No. 3 Louisville Cardinals (9-1 SU, 5-4-1 ATS) vs. Houston Cougars (8-2 SU, 3-6-1 ATS)
College Football Week 12
Date/Time: Thursday November 17th, 2016. 8:00PM (EST)
Where: TDECU Stadium Houston, T.X.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LOU -14/HOU +14
Over/Under Total: 69
The Louisville Cardinals chances towards the College Football Playoffs got a lot better last Saturday with the help of several upsets around the college gridiron. No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan, and No. 4 Washington all suffered losses that are certainly going to put the polls in disarray on Monday. While it is unsure where the Cardinals will land in the rankings, one thing that is certain is their possibility of making the playoffs are good if they can win sweep their final two games. However, these last two games will be tough challenges starting this Thursday as they go on the road for a primetime battle with the Houston Cougars on ESPN.
If you remember, the Cougars had a great start to the season winning their first 5 games including a big upset over Oklahoma in the opener. The hot start vaulted the Cougars to the no. 6 ranking in the AP Polls before they were upset by the likes of Navy and SMU just 3 weeks apart. Those losses are still being felt as Houston will likely miss the AAC Championship Game. However, Houston is still 8-2 SU on the season and can still reach double digit victories for the 2nd straight season under Tom Herman. If the Cougars could manage to knock off a potential playoff bound Louisville team this Thursday, they will set their selves up for a prestigious bowl opportunity this postseason.
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The big challenge for Tom Herman and the Cougars this Thursday will be finding a way to slow down Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson is having the best year of any college player in America and he will be this years Heisman Trophy winner. I know the voting is not over yet and I know there are arguments for Jabrill Peppers and Deshaun Watson out there. Forget it, Jackson has been the best player in the country with 27 passing touchdowns and 19 rushing touchdowns. Jackson is nearing the 3,000 yard passing mark on the season but from a statistical standpoint; he has been even better running the football with 1,334 yards on the season. Jackson has averaged 7.3 yards per touch and has helped the Cardinals establish the 9th best rushing mark in the FBS averaging 270 yards per game on the ground as a team.
In recent weeks, Louisville has hit their early season form again when they captured the nations attention by blowing away teams like Syracuse and Florida State by almost 40 points in consecutive weeks. The Cardinals hit a bit of a midseason slump after the Clemson loss with close calls against Duke and Virginia. However, they blew out North Carolina State 54-13 in a game that was expected to be close. Then over the last two weeks the Cardinals outscored Boston College and Wake Forest by a combined score of 96-19. Therefore, this offense is starting to fire on all cylinders like they were earlier this season.
The good news for Houston is that they have plenty of offensive weapons to trade scores with the Cardinals. Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr is another dangerous dual threat passer that can make big plays with the football. Ward has completed 68% of his passes this year for 2,605 yards with 16 scores and 8 picks. Ward also leads the Cougars in rushing with 429 yards and 9 touchdowns. Similar to the way Louisvilles offense leans on Jackson, Houston also leans heavily on the play of their star quarterback.
Ward is not near as flashy as Jackson but he is a better pure passer. Additionally, the Cougars have several veteran wide outs like Linell Bonner and Chance Allen that can win their matchups in the passing game. If Ward can hookup on a few big plays down the field to establish some momentum, they could use the big Thursday night stage towards an upset bid over Louisville. However, they still have to get a huge effort from the defense and not give up many big plays for those hopes to be a success.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think the safest play in this game will be the over 69. Houston must score to keep this game competitive and I think that will increase the pace leading to tons of scoring opportunities. Take the over 69!
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