Despite the records of the two teams involved, the 12th ranked 2-0 Clemson Tigers may get more than they bargained for visiting the 0-2 Louisville Cardinals Thursday night.
There could be a bit of a skewed line inside the ACC in prime time Thursday night when the 12th ranked Clemson Tigers (2-0, 2-1 ATS) hit the road for the fist time in 2015 paying a visit to the Louisville Cardinals (0-2, 1-1 ATS) in the conference opener for both teams from Papa John's Stadium in Louisville, KY at 7:30 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
The point spread at Bet365 has Louisville as a decided home underdog for this contest with the current line at +6½ with odds of -110.
Stunned at Home by Houston
Clemson has moved up to 12th on the AP poll by being an impressive winning college football pick in each of its first two games, first blowing out Wofford of the FCS 49-10 and then dismantling Appalachian State 41-10, outgaining those two outclassed foes by an average of more than 200 yards! In fact, Clemson ranks 19th in the country in total defense through two game allowing 255.5 yards per game while averaging 462.5 yards offensively.
Louisville was competitive in a 31-24 loss to sixth ranked Auburn of the SEC at the Georgia Dome to begin the year, but the Cardinals were then stunned here in their home opener 34-31 by the Houston Cougars on Saturday as 13½ point chalk to fall to 0-2. Louisville moved the ball well enough offensively vs. Houston but the defense was lit up for 462 yards in a lackluster effort, which was disappointing after shutting down Auburn in the second half of Week 1.
Who Has Clemson Beaten?
Now, Clemson has been picked by quite a few experts to win the ACC this season, and the Tigers are certainly off to a good start on paper through their first two non-conference games. However, do not lose sight of the fact that they have routed one FCS school and one team that just joined the FBS last year, with both of those blowouts coming on the road.
Now, not only is Clemson moving up on class but it is also going on the road for the first time at a difficult venue for visiting teams, particularly under the weeknight primetime lights.
And besides, not all the signs vs. Appalachian State were positive last week as the Tigers needed 44 carries to rush for 140 yards for only 3.2 yards per carry, while the run defense allowed a disturbing 203 yards on 4.5 yards per carry. The fact that Clemson still won handily despite those numbers thanks to playing an inferior team could work against the Tigers here, giving them a false sense of security while facing substantially better competition.
Cardinals Better Than Last Week
So what happened to the Cardinals last week? Well, in retrospect, a letdown may have been foreseen considering the Houston game was a sandwich game between a tough opener vs. a ranked SEC team in which Louisville played well and even covered the point spread and this marquee nationally televised conference opener vs. another ranked opponent.
Last week’s letdown aside, the tough battle with Auburn gives the Cardinals one more tough game than Clemson has played so far, which should serve Louisville well at home should this be a close game in the latter stages. Also, Louisville began this offseason with a five-headed battle for the starting quarterback job, and that fight now appears to be down to two with freshman Lamar Jackson and sophomore Kyle Bolin both playing enough well in the loss to Houston.
The running game did not show up though amassing just 70 rushing yards on 26 carries vs. the Cougars after the Cardinals rushed for 238 yards on 5.0 yards per carry vs. Auburn, and that running game could return here if the Clemson run defense struggles like it did vs. Appalachian State, which would take a lot of pressure off of the young Louisville quarterbacks.
Nice Bounce-back Ability
Finally, Louisville has generally responded well from adversity in recent years with the Cardinals going 10-3 ATS in their last 13 games following a straight up loss. Additionally, Louisville is 17-6 ATS in its last 23 games inside the ACC, while Clemson is 0-5 ATS in its last five conference games.
Look for a better effort from Louisville this week after the home debacle vs. Houston and for the Cardinals to at the very least take a potentially overvalued Clemson team down to the wire with an outright upset far from impossible at Papa John’s on Thursday.
College Football Pick: Louisville +6½ (-110)