NCAA Football Odds: Louisville Cardinals at North Carolina Tar Heels

Louisville enters as 9.5 point favorites at North Carolina at 11 AM Saturday (CT).

Louisville – North Carolina
Time: 11 AM CT (SAT, Sept 9, 2017)
Spread: LOU -9.5
Total: 64

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Louisville Cardinals received a tough scare in Week 1, when it fell behind to Purdue in the first half. Eventually, Lamar Jackson proved to be too much for the Boilermakers, and the Cardinals emerged as 35-28 victors to start out the season 1-0. This week should prove tougher, however, as Jackson and company travel to North Carolina to face the Tar Heels as 9.5 point favorites. Louisville’s defense will need to tighten up a lot more against an explosive Carolina offense, and concerns have to loom after allowing Purdue to lead it 14-10 at the half last week.

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Even so, Jackson is a force. He threw 30 of 46 for 378 yards and two TDs, and he also rushed for another 107 yards on 21 attempts. Last year’s Heisman Award winner seems only better this year, and he did not even get a lot of help from his backfield in this one. Reggie Bonnafon rushed for 33 yards, but had just six carries. Jeremy Smith added eight yards on five attempts.

Jackson’s biggest help came from his top two receivers, of course, as Jaylen Smith and Dez Fitzpatrick combined for 212 yards and 12 catches between them. Fitzpatrick also had one of the two receiving TDs for Louisville, and the Cardinals averaged 12.6 yards per reception on its 30 total catches.

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The defensive issues were abundant, though. Purdue quarterbacks David Blough and Elijah Singular combined to throw 33 of 57 for 293 yards and four TDs, but the tandem was responsible for three interceptions as well. Purdue was also fairly limited with its ground game, rushing for only 51 yards on 21 carries and failing to record a rushing TD.

Overall, Louisville had gotten its game together by the second half, and mostly mitigate the Boilermakers passing attack, though Purdue still did record two second-half TDs. With an over/under this week of 64 points, the potential is there for both Louisville and the Tar Heels to run up the score in a more explosive game this week. Albeit, last week’s 35-28 total of 63 points is just one less than what college football oddsmakers are projecting for this week.

North Carolina began its season with a 35-30 loss to California. After this showdown against No. 17 Louisville, the Tar Heels get a softer three weeks of schedule before eventually facing Notre Dame on Oct. 7. A win this week would be elemental, in helping N.C. achieve something close to a 4-1 record before its schedule does toughen up with the Irish and two more ranked opponents in the following three weeks after that.

Chazz Surratt threw 18 of 28 for completion last week with a TD, but he averaged just 5.8 yards per reception, and that will have to change. The deep routes were infrequently run, and N.C. must do better than just under six yards per reception. The rush game was very effective, as North Carolina ran for 219 yards on 45 carries (4.9 yards per) and also scored three rushing TDs. Michael Carter led the way with 94 yards and two of the TDs, and Surratt was responsible for another 66 yards from the QB position.

The Tar Heels did have three receivers with four catches or more, but only Austin Proehl was able to milk any real distance from them, averaging 13.8 yards per reception on his four catches. Overall, North Carolina is going to have to balance its attack much better this week against Louisville, in addition to getting longer routes from its receivers.

Also, after allowing 363 passing yards from Cal QB Ross Bowers last week, it has to be wondered if Jackson might not be on the verge of another one of him monster performances, which could easily make Louisville double-digit winners. Jackson is the factor that makes Louisville tough team to contend with, and North Carolina’s defense hardly seems up to the task of changing that.

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