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Having back-to-back AAC vs. ACC bowl games on the same day is too good to be true, right? Maybe not, but at least we're guaranteed a hard-fought game that will likely be decided in the fourth quarter. Former BCS hopeful Louisville will be -3 point favorites at sportsbook.com in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Miami (FL). The betting trends at sportsbook.com show 75% of the action has come in on Louisville.
Despite solid records for both of these teams, it's hard for either of them to feel pleased with how the season turned out. Louisville was already making plans for a BCS bowl at the beginning of the year due to how easy its schedule was. One loss to UCF later and the Cardinals are playing in December.
As for Miami (FL), a win over Florida looked great early in the season, but not so much anymore. Sitting at 7-0, the 'Canes had hopes for better things, but after getting shredded on the defensive end by Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke in three straight weeks, they finished 9-3.
It gets even worse for the bettors as the Hurricanes closed the season with just one cover in their final seven games while the Cardinals weren't much better at 2-6 over their last eight. And even though their records look fine, neither had a win over a ranked team. So what do you get when you put two teams like this together? A lot of indecisiveness.
As mentioned earlier, Miami's defense has been non-existent for most of the season now. They have allowed at least 21 points in nine straight games. Even in their final two wins, Virginia and Pittsburgh were able to score above their season averages.
Louisville's offense hasn't been as good as projected, but they still have NFL prospect Teddy Bridgewater at the helm and considering this may be his last collegiate game, he'll want to shoot for the stars. Bridgewater has been solid all year with 3,523 yards, completing 70 percent of his passes and a super-efficient 28-4 TD-INT ratio. He spreads the ball around plenty with three receivers with at least 40 receptions, but DaVante Parker leads with 11 TDs for the season. The run game isn't great, but Dominique Brown (783 yards, eight TDs) and Senorise Perry (631 yards, six TDs) get the job done.
Because of early season blowouts, the Cardinals are averaging 35 points per game, although they haven't surpassed that total since their fourth game. They should be able to score just fine here, but limit expectations for a 40-point bow out for Bridgewater.
Louisville clamped down defensively on most opponents, but most of its opponents weren't very good. When faced with tougher competition, the Cardinals allowed 38 in the loss to UCF. The Hurricanes can score, so this may be a shootout after all.
Quarterback Stephen Morris leads the way in his senior season and while his numbers are down a bit, his QBR actually jumped a good amount this year, likely in large part to the quality of defenses he faced. Morris finished with 2,868 yards, 21 TDs and 12 INTs, while only completing 58.7 percent of his passes. Not great by any means, but when he gets going, Morris is tough to stop. To close out the season, Morris managed at least two touchdowns in five straight games while getting near the 300-yard mark three times. Allen Hurns (1,138 yards, six TDs) was his favorite wide out and it really showed down the stretch as he finished with four straight 100-yard games. Stacy Coley (seven TDs) is also a burner that can't be forgotten when Morris goes long. Stud RB Duke Johnson got hurt at the beginning of November and their ground game hasn't been the same since, which is a good reason why Morris' numbers have jumped. Current starting RB Dallas Crawford has nine touchdowns, but is averaging two yards less per carry than Johnson.
Louisville likes to play in unnecessarily close games, and there's no reason this one won't fall in line for what the spread is.
The Hurricanes are 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl games, and 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games. The Cardinals are 12-2 ATS in their last 14 vs. the ACC and 5-1 ATS in their last six non-conference games, but only 1-4 ATS in their last five vs. a team with a winning record.
Went back and forth on this one when it came to using this game as a play and eventually decided against it. The play would have been on Miami though. Louisville is another Bowl team that has built it's nice record against weak opposition. The few times they stepped up in class, they either lost (to UCF) or won by a TD (Houston and Cinci). Every other game on their schedule came against a patsy.
Miami on the other hand, is battle tested and owns wins over Florida, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Pitt. all of whom, in my opinion, would give Louisville all they could handle.
This game should be close and certainly is a game Miami can win. Getting +3.5 in a game a team can certainly win outright is the only way to go. For now, this is just an opinion. Miami +3.5