Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-3 SU, 5-4 ATS) vs. Louisville Cardinals (8-1 SU, 5-3-1 ATS)
NFL Week 11
Date/Time: Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 7PM EST
Where: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WAKE +34.5/LOU -34.5
Over/Under Total: 54.5
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons come to face the Louisville Cardinals in ACC action on Saturday. It’s a big game for both teams, a chance for the Demon Deacons to add a transcendent win to their program. And the high-flying Cardinals need to get past tests like this if they still want to be in the mix for some truly special things, as they are 6th in the CFP rankings. Wake Forest started the season at 5-1 before a two-game losing streak. On Saturday, they beat Virginia, 27-20 to get back on the winning track. Louisville, meanwhile, won their 4th in a row since a narrow loss to Clemson, beating Boston College, 52-7, in a rout.
After covering the spread just once in the previous five weeks, the Cardinals needed the blowout of Boston College on Saturday. They resumed their high-flying offensive ways in a big statement, with QB Lamar Jackson throwing for four touchdowns, while also running for 185 yards and 3 more touchdowns. His numbers on the season are off-the-charts. He has 2753 yards passing and 26 touchdowns through the air. He has also run for 1183 yards and an immense 19 touchdowns. There are entire teams without that much production. Jackson obviously gets a lot of help.
Adding to the Louisville offensive juggernaut is a slew of capable playmakers that have contributed in making them the top offensive team in the country, as the Cardinals have averaged over 50 points of scoring per game. On the ground, Brandon Ratcliff is at over 600 yards, while Jeremy Smith has added seven touchdowns. Jackson spreads the ball around to ball-catching talent like Cole Hikutini, Jamari Staples, James Quick, and Jaylen Smith, among others. There is room on this offense for a lot of different players to thrive.
For the purposes of this matchup, it helps to see what Louisville has done against other conference teams. They beat Syracuse by 34, FSU by 43, North Carolina State by 41, and BC by 45 points. Giving hope to the resourceful Demon Deacons is Louisville’s wins over Duke and Virginia. Louisville beat Duke by only ten and Virginia by 7. Since Wake beat both of those teams, one can make a decent case for a closer game than what many are forecasting.
Giving Louisville even more upside is their highly-rated defense. They enter this week as the nation’s 8th-ranked defense. Like the offense, there is a lot of balance on this side of the ball, as they rank 15th against the pass and 7th against the run. Only the nation’s second-ranked team Clemson was able to really get untracked in a substantial way against this “D.” They average just over 21 points allowed per game and when they average over 50, it’s not hard to see how that’s a winning equation. Not that the offense really even needs it, but this side of the ball makes its presence felt, as well. They make plays, really get after it, and have been adept at getting turnovers.
Wake Forest fell into a little lull after the 5-1 start to the campaign. They beat Duke, Indiana, Syracuse, and Virginia this season, among others. After a 4-0 start, they lost to NC State, before losing to FSU a few weeks later, but covering the spread. Their 8-point home loss to Army a few weeks ago was puzzling, but they looked decent enough last week in a win over Virginia. They rely a lot on defense, but that side of the ball will be tested in a big way this week. That defense may be able to compete with the middling teams of the ACC and they did do well against the Seminoles, but it’s possible that they’re out of their depth here.
Wake’s defense will need to be at full-power on Saturday. They can do some things that can help teams cover spreads. They’re actually pretty effective against the run. And they’re 14th in the nation in allowing an average of just 18.4 points per game. They get after it pretty well and have registered 20 turnovers on the season. DB Jessie Bates has five picks, two of which he has returned for scores. They can also rush the passer well, with Duke Ejiofor leading the way with eight sacks.
The other side of the ball for Wake Forest presents a less-rosy scenario. They put up a tick over 21 points a game, with their offense ranked 119th out of 128 teams. The aerial attack is negligible, which would suggest they rely on the run. But alas, even that part of their game is not terribly robust most of the time. At quarterback is John Wolford, who has a 5 TD/7 INT stat-line. He is the team’s second-leading rusher and has more touchdowns on the ground than in the air with six. Matt Colburn and Cade Carney carry the rest of the load, but again, it’s an uninspiring bunch.
Sometimes, the contrast of two teams can be so stark that it exaggerates the scenario. On one hand is the high-flying Louisville Cardinals, a team that seemingly scores at will. On the other hand is the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, a gritty team and a winning one, but one that has to grind exhaustively for what points they can manage. And on top of it, they’re facing a good Louisville “D” at home this week. Louisville should win, but after seeing them labor against Wake victims Virginia and Duke, a position on the Demon Deacons with all those points can be justified this week.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons plus 34.5 points.
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