Louisville Cardinals vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Preview and Pick

Louisville Cardinals (5-4) +16 , o/u 64 at West Virginia Mountaineers (7-1), 7:30 pm Eastern Thursday, ESPN
by Zman of Predictem.com

One Big East team still clinging to BCS hopes meets another Big East team trying to make something of a disappointing season when the West Virginia Mountaineers host the Louisville Cardinals Thursday night on ESPN.

West Virginia, with just that lone loss to South Florida back in week 5, still harbors BCS title game hopes. In their latest outing, the Mountaineers beat up Rutgers 31-3 a week and a half ago.

On the other side of this match-up, Louisville started 2-0 in new head coach Steve Kragthorpe’s first season, but has lost four of six games since. In their latest showing, the Cardinals beat Pittsburgh 24-17 also 11 days ago.

West Virginia sits at 2-1 and in second place in the Big East, a game and a half back of the league-leading Connecticut Huskies. Meanwhile, the ‘Ville is 2-2 in conference play and tied for third place.

The Mountaineers are also 5-3 against the spread this season, 3-0 straight up and 2-1 ATS at home, while the Cardinals are just 2-6 vs. the numbers, 2-2 SU and against the spread on the road.

These two teams have played some very entertaining games over the last couple of seasons. Two years ago, West Virginia rallied from way back to beat Louisville 46-44 in triple-OT. And last season, the Cardinals used scores on a fumble and a punt return to knock off the Mountaineers 44-34. West Virginia outgained Louisville 540-468 that day, and outrushed the Cards 318-114, but those big plays cost them dearly. The game also went well over its total of 58.

This year, Louisville is outscoring opponents on average 37-27 and outgaining them 510-411, but getting outrushed 154-150. On the other side, the Mountaineers are outscoring foes 41-15, outgaining them 471-262 and, with the help of the third-best running game in the country and a pretty good run defense, outrushing them 298-101.

Thursday’s match features a pair of pretty damn good college quarterbacks. Cardinals senior QB Brian Brohm has completed 68% of his passes so far this season for an 8.8 yards-per-attempt average and a 26/7 TD/INT ratio. For West Virginia, junior Pat White has hit on 70% of his throws this year for an 8.2 YPA average and a 9/2 TD/INT ratio. Of course, White can also run with the ball, as his 620 rushing yards and nine rushing TDs this season attests.

These two teams, despite playing in the same conference, have only played one common opponent so far this season. West Virginia won at Syracuse a month ago 55-14, while the Cardinals lost outright to the Orangemen as 37-point home favorites 38-35 back in September. The Mountaineers outgained SU by a healthy 486-202 margin, while Louisville, despite losing, outgained the Orange 628-465.

The o/u is 3-5 in Louisville games this season, despite their averaging 64 points per. The totals are also 3-5 in Mountaineers games this year, which are averaging only 56 points per.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rank the Cardinals 34th at 78.8, WV fifth at 91.7.

West Virginia opened as 16-point home chalk for Thursday night’s game, with a total of 64, and those lines have held fairly steady. Also, the Mountaineers are listed at right around -800 on what moneylines are being offered on this game, with the ‘Ville getting +600 as road dogs.

Zman’s Pick: Not sure what the bookmakers are thinking here! Louisville is very capable of staying within this number. Take the points!