This weekend’s action promises to be memorable with some great matchups between teams ranked among the nation’s best.
The undisputed headliner is on Saturday night, where the Louisville Cardinals come to Death Valley seeking perhaps their greatest win in program history against the formidable Clemson Tigers.
After demolishing Florida State, 62-20, earlier this year, Clemson is one of the last remaining hurdles on Louisville’s march to a coveted birth in the College Football Playoffs.
The Cardinals’ phenomenal quarterback Lamar Jackson is the early season frontrunner for this year’s Heisman Trophy and followed up his mesmerizing performance against Florida State with 417 passing yards and five touchdowns, while running for two more scores, in last week’s 59-28 win against Marshall.
Although Clemson signal caller Deshaun Watson is off to a slower start than most expected after his brilliant sophomore campaign last year, he remains one of the most exceptional talents we’ve seen in years.
“These are the type of games you relish having the opportunity to be a part of,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told the media this week. “They all count, but when you get a Top 5 matchup, those are unique. It’s going to be a great night.”
The Memorial Stadium turf will be stocked with some supreme athleticism. Both squads are quick, fast, strong, disciplined and run exciting spread attacks.
Jackson leads the country’s most prolific offense, with Louisville putting up an average of 682 yards per game. They also average 63.5 points. That’s some Bill Gates-type money right there!
“Everybody’s having a hard time with [Jackson] for the same reason — he’s a great player, an elite guy,” Swinney told the media this week. “He’s probably been the best guy in the country through four games. He leads the nation in rushing touchdowns. You’re not dealing with just another guy. This is an elite player. We’re going to have to play our best.”
But if any defense can handle the assignment, it’s the one coached by Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables, whose unit is among the most vicious in the country while surrendering only 218.5 yards per game, along with a measly 11 points.
As hyped as this game will be, you’ll also want to check the Stanford vs Washington game, which kicks off at 9:00PM EST tonight.
Washington, at this early stage of the 2016 campaign, is in the midst of trying to recapture its former status as an elite program.
They walk into this game ranked in the Top Ten, but many aren’t convinced that they’ve arrived quite yet. Thus far, they’ve beaten such lightweights as Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State before beating Arizona, 35-28 in overtime last week. But a strong showing against Stanford will legitimize them.
Stanford smashed the Huskies 31-14 last season with the remarkable Christian McCaffrey rushing for 109 yards, along with gaining another 112 as a receiver.
Washington’s defense is no joke, leading the country with 13 takeaways and they allow a paltry average of less than 14 points per game. Keep your eyes on their quarterback Jake Browning, one of the best kept secrets on the national landscape. Receiver John Ross and running backs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman will open some eyes as well.
When asked what worried him most about Washington’s offensive attack, Stanford head coach David Shaw told the media, “Speed everywhere. Their running backs have speed. Their receivers have speed. It used to be that you had to worry about that No. 1 guy (Ross) running by you. Now it’s a bunch of guys.”
The other heavyweight matchup takes place on Saturday afternoon, 3:00PM EST, with the surprising Wisconsin Badgers coming into The Big House in Ann Arbor to take on Michigan at 3:30PM EST.
Wisconsin has beaten the brakes off of LSU and Michigan State this year, and are looking to do the same to the Wolverines. Their defense bullies opponents, only giving up 11.8 points per game. In their surprising 30-6 win on the road against Michigan State, they forced four turnovers and held the Spartans to 75 yards on the ground.
When they’re on defense, keep your eyes on linebackers T.J. Watt (J.J. Watt’s little brother) and Jack Cichy, as well as defensive back Derrick Tindal.
Michigan plays old-fashioned football, preferring to run the ball down their opponents throat. They average 230 rushing yards per game and last week, they stomped a mud-hole in Penn State’s butt with 326.
But the Badgers give up just 80 yards per game on the ground, so the collision of strength-on-strength will be worth the price of admission.
Look for sophomore sensation Jabrill Peppers, one of the best linebackers, safeties and kick returners in America, to assume a bigger role as an offensive weapon in this game.
“[Jabrill’s] made it clear he wants to do as much as possible,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh told the media this week. “That isn’t in question. There’s no question that all of our coaches, special teams, offense and defense, they’re like a bull with their paw in the ground, they want Jabrill involved.”
Peppers’ versatility is a wonder to behold in this age of rigid specialization. He has 33 tackles, 9.5 of them for losses, leads the Big Ten with a 22.7-yard punt return average and has three returns of 50 yards or more
Wisconsin has won the last two meetings between the teams.
Buckle up for a great weekend of action, and look for Peppers, Jackson, Watson and McCaffrey to make some strong additions to their 2016 Heisman resumes.