Louisville Cardinals (5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS) vs. Clemson Tigers (3-2 SU, 4-1 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date and Time: Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina
TV: ESPN U
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LOU +10/CLEM -10
Over/Under Total: Off
On Saturday, the Louisville Cardinals will face the Clemson Tigers in a key ACC Conference game. Louisville is 5-1 and coming off 3 straight wins, including an impressive 28-3 win at Syracuse last Friday. Clemson is a less-than-glimmering 3-2, but might be back on track following a 41-0 beating of North Carolina State last Saturday.
Clemson shouldnt catch too much flack for being 3-2. The opening week 45-21 loss to Georgia was a letdown, but was to be expected in retrospect. And in their other loss, they took top-ranked Florida State to overtime in a 23-17 loss. Granted, Jameis Winston wasnt playing, but its still a good result. In Clemsons 3 wins, they have scored a combined 164 points. So despite massive personnel departures, this is still an offense that can get the job done.
Whereas Clemsons 3-2 mark is misleadingly mediocre, Louisvilles 5-1 mark may look slightly better than it really is. They did beat Miami in week one and are on the heels of two conference wins over Wake Forest and Syracuse. But they did lose to Virginia and their win over Wake Forest was exceedingly lackluster. A 22-point win at Syracuse on Saturday is a good sign, however, heading into a tough game this week.
With Louisville quarterback Will Gardner hurt, the Cardinals will again start true freshman Reggie Bonnafon. Gardner is ready to return and may see action, but will not start. Bonnafon has talent, but has barely been completing half of his passes and is understandably needing some time to get acclimated. The Syracuse game saw him moving the offense better, with a big assist from RB Brandon Radcliff, who had 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. Radcliff now has 6 touchdowns and with Dominique Brown, makes a nice 1-2 punch at running back. Bonnafon will also be looking for pass-catchers James Quick, Eli Rogers, and Gerald Christian–a trio of nice options in the aerial attack. Still, in a game like this. youd like to see the Cardinals at full-power at QB. Its bad enough that Teddy Bridgewater is gone, but at least Gardner was coming along. Having to turn to the true freshman at this point in the season represents a pretty steep drop-off.
Clemson has also dipped into the fountain of youth looking for a signal-caller. They started the season with Cole Stoudt under center, before turning to true freshman Deshaun Watson, who is doing well with 12 touchdowns against a single pick. And with three rushing touchdowns, hes been adept with his legs. Watson has 702 yards in the air in his last two games, as the Clemson offense looks to be hitting its stride.
The Tigers are struggling on the ground, though, averaging just 3.4 yards per game. For Clemson right now, its all about the aerial attack, with a slew of big playmakers. Mike Williams is averaging nearly 25 yards per catch, with Artavis Scott and Germone Hopper chiming in with 5 touchdown receptions.
Through 6 games, Louisville leads all of college football in total yards allowed per game, with a paltry 230 yards. They are the top-ranked rushing defense with 58.3 yards per game allowed. And theyre 12th against the pass at 171 yards per game. But lets face it–that has a lot to do with who theyve been playing. Theyve played Miami, Murray State, Virginia, Florida International, Wake Forest, and Syracuse–a six-pack of offenses that are either poor or maybe mediocre. Look for those averages to go up this week against Clemson.
Defensively, Clemson is 10th in the nation is total yards allowed. With the teams they have been playing, including Georgia and FSU, their defensive ranking may be even more impressive. And for the purposes of playing Louisville, the Tigers defense has been especially robust against the run, except in the Georgia game against Todd Gurley. There will be no Gurleys on the field this Saturday.
Louisville has gotten off to a good start in their ACC debut season, other than the big lead they gave up to Virginia in their only loss. But the going might get tougher starting here, with a heavy back-loaded schedule. Louisville will need to get their run-game untracked in a big way, while hoping their robust pass-rush can trouble the freshman Watson. Clemson certainly has the better offense, with more options and a greater explosive potential. But maybe the Louisville defense can keep a lid on Clemson, while chipping away at the run and keeping it close.
Its bizarre that under new (and old) coach Bobby Petrino, that the Cardinals are developing more of a defensive identity. Look for the offense to continue adding new wrinkles until Petrino starts to make his imprint. Clemson should win and probably will, but a double-digit spread seems ever-so-slightly high and Louisville should be able to keep within distance and cover the spread.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Louisville Cardinals plus 10 points.