College Football Pick
Are you ready? It’s early in the season, but this Game could easily decide the winner of the ACC Atlantic division and eventual playoff team. Only a month ago, Louisville wasn’t even in the conversation and now they are the No. 3 team in the country according to the AP Polls. Clemson opened as a -2.5 point home favorite but early betting has been on Louisville, who is now favored by -1.5 at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
The Cardinals have all the flash imaginable, led by LAmar Jackson, scoring a nation-high 63.5 points per Game. Despite some easy wins, they came through big in a 63-20 Game against Florida State, which ultimately put them into national title conversations.
But Clemson has stayed out of sight in the early going with a fairly weak Schedule. They escaped Auburn 19-13 in the opener and even had trouble against Troy the next week before a couple more easy wins. On the other side of the field from Jackson is one of the preseason Heisman contenders, Deshaun Watson. However, Watson hasn’t looked like the same player as a year ago and his Heisman hopes are close to gone unless he can come through in this Game.
This will be billed as Watson vs. Jackson, but it’s much more than that, with the team with the better defense likely having the edge. Of course, if either Watson or Jackson go for five-plus touchdowns and dominate everyone in their path, defense may not matter as much.
Much has been made about the sophomore Jackson in the early going. He has a ridiculous 25 touchdowns (13 passing, 12 rushing) to go with 1,330 passing yards and 526 rushing yards. Needless to say, no one can come close to those numbers. against Florida State, what many believe to be one of the better defenses in the country, he threw for 216 yards while running for 146 to go with five total touchdowns.
But that was at home. This time around, Jackson has to do that on the road against an equally good defense, or at least that’s the thought. Clemson hasn’t really been tested yet on the defensive end with their toughest Games coming against Auburn and Georgia Tech.
Undoubtedly, the Tigers will be hyped playing under the lights against Jackson and company. Last year’s meeting doesn’t tell us much about these teams as Kyle Bolin started that Game for the Cardinals and he’s a far lesser version than what Jackson has shown. Watson was okay in the Game with Wayne Gallman leading the way on the ground in a 20-17 win at Louisville.
But holding this Cardinals team to 17 points again doesn’t seem possible. Holding them to double that (34 points) may not even be possible. Along with Jackson, they roll with running back Brandon Radcliff, who’s also averaging 9.3 yards per carry.
Louisville’s defense is another underrated part of this Game. They held Watson in check last season even when Watson was at the peak of his Game. Sure, the Cardinals have allowed more points this season, but notably kept Florida State in check most of the way in the 63-20 win.
This will come down to what Watson can do. If he can get back to last year’s levels, this should a high-scoring battle, but if not, then who knows. Watson has the players around him with Gallman still in the backfield and Mike Williams, Ray-Ray McCloud and Artavis SCott out wide. It’s up to him if the Tigers are to reach the CFP again.
If Louisville can win this, it’s mostly smooth sailing for them Schedule-wise, outside of a road Game at Houston. But the ACC title Game will definitely be waiting for them either way. As for Clemson, they still have to travel to Florida State at the end of October, so their season has only just begun.
Our Pick – Louisville has been a team on the rise and their last two Games against Clemson hammer that point home. The 2014 Game was decided by 6 and last years Game was decided by just 3. We know they can compete here. As we like to say, they’ve been knocking on the door and now it’s time to kick it in. Louisville -1.5