Kentucky Wildcats (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. No. 25 Louisville Cardinals (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Sunday, September 2nd, 2012/3:30 p.m. EST
Where: Papa Johnís Cardinal Stadium
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UK +14/LV -14
Over/Under Total: OFF
The battle for the ďGovernorís CupĒ of the state of Kentucky will take place on opening weekend of the college football season, when the Kentucky Wildcats travel to Papa Johnís Cardinal Stadium to play the 25th-ranked Louisville Cardinals Sunday on ESPN.
The air in Papa Johnís Stadium will be thick with excitement, not just because itís the opener for both of the in-state rivals, but because expectations are high for the Cardinals in 2012.
Louisville returns 17 starters from last yearís 7-6 team, which would be cause for excitement under normal circumstances, but add into the equation that the Big East Conference is weaker with the defection of West Virginia (Big 12) and the addition of Temple, and the folks around Louisville are talking conference titles in 2012.
The talk in Lexington is 180-degrees different, as head coach Joker Phillips enters his third year squarely on the hot seat. After a 5-7 year in 2011, including a 2-6 mark in the SEC, Phillips is feeling the pressure of the unrealistic expectations of the Kentucky faithful.
The Cardinals are loaded with experience, especially on defense where nine starters return from last seasonís 18th-ranked unit including all four starters along the defensive front and All-American candidates Adrian Bushell and Hakeem Smith in the secondary. Louisville coach Charlie Strong also brings in a strong recruiting class, including freshman linebacker Keith Brown who spurned the big programs in his state (Florida St., Florida, Miami) in order to come to Louisville and try to contribute immediately.
Louisville will also be strong on offense thanks to the return of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for over 2,000 yards and 14 TDs as a freshman, and four-fifths of the starting offensive line including C Mario Benevides and G Jake Smith. The same offensive line did allow 41 sacks last season, so thereís plenty of room for improvement in 2012.
Kentucky recently announced that Sophomore QB Maxwell Smith won the battle for the starting position. Smith, who made three starts last year as a freshman, will have some help up front with G Larry Warford and C Matt Smith back for 2012.
The Wildcats will have a lot of holes to fill on defense however, as only five players return from last yearís unit that really struggled in SEC play. DE Collins Ukwu leads the Cats defense, but a lack of talent elsewhere could open the door for true freshman like safety Zack Blaylock (son of ex-NBA star Mookie Blaylock) to contribute immediately.
While you can never over estimate the competitiveness of an in-state rivalry on the gridiron, most oddsmakers are expecting a lopsided affair by setting the opening point spread with Louisville as 13-point favorites. The early take at the window appears to be in the Cardinals favor too, as the number is up to -13.5 or even -14 at most of the sportsbooks on the Web.
If youíre a fan of following the betting trends though, you may want to go in the other direction and wager on Kentucky. The underdog is a solid 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings in the rivalry, and the road team is a perfect 4-0 ATS in the last four attempts. The under play turn into a solid play as well, going 3-1-1 in the last five head-to-heads and 4-1 in the last five games played at Papa Johnís Cardinal Stadium.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: With Louisvilleís strong defense back I expect the Wildcats to have a very hard time scoring points. The safest play might be the under, but without a number itís hard to recommend any play on the total. Louisville should roll in this game, especially at home, to kickoff their title-hopeful 2012 season in style. Take Louisville minus the points.
Are you still betting with a corner bookie? Find out why online is the better choice by reading our piece titled Betting Online vs. The Corner Street Bookie.
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2015 College Football Predictions - (2016 article coming soon!) Badger gives his picks to win each major conference. At the end, he gives his prediction on who thinks will win the 2016 National Championship game.
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Heisman Trophy Betting Odds - Clemson QB DeShaun Watson will have the ball in his hands a TON and he plays on a good team so he's the obvious favorite to win the award this year at +575. Leonard Fournette at 8.5/1 looks like he could play in the NFL right now. Bama WR Calvin Ridley brings experience and big-time playmaking ability and will be featured on National TV a bunch, giving him a legit darkhorse shot. It's unlikely to happen as offensive players usually win this honor, but Michigan DB Jabrill Peppers (75-1) and Texas A&M DT Myles Garret (110-1) could be in the running as well. It might be a good year to bet more than one prediction!
Odds to Win the 2016 College Football Championship - The Alabama Crimson Tide are favored to be repeat winners of the National Championship this year at +700 followed by Ohio St. at +750 and Clemson at +800. Things drop off a bit with the Michigan Wolverines, LSU Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners all coming in at +1200. Check out your favorite school's odds here!