ACC College Football Picks: #11 Clemson Tigers at Louisville Cardinals

#11 Clemson Tigers at Louisville Cardinals
Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium – Louisville, Kentucky
Thursday, September 17, 2015, 7:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Clemson -4 1/2
Current Line: Clemson -6
Opening Total: 54
Current Total: 51
Opening Money Line: Clemson -235 / Louisville +195
Current Money Line: Clemson -235 / Louisville +195

Clemson and Louisville open ACC play Thursday in Louisville.
Clemson and Louisville open ACC play Thursday in Louisville.

The Louisville Cardinals are 0-2. Granted both losses were by a total of 10 points, but 0-2 is 0-2. It doesn’t get any easier for the Cardinals as they host the #11 Clemson Tigers Thursday night in the ACC opener for both teams. Louisville hasn’t started a season 0-3 since 1984. Clemson is 2-0 this season with easy blowout wins over lesser competition.

This is only the second ever meeting between Clemson and Louisville. The Tigers won at home last year 23-17 when the Cardinals joined the ACC. Louisville had first and goal at the five in the last minute of that game but an incomplete pass on fourth down ended hopes of an upset.

Clemson is coached by Dabo Swinney. The Tigers have home wins over Wofford 49-10 and last week against Appalachian State 41-10. Some thought Appalachian State, a favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference could compete with Clemson. It didn’t work out that way as Clemson scored the first 38 points of the game. The Mountaineers finally got on the board with a field goal with a minute left in the third quarter. Clemson easily covered the relatively low 18.5 point spread and the total stayed under 57.5. The Tigers are 2-0 ATS and the total is 1-1.

Louisville is coached by Bobby Petrino. The Cardinals lost to Auburn 31-24 in Atlanta to open the season. Louisville trailed 24-0 in that contest early in the third, and a furious comeback came up just short. Last week, Louisville was upset at home by Houston 34-31. The Cougars took the lead with 3:09 left in the fourth. Louisville attempted the game tying field goal from 53 yards out but it was blocked. Houston took a knee to end the game. The Cardinals were 13.5 point favorites and the total was 55.5. Louisville is 0-2 ATS and the total is 1-0-1 this season.

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Clemson is outscoring teams 45-10 this season. Clemson averages 463 yards per game on offense including 282 passing and 181 rushing yards. The Tigers have allowed 256 yards per game including 93 passing and 163 rushing yards. Clemson has 4 turnovers and has forced turnovers as well. The Tigers are averaging 65 penalty yards per game. Clemson is 17/33 on third and fourth down conversions, and opponents are 8/36. Clemson has forced 2 sacks and allowed 5 this season. Clemson is 5/7 scoring in the red zone with 5 touchdowns. Opponents are 4/4 with two touchdowns. The Tigers have a pick six this season.

Quarterback DeShaun Watson has completed 77.1% of his passes for 442 yards with 5 touchdowns and an interception, along with 11 carries for 39 yards. Back-up Nick Schuessler has taken some snaps in both games. He has completed 66.7% of his passes for 102 yards and an interception. Kelly Bryant has completed 4 of 5 passes for 19 yards, and also has 5 carries for 32 yards.

Running back Wayne Gallman has 29 carries for 171 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus a catch. Zac Brooks has 8 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Artavis Scott has 12 catches for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns. Charone Peake has 6 catches for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns. Ray-Ray McCloud has 9 catches for 84 yards. Receiver Mike Williams has a touchdown catch but is out indefinitely with a scary looking neck injury suffered when he ran into the goal post on the touchdown.

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Louisville is being outscored 33-28. The Cardinals average 400 yards per game including 246 passing and 154 rushing yards. Louisville has allowed 395 yards per game including 187 passing and 208 rushing yards. Louisville has 6 turnovers and has forced 4 this year. The Cardinals average 58 penalty yards per game. Louisville has forced 2 sacks and allowed 6 this season. The Cardinals are 16/30 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 17/36. Louisville is 8/11 scoring in the red zone with 7 touchdowns, and opponents are 4/5 with touchdowns. Louisville has allowed a kick return for a touchdown.

Quarterback Will Gardner is questionable with injured ribs. He hasn’t played so far in the season. The Cardinals have used three quarterbacks without Gardner. Lamar Jackson has thrown for 268 yards with a touchdown and 3 interceptions, and has 28 carries for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kyle Bolin has thrown for 157 yards and a touchdown. Reggie Bonnafon has passed for 67 yards and rushed for 14 yards. Running back Brandon Radcliff has 27 carries for 119 yards for 2 touchdowns. Jeremy Smith has a rushing touchdown.

Four receivers are questionable or out for the Cardinals, including Emonee Spence, Alphonso Carter, Jamari Staples, and James Quick. Tight end Cole Hikutini is also questionable. Mickey Crum, Jaylen Smith, Ja’Quay Savage and Traveon Samuel all have 8 catches so far this season. Crum and Savage each have a touchdown catch.

Clemson is 6-0 ATS in September, 4-0 overall and after allowing less than 20 points, 5-1 after a cover, 4-1 after a straight up win by more than 20 points, 6-2 on fieldturf, 5-2 after scoring more than 40 points, 5-11-2 against teams with losing home records, 1-4 in road games and 0-5 in ACC games.

Louisville is 10-3 after a straight up loss, 17-6 in conference games, 2-9 after allowing 200 rushing yards or more, 1-5 after allowing 450 total yards or more, and 0-6 at home.

Clemson has a showdown with Notre Dame next week in Death Valley. Even though Louisville is 0-2 and has numerous injuries to wide receivers, they are still dangerous. Clemson can’t afford to overlook this team. I think the Tigers win on the road but Louisville keeps it close.

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