College Football Pick
This Game was supposed to mean something, but the stakes are a bit less now. Louisville needs some help if it wants to reach the College Football Playoff, while Houston has fallen into a bit of a rut over the last month. The Cardinals still have a chance at the playoff and they’ll get a good test in this Game against the Cougars.
When these two teams met a year ago, we didn’t know just how good these two quarterbacks would become. It was early in the 2015 season (second Game) and Greg Ward Jr. won the battle for Houston, throwing for three touchdowns while adding 98 yards on the ground. The funny thing was that LAmar Jackson, a freshman at the time, was benched in the second half for Kyle Bolin because of ineffectiveness. That seems ridiculous now, but Jackson had thrown two interceptions and only had 16 yards on the ground through 12 rushes (sacks included).
Now, it’s a different story with Jackson the favorite to win the Heisman, piling up ridiculous numbers, both through the air and on the ground. While he’s not that efficient as a passer completing less than 60% of his passes, Jackson is averaging more than seven yards per carry and has been unstoppable as a runner. The fact that he’s above average as a passer is all that’s needed.
The Cardinals haven’t been too consistent this season, having trouble taking down teams like Duke and Virginia, but this was likely a Game they circled on the Schedule before the season. If they could win this one, it would give them a much better shot at reaching the playoff.
Unfortunately for Louisville, after starting the season hot, beating Oklahoma, the Cougars have not been all that great lately, falling on the road to Navy and SMU. The loss to SMU was most troubling as it was 38-16 and the Mustangs have a losing record. Even in home wins against Tulsa and UCF, things haven’t looked that great for Houston.
The main thing has been that their defense isn’t getting the job done and that’s what will hurt them immensely against Jackson and company. In fact, it may just be Jackson that hurts them because he’s done most of the damage recently as running back Brandon Radcliff has really struggled since September. While it is a home Game under the lights, it’s still hard to see this Houston defense stopping Jackson. The Cougs have given up a decent amount of points in the last month and this is their toughest test yet.
That means Ward will need to carry Houston as a whole, which isn’t really anything new. The problem is that Ward hasn’t been as reliable as a season ago. In a recent Four-Game stretch, Ward threw six interceptions, most notably three picks against UCF even in a win. He’s still electric at times as a runner, but averaging just over three yards per carry on the ground is much worse than a season ago.
Jackson is doing what Ward did a year ago, but even better. The problem is that Ward has been a level below 2015 and that’s why Houston has faltered as of late. If that trend continues, it’s difficult to see Ward and the Cougars keeping up with Jackson and the Cardinals, even at home.
Predicted Score- Louisville 45 Houston 25