Louisville at NC State
Time: 6 PM CST, Sat.
Spread: LOU -3.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Louisville Cardinals are 5-4 but just 3-3 in ACC play where it has lost two of its last three. The Cardinals fell 27-52 to Miami (FL) last week and will try to get back on track as it travels to NC State to face the Wolfpack at 6:30 PM (CST) Saturday on the ACC Network. The Cardinals is 3.5-point favorites in the game according to NCAA Football oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The Cardinals have turned its offensive attack into something resembling a poor man’s Ohio State. It features a rush-heavy quarterback and a strong freshman running back that have made the Cardinals a much more formidable team than pundits expected to enter this season. Louisville ranks No. 26 nationally with 212.6 rushing yards, and its passing attack is a respectable No. 59 at 237.8 per. The Cards average 32.1 points per game, very much resembling a top program on the offensive end of the football.
Its defense has been far less impressive. Louisville is giving up 34.1 points per game and last week the Hurricanes hung 52 on the Cardinals’ defense. It is tough to win games while opponents are scoring with that kind of ease.
Louisville quarterback Micale Cunningham has been great both passing and rushing the ball. He has 1,228 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions, and he has been sacked just 16 times despite his dual-threat role within the offense. The surprise of the team has been Cocoa High school product Javian Hawkins. The freshman has tallied nearly 1,000 yards in his first NCAA season all while averaging 5.4 yards-per-carry and having scored a team-best six rushing touchdowns.
No. 2 running back Hassan Hall has been good, as well, averaging 4.7 yards-per-carry. But Cunningham functions as the No. 3 rusher with 71 attempts for 305 yards and a second-best five touchdowns. The receiving core has been led by Tutu Atwell. He has the most catches (47), yards (810), and touchdowns (8). The Cardinals really stick to its top-three receivers with little depth behind them, while tight end Marshon Ford occasionally is a factor (11 catches for 170 yards and two TDs).
The Cardinals have 18 passing touchdowns on the season and average 17 yards-per-catch.
NC State is 4-5 on the year but just 1-4 in ACC play. It has lost three straight, falling to a ranked Wake Forest team, a ranked Clemson team, and a much-improved Boston College squad. The Wolfpack has seen its bowl chances evaporate, but all hope is not quite lost yet. Following this week’s matchup, it will close the season with two games, one at Georgia Tech and a finale at home against the North Carolina Tar Heels. While Tech should be a somewhat easy win, the Tar Heels will put the Wolfpack to the test and determine its bowl fate, in all likelihood.
NC State, like its opponent this week, is a weak defensive team. It allows 28.7 while scoring 23.2 itself, for a point differential of negative-5.5 points. The team is middle of the pack in both passing and rushing offense (No. 62, and No. 89, respectively), and it is not a team with great players at the skill positions. NC State has cycled through three quarterbacks, but none have had great success this season. The brightest aspects of its offense has been its backfield, with its top-two rushers both topping five yards-per-carry.
The Wolfpack do average 4.3 yards-per-carry, and the trio of Abs have incurred just 15 sacks collectively—and both of these statistics highlight that the Wolfpack’s offensive line is allowing its offense to be productive in both the passing aspects and the rushing. Even so, until it recruits some top-notch defensive playmakers, the Wolfpack are going to struggle in ACC play.
Recruiting efforts this offseason must focus on building a better secondary and getting some stronger outside tackles. The program is still building, and this year is only a regression if it fails to improve upon the aspects that have hindered it since the 4-2 start to the season.