Clemson Tigers at Louisville Cardinals Expert Picks with Odds and Predictions
Clemson Tigers at Louisville Cardinals, Saturday Sept. 16, 8 p.m. ET
It took only two weeks for this game to go from a mildly interesting game you might stop on for a few minutes as you clicked by looking for a better game to absolute must-watch TV. Both teams have significantly exceeded early expectations - and it wasn't like people expected nothing from them coming into the season. Clemson has been just ridiculously good on defense, while Lamar Jackson seems to want to break the consecutive Heisman drought. It seemed like the Atlantic Division of the ACC belonged to Florida State, but their early struggles and the loss of Deondre Francois has opened the door, and this game could set one of these teams up to step through. Can the Tigers shut down the potent Jackson? It's strength against strength in the best game of the week.
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Clemson at Louisville Betting Storylines
Clemson just humiliated Auburn on Saturday - and Auburn was ranked No. 13 going into the game. Jarrett Stidham, the transfer QB with a solid pedigree, managed just 79 yards passing - a dismal 3.3 yards per attempt. And Stidham also lost 42 yards on the ground, so despite 74 yards from Kamryn Pettway Auburn managed only 38 net rushing yards. And Clemson sacked Stidham eight times - an incredible number because, again, this is an SEC opponent and not some multi-directional state school no one has ever heard of. You aren't going to win many games doing that. It was pretty much as dominant as a defensive game can be at any level, never mind against a ranked SEC opponent. We'd gotten a hint that this Clemson defense could be better than ever against Kent State in the opener - the one yard of passing from the Golden Flashes was a bit of a giveaway. That was Kent State, though, so we couldn't be sure. Now we can, though.
A lot of Heisman voters probably felt regret soon after awarding the trophy, because Jackson, who struggled with his team a bit down the stretch anyway, was lousy in his bowl game. Well, that regret is probably gone now. Jackson has just five fewer total yards than he did last year through two games, and Purdue and North Carolina is a better set of opponents than Charlotte and Syracuse last year. He was good against Purdue, but against North Carolina he was superhuman. He threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 132 yards and three more scores. The team scored 47 points, and he was directly responsible for 41 of them - he missed a pass on a two-point conversion attempt. It was a truly great performance. But North Carolina's defense is not, by any means, the match of Clemson's. In their opener against Cal the Tar Heels gave up 35 points and 363 passing yards. So, the fact that Jackson could do what he did against North Carolina is far from a guarantee he can do it against Clemson. On the other hand, Jackson threw for 295 yards and ran for 162, scoring three total touchdowns, last year against Clemson, so he's not totally without hope here, and he won't be intimidated.
Kelly Bryant is no Deshaun Watson, and no one can reasonably expect him to be. Faced with the unenviable task of replacing a legend, though, Bryant has looked pretty good in two games. He's far from perfect, but he shows solid leadership and poise, and he seems very aware of who he is and doesn't try to do more than he should. Bryant isn't facing a wall of a defense here - he faces much worse in practice every day - so it is reasonable to assume that he can have a decent day while helping the Clemson offense do their thing.
Clemson at Louisville Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Clemson favored by 2.5 points, but that very quickly climbed to 3. It flirted briefly with 3.5 but couldn't stick there and was right back at 3 . More than 70 percent of bets have been on the Tigers, so we could easily see that 3.5 again - and perhaps even more. The total opened at 57.5 and fell to 56 in early action.
The Tigers are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall, which includes their two playoff games last year. They are 4-1 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records but just 1-5 ATS in their last six conference games. The Cardinals are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight September games but just 1-4 ATS in their last five games at home and 1-5 ATS in their last six games overall.
Clemson at Louisville Predictions and Picks
This is a tough game to pick, but at this kind of price Clemson has to be the play. Louisville's defense is far from good, so Clemson is going to be able to score some points. And while Jackson is playing as well as he ever has, this is probably going to be the best defense he has ever faced. Jackson will do more damage than Purdue or North Carolina did, but he won't have his best game. Clemson is more experienced and smarter and has an edge in coaching. Home field will help Louisville but not enough. The Tigers will win by enough to cover this spread.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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