Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Louisville Cardinals, Saturday Nov. 12, 7 p.m. ET
It has to be a very frustrating time to be a Louisville player or fan. They are in the midst of a great season, but because they lost to Clemson by the narrowest of margins they have lost all control of their own destiny. They could very easily win the rest of their games and yet not get one of the four coveted spots in the playoff.
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The four remaining major conference unbeatens would get in ahead of Louisville. Even if Clemson were to lose once - which seems unlikely given their remaining schedule - they would still make the ACC Championship Game and would likely win that by about a million points, so they would likely still remain ahead of Louisville. Michigan is most likely to lose, if at all, to Ohio State. That result would quite likely vault the Buckeyes ahead of the Cardinals and into the playoff spot that Michigan currently holds. All Louisville can do is keep winning in dominant fashion and hope that other teams falter and open up a spot. Even the upcoming game against Houston, which seemed so valuable earlier in the season, has lost almost all meaning.
Louisville needs to make sure that their frustration doesn't become a distraction that limits their effectiveness on the field. If they can stay focused, though, then the situation is probably really bad news for Wake Forest - an innocent team that Louisville will look to crush because it's the only thing they can do.
Wake Forest at Louisville Betting Storylines
While the circumstances could make things bleak for Wake Forest, they have something going for them, too - they have absolutely nothing to lose. They are already bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. That means that this season is an absolute and unqualified success. It's not like they are going to be able to play their way into a new year's bowl or anything, so they don't need to be cautious to protect their standings. They can let it all hang out and take all the risks they want. If those risks work out then it's great, and if they don't then it means little. They play Louisville and Clemson the next two weeks, and a shocking win would mean a whole lot more to them than two losses would - no matter how bad the losses are. They are free from all constraints and can fully embrace the role of potential spoiler. It's probably not enough, but at least it makes things more interesting.
More interesting than the outcome of this game, perhaps, is the Heisman campaign of Lamar Jackson. He is the runaway favorite, with such a lead that all he can do at this point is lose it - the latest number I saw this morning was Jackson at 1/20 with the field at 10/1. . When a guy is this far ahead, though, everyone is watching and waiting for him to fail. One bad day would quickly derail his campaign. He can't open up any more of a gap than he already has - he's not getting caught if he plays well no matter what others do - but he can lose his gap almost instantly if he falters. He has certainly shown no signs of being bothered by the pressure so far, though - last game he completed more than 70 percent of his passes and threw four TDs and also ran for 185 yards and three more scores.
Wake Forest has a fundamental problem here. Jackson and the Cardinals can score like crazy. Wake Forest has a Top 15 defense in terms of points allowed, but they can be vulnerable at times - Indiana scored 28 and N.C. State scored 33 against them, and neither of those teams hold a candle to Louisville offensively. The Cardinals are going to be able to score. The Demon Deacons, though, only have an offense that averages 21.3 points per game. That's 118th in the country. They are very unlikely to be able to keep up with Louisville unless their defense has a day for the ages.
Wake Forest at Louisville Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Louisville favored by 33 points. That has since moved up slightly to 34. Just over 60 percent of all bets have been placed on Louisville, so the line movement is consistent to expectations. Barring major news developments, we aren't likely to see dramatic line movement going forward.
Wake Forest is 4-1 ATS in their last five conference games and 5-1 ATS in their last six road games. They are just 1-4 ATS in their last five games following an ATS win, though. Louisville is 4-1 ATS in their last five home games, and they have the same record against teams with winning records. They are 7-3-1 ATS in their last 11 games overall.
Wake Forest at Louisville Predictions and Picks
This is a whole lot of points for a team to give up. Louisville has won by 34 or more points five times already this year, though, and they also have a win by 31 on their record. They are capable of two-ended dominance. Wake Forest can play some decent defense, but they are no match offensively, and they are going to be overwhelmed by what should be a highly-motivated Louisville team. Bobby Petrino has this team dialed in and confident right now, and that will be enough. It won't be the most comfortable pick, but the only possible play is to take the Cardinals here.
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