Louisville Cardinals vs #6 Auburn Tigers
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia
Saturday, September 5, 2015, 3:30 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Opening Line: Auburn -10 1/2
Current Line: Auburn -10 1/2
Opening Total: 58
Current Total: 57 1/2
Opening Money Line: Auburn -420 / Louisville +300
Current Money Line: Auburn -410 / Louisville +330
The Auburn Tigers and Louisville Cardinals meet for only the second time ever Saturday in Atlanta. Auburn beat Louisville in 1974 in Birmingham.
Louisville went 9-4 last year including 5-3 in the ACC. It was a year of great change for the Cardinals as they not only moved to the ACC from the American Conference, but former coach Charlie Strong left to become the head coach at Texas. Louisville brought back former coach Bobby Petrino who had been the head coach at Western Kentucky. Louisville had three losses during the regular season to Virginia, Clemson and Florida State by a total of 19 points. Louisville would end up losing to Georgia 37-14 in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
Auburn is coached by Gus Malzahn. After playing in the final BCS Championship Game in 2013, Auburn backslid a little with a disappointing 8-5 season, including 4-4 in the SEC West. The Tigers began the season 7-1, but would lose 4 of the last 5 games. Auburn lost to Wisconsin 34-31 in overtime in the Outback Bowl.
Louisville was 7-6 ATS and the total was 5-7-1 last year. Auburn was 4-9 ATS and the total was 7-5-1 last year.
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Louisville averaged 395 yards per game on offense, including 252 passing and 143 rushing yards. The Cardinals averaged 31.2 points per game. Louisville was +4 in turnovers. The Cardinals allowed 309 yards per game on defense, including 200 passing and 109 rushing yards. Louisville allowed 22 points per game. The Cardinals were #26 or better in all four defensive categories.
Louisville used three quarterbacks last year and could use the same three again in 2015. Will Gardner threw for 1,669 yards with 12 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Reggie Bonnafon threw for 864 yards with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions and rushed for 164 yards and 5 touchdowns. Kyle Bolin threw for 716 yards with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Tyler Ferguson is also in the mix. Petrino listed all four at the top of the depth chart at QB and will not announce his starter until game time.
Running back Brandon Radcliff had 144 carries for 737 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 6 catches. L.J. Scott and Jeremy Smith will also get some carries, along with Northwestern transfer Malin Jones.
James Quick is back at receiver after making 36 catches for 566 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight end Keith Towbridge and transfer receivers Ja’Quay Savage (Texas A&M) and Jamari Staples (UAB) will also get targets.
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Auburn averaged 485 yards per game on offense including 256 rushing yards, and 36 points a game. The Tigers were #27 or better nationally in all three categories. Auburn was +7 in turnovers. The defense wasn’t terrible last year, but just average. The Tigers gave up 399 yards and 27 points per game. In each of the 5 losses, Auburn gave up at least 34 points.
Quarterback Nick Marshall is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a cornerback. He passed for 2,532 yards with 20 touchdowns and 7 touchdowns, and he also rushed for 798 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Marshall gone, the Tigers will move from a zone-read attack to a more balanced offense. Junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson is more of a pocket passer. He takes over as the starter after taking some snaps last season. He threw for 436 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, and also rushed for a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Sean White will serve as the back-up.
The top three rushers, including Marshall, from last year are all in the NFL. Cameron Artis-Payne is now with the Carolina Panthers after rushing for 1,608 yards on 303 carries with 13 touchdowns, and also making 13 catches. Corey Grant is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars after rushing for 364 yards and 3 touchdowns, and also catching a touchdown pass. Sophomore Roc Thomas is back after rushing for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns and making 6 catches. He will compete with JUCO transfer Jovon Robinson for the starters carries. However, both will get significant carries to make up for the carries that Marshall got last year.
Receivers Sammie Coates (34 catches, 741 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Quan Bray (39 catches, 471 yards 4 touchdowns) are both in the NFL now. Coates is with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bray is with the Indianapolis Colts. D’haquille Williams is back after making 45 catches for 730 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is probable with an ankle injury. Ricardo Louis is also back after making 21 catches for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns, and also rushing for 220 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. Melvin Ray, Marcus Davis, and sophomore Jason Smith will also get a lot of catches. Freshmen Kamryn Pettway and Chandler Cox will split time at the H-back position.
Louisville is 5-2 ATS in September games. Auburn is 4-1 ATS on fieldturf, 5-2 in neutral site games, 3-7 against ACC teams, 0-5 overall and 0-4 against ACC teams.
Auburn looks to get back to being an elite team. With former Florida coach Will Muschamp being brought in to improve the defense, Auburn could make a playoff run. Louisville has a lot of questions, especially at quarterback. I think Auburn wins but the Cardinal defense keeps it close.
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