The good news for the Dabo Swinney and Clemson is that they will return to the ACC Championship Game after a six-year run of conference championships ended in 2021. The bad news: Clemson's chances of returning to the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2020 are now pretty long following a stunning loss at Notre Dame last Saturday. The Tigers haven't lost back-to-back games in a season in more than a decade, a streak they'll look to keep intact when they host surging Louisville as 7-point favorites at Caesars Sportsbook on Saturday.
Clemson was manhandled by the Irish 35-14 last week, totaling just 281 yards. The Tigers had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown, and quarterback DJ Uiagalelei threw an interception that was returned 96 yards for another score. The loss ended a 14-game winning streak by the Tigers, the longest active streak among FBS teams.
Swinney said it was one of his most disappointing games in his 14 years as head coach.
"We gave up a score on offense, a score on special teams and a score on defense and that's the first time that's happened since I was a head coach," he said "We just got outcoached in every aspect of football. I wish I could say I saw it coming, but we had a great week of practice, a great week of preparation. But football's a crazy game."
Swinney pulled Uiagalelei, who has been inconsistent this year, for touted freshman Cade Klubnik late in the third quarter but Klubnik's first pass was picked off. Clemson trailed 14-0 at the time, but Klubnik's miscue quickly turned into a 21-0 lead for the Fighting Irish. Swinney hasn't really committed to starting Uiagalelei this week but also hasn't said he wouldn't. It seems like Uiagalelei will start but perhaps have a short leash.
The defeat dropped Clemson from No. 4 to No. 10 in the new College Football Playoff rankings. It's not impossible to get back into the top four from there, but the Tigers obviously need to win out – they will be favored to, including in the ACC title game – and get a lot of help. To reach the playoff, Clemson is now +450 and -650 to miss.
The last time the Tigers lost back-to-back games in the season was in 2011 at NC State and at South Carolina late in the campaign. Clemson will be attempting to play a 150th consecutive game since losing back-to-back games in a single season. Clemson's 149-game streak is the nation's longest active. It has won 38 straight home games, an ACC record and one of only 15 home winning streaks of 35 games or more in FBS history.
Louisville became bowl-eligible last week with a 34-10 win over James Madison and has won four straight games, but the Cardinals are 0-7 all-time in this series. They nearly won last year at home but came up just short, 30-24. Since meeting for the first time in 2014, four of the teams' seven meetings have been decided by six or fewer points.
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