Louisville can pretty much forget about the NCAAF Playoff already, but the ACC title is still doable. The disappointing Cards open conference play as 7-point odds home dogs against No. 11 Clemson.
Already Must-Win Game For Louisville
You can understand Louisville losing its season opener, 31-24 to Auburn as the Tigers were ranked No. 6 in the country then, although they also nearly lost to FCS school Jacksonville State this past Saturday. What was surprising was the Cardinals losing 34-31 at home to Houston on Saturday. I previewed that game here at SBR and though Louisville would win but I did take the Cougars and the points.
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino has a quarterback quandary on his hands. Freshman Lamar Jackson started under center against Houston, winning the job after throwing for 100 yards and rushing for 106 and a touchdown against Auburn. However, he struggled against Houston, throwing for 168 yards and two interceptions. He also was held to 16 yards rushing on 12 carries, although he did score. Jackson was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Kyle Bolin, who was sharp in completing 10-for-18 for 157 yards and a touchdown. But it wasn't enough to prevent Louisville's first 0-2 start since 1998. U of L hasn't started 0-3 in 31 years.
In Bolin's only two significant appearances last year, a comeback win over Kentucky in relief of Reggie Bonnafon (he started vs. Auburn) and a bowl game loss to Georgia, Bolin had Louisville's Nos. 1 and 3 top passing games of the season. Petrino hasn't yet announced who will start against Clemson. Jackson is more of the dual threat and Bolin a prototypical pocket passer with good accuracy.
Perhaps we could see these struggles coming because Louisville is a young team. Jackson is a true freshman. The Cards also have a true freshman starting offensive tackle and two true freshmen starting receivers. They had the No. 6 defense in the nation last year but lost several players to the NFL. These Cardinals are allowing an average of 395 yards (tied for No. 77 nationally) and 5.1 yards per play (No. 66). Louisville is No. 114 nationally on third down, letting Auburn and Houston convert a combined 42 percent of the time (15-for-32).
Clemson Hasn't Played Anyone Yet
Hard to know if the Tigers are any good yet as they have played a laughable schedule. They beat Wofford 49-10 in Week 1, but did lose leading returning receiver Mike Williams perhaps for the season. Then on Saturday, Clemson routed Appalachian State 41-10. Star Deshaun Watson, the preseason ACC Player of the Year favorite, threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns, two to wideout Charone Peake. It was Peake’s first-ever two touchdown game.
The Clemson defense limited Appalachian State to just 95 yards through the air and only nine completions in 28 attempts. Shaq Lawson was named the ACC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week; he had four tackles vs. App State, three for loss, including a sack. Clemson’s defense recorded 10 tackles for loss; the Tigers have led the country in tackles for loss each of the last two seasons. Clemson’s two opponents have averaged just 3.8 yards per play -- 10th-best in the country
The Tigers are 2-0 for the fifth time in the past six years. They have now won 29 consecutive games against unranked opponents, the longest streak of its kind in school history. All 29 of the wins have been by at least four points, the longest active streak in the nation.
The schools met for the first time last year in Death Valley and Clemson won 23-17. Ammon Lakip hit the go-ahead 40-yard field goal and Clemson stopped Louisville on fourth-and-goal from its 2 with 21 seconds left. Watson was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. Bonnafon started for Louisville but struggled and was replaced by Will Gardner, who is also still on the roster.
Clemson is 5-8 all-time in its first game in an ACC facility, but head coach Dabo Swinney is 1-0, a 49-14 win at Syracuse in 2013. The Tigers are 5-9 all-time in Thursday night ESPN games. Under Swinney, they are 4-1.
5Dimes already has an alternate line option of 6.5. I would give those points. Clemson has covered six straight September games. Louisville is 0-6 ATS in its past six at home. Go 'under' the total with your College Football Picks. The 'under' is 11-1 in Clemson's past 12 after a win. The 'under' is 6-2-1 in Louisville's past nine conference games.
Collegte Football Free Pick: Clemson & Under at 5Dimes