. Good coaches adapt and sometimes that adaptation process takes more than just one season. Any good coach has had to deal with it. Bear Bryant, Tom Osborne, and, most notably now, Nick Saban have had to work through and deal with changes; more times than not, they have succeeded. While potentially more significant changes will have to be made in the off-season, there are subtle changes this week that can help Clemson win against this week’s opponent, Louisville.
In case those of you doom scrolling through Facebook haven’t noticed, this team has already clinched a berth to the ACC title game, something it was not able to do last year. So objectively, it has already been a better season. The Tigers still hold a 38-game win streak at home and could potentially get into the echelon of all-time NCAA records if they are able to win the last 3 home games. Clemson currently has the 11th-longest home winning streak in NCAA history, 3 more wins will get them sole possession of number 8.
The Tigers are still playing for an NY6 bid. Whether that be in the playoffs or not, playing in one of these games is still a big deal. Their playoff hopes are still alive, although those chances are dwindling without some sort of late-November chaos. But it’s better to win and let the chips fall where they may than the alternative of losing.
Really, the major point that needs to be made is this: it’s silly to think that this season is over, and that Clemson has nothing to play for. There is still a lot of meat left on the bone of this season, and a few more stories that need to be written.
That brings us to this week’s opponent, The Louisville Cardinals. A few weeks ago, I would have written this game off as a stinker, but the Cards have rallied after starting the 2022 season 2-3. They’re a different team than the one that lost at Boston College. A lot of the credit for that turnaround deserves to go to a defense that has been able to clamp down and, most importantly, force turnovers.
UL has forced a whopping 15 turnovers over the last 4 games and finished +10 in TO margin over the same stretch. The Cardinal pass rush has been able to create havoc and is playing at a much stronger level than earlier in the season. This is something that will definitely present a challenge to a struggling Clemson offense.
Clemson football knows that Louisville QB Malik Cunningham is one of the most dangerous athletes in college football
The Cards offense boils down to one man: Malik Cunningham. He is seriously the most underrated quarterback in the country and a truly dangerous athlete. Tiyon Evans has had a strong season at running back, but the offense runs at the speed of Cunningham. Clemson knows they want to run a stretch zone read and will absolutely have to play better than last week in order to win.
This game is going to be an absolute challenge for the Tigers. Yet I can’t help but think that this team is tired of hearing about their insufficiencies and want to finally put 4 quarters together. I sense that Clemson will work to establish the line of scrimmage on offense and have a more dedicated plan to run the ball with both running backs and the quarterback (whoever that may be).
I feel like this game will be closer than people want, but Clemson will be able to establish its offense enough and its defense will have a major impact after getting pushed around last week.
Bless your hearts Louisville, y’all get Dabo after a loss.