The records do not tell the whole story as the 1-3 Louisville Cardinals are dangerous underdogs with a legitimate upset chance visiting the 4-0 NC State Wolfpack on Saturday.
Records are often deceiving and such may be the case in ACC play on Saturday when the underdog Louisville Cardinals (1-3, 3-1 ATS) pay a visit to undefeated NC State Wolfpack (4-0, 4-0 ATS), who are playing their conference opener from Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC at 12:30 ET in a game available on ESPN3.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Louisville as a moderate road underdog for this contest with the current line at +4½ with odds of -106.
Louisville may be 1-3, needing to step down in class to annihilate Samford of the FCS last week, but two of the losses were to teams that was ranked at the time and the Cardinals covered the point spread vs. both of those opponents. The third loss was a bad one at home to Houston, but that came in a classic sandwich spot between the two ranked teams with a big Thursday night ACC opener vs. Clemson coming up next on a short week.
NC State, meanwhile, has not only been the winning college football pick in all four of its games but it is also a perfect 4-0 ATS, with the Wolfpack winning those games by an average score of 46.3-12.0! Still, it is difficult to gauge just how good NC State really is considering its schedule, as the Wolfpack have been double-digit favorites in every game so far, making this tough ACC opener their biggest test to date.
Nice ACC Opener in Defeat
Louisville on the other hand has already played its ACC opener, and other than being on the wrong end of a 20-17 loss to Clemson two weeks ago, the reviews were mostly positive. After all, Clemson is currently ranked 12th in the country at 3-0 and the Tigers are popular choices among many experts to dethrone the Florida State Seminoles as ACC Champions.
Yet the Cardinals went toe-to-toe with the Tigers and came within a missed short field goal in the final minute of forcing overtime. So with a covering opening week 31-24 loss vs. then sixth ranked Auburn in which Louisville won the yardage battle by 78 yards and the closer loss to undefeated Clemson wrapped around the almost predictable bad loss to Houston, the Cardinals probably earned the scrimmage vs. Samford last week where they won the yardage war 562-201.
While that win meant nothing other than losing the goose egg in the win column for the Cardinals, a major positive was the continued development of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who completed 15-of-22 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for a whopping 184 yards on 18 carries with two more touchdowns on the ground, quite possibly separating himself in the three-headed Louisville quarterback battle over Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin.
What has NC State Beaten?
The Wolfpack improved to 4-0 with a 63-13 romp over South Alabama on the road last week for their second straight road win after a victory at Old Dominion the previous week. But those wins along with two opening home wins over Troy and Eastern Kentucky mean that NC State has had one of the easiest schedules in the country among Power 5 conference schools over this season’s first four weeks, and this Louisville defense could provide a real challenge.
Thus, we do not expect Wolfpack to approach the 46.3 points and 478.2 total yards per game they are averaging so far, and that yardage total and 6.2 yards per play overall can actually be considered disappointing considering the competition. Similarly, NC State ranking ninth in the country in points allowed at 12.0 per game and third in total defense at 205.8 yards per contest is also not that meaningful because of those same scheduling concerns.
And now having to deal with a dual threat quarterback in Jackson, assuming Louisville Coach Bonny Petrino settles in him as the full-time starter, could be a major headache for the Wolfpack defense.
Road Conference Warriors
Finally, Louisville has been at its best on the road and inside the ACC as the Cardinals are 25-8 ATS in their last 33 road games, 18-6 ATS in their last 24 conference games and 19-7 ATS in their last 26 road games vs. teams with winning home records.
With Louisville already off to a 1-0 ATS start inside the conference with the narrow loss to Clemson, look for the Cardinals to continue those positive trends with an outright upset far from impossible when they visit possibly overrated NC State on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Louisville +4½ (-106)