College Football Pick
With LAmar Jackson one of the favorites to win the Heisman, Louisville’s expectations are a bit higher than a year ago. But after nine wins in 2016, the Cardinals have a lot of pieces to replace. Either way, that shouldn’t matter much in their opening Game against Purdue. The Cards are a -24.5 point favorite (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) for the Game at LUcas Oil Stadium, which is only an hOur or two away for both schools.
The Boilermakers come off a season in which they lost their final seven Games and gave up more than 38 points per Game. Bringing in Jeff Brohm from Western Kentucky, a mostly offensive coach, probably won’t help Purdue against Jackson and company.
Jackson has a full year under his belt and his goal will be to try and match what he did in 2016 with 3,543 passing yards, 30 TDs and 9 INTs to go with 1,571 rushing yards and 21 more touchdowns. The problem is that almost everyone around him is new with only two starters back on the line. Jeremy Smith takes over in the backfield, while Jaylen Smith (599 yards) is the top returning receiver along with Traveon Samuel. The Cardinals struggled to keep Jackson clean last year and with a mostly new line, that could be the case again, although probably not as much in this Game.
Purdue returns nine defensive starters, but this is still a group that was lit up for at least 44 points in Four of its final five Games. The 62 points given up to Penn State is exactly what could happen here. The hope is that their new 4-3 system that features blitzing will help get Jackson to the ground. Then again, that could also keep Jackson out of the pocket even more and lead him to 200 rushing yards.
The way for Purdue to cover will be through the offensive side and that’s why they brought in Brohm. Quarterback David Blough is recovering from a shoulder strain, which isn’t good news, but he should be ready for the opener. He threw 25 touchdowns last season, yet also 21 interceptions. The line returns only one starter, which could be a problem throughout the season. Tight end Cole Herman (35 receptions) is the top returning receiver with Gregory Phillips and Jackson Anthrop stepping into empty wide out spots. The Boilermakers will want to run as much as possible behind Markell Jones and company in order to keep Louisville’s offense off the field. If that happens, Purdue will be in a good position to cover. Purdue’s offense had a few Games in which it scored plenty last season and those instances should be more this year.
The question mark for Louisville’s season will come on the defensive side where seven starters return. If this group can get better under new coordinator Peter Sirmon, that would turn them into legit ACC and CFP contenders. Otherwise, there will be more Games like the losses to Houston and Kentucky last season in which the defense struggled. Getting to the quarterback against an inexperienced line will be huge in this Game and that’s up to Drew Bailey and James Hearns on the ends.
Louisville may reach 50 points in this Game, but Brohm is ready to rack up the points as well with the Boilermakers able to drop 30 themselves. If the Louisville defense isn’t ready, it’ll be tough to cover this Game. On the other side of that, if Jackson can deal with the hype train, he may come out and Score70 points in the opener to lead the Heisman race after the first week.
Our Pick – Louisville/Purdue OVER 67.5