Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:00 PM
Getting a true read on the 2013 Louisville Cardinals will be a very important challenge for college football bettors. The media is treating them like a top 10 team because they face a soft schedule. And, if they keep beating that soft schedule, they can only get better in the rankings. Because Las Vegas lines are strongly influenced by the media, Louisville could be very overpriced this season…just like they were in these games last year:
Louisville (-10.5) beat Florida International 28-21
Louisville (-10.5) beat Southern Miss 21-17
Louisville (-6) beat South Florida 27-25
Louisville (-3.5) beat Cincinnati 34-31 in overtime
Louisville (-1) lost to Syracuse 45-26
Louisville (-10) lost to Connecticut 23-20 in overtime
Louisville was 9-0 straight up prior to those late season losses to Syracuse and Connecticut. But, they were getting respect in the rankings even though they weren’t really impressing as favorites before then. They dodged bullets at Southern Miss, and at home against South Florid and Cincinnati. They could have lost three or four games instead of just two.
Of course, the Cards then had that FANTASTIC Sugar Bowl where they stunned disinterested and ill-prepared Florida 33-23 as two-touchdown underdogs. The deal is…Louisville is capable of playing like a top 20 or maybe even top 10 team…but are they there every week?
The Cards open Sunday with Ohio, and are being priced like a power given the high Vegas spread. Let’s see if that’s deserved.
Ohio: 9-4 (beat Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl)
Louisville: 11-2 (beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl)
Ohio was a bowl caliber team last season…and they’ve shown that they don’t back down from anyone. The Bobcats should provide a good test for Louisville. They compare very well to the teams that kept giving the Cardinals a thrill last season. That being said, Louisville is still the better team from the better conference, and is playing this one at home with a QB in Teddy Bridgewater who knows a big TV performance will launch him into Heisman Trophy discussions.
Ohio: 33 in total offense (53 in passing, 27 in rushing)
Louisville: 52 in total offense (24 in passing, 102 in rushing)
Were you aware that Ohio had a higher ranked offense than Louisville last year?! That has to be adjusted for schedule strength…where it quickly equalizes (or pushed Louisville on top). Still…Ohio has a reputation for being a dull, boring offense that doesn’t produce much. They actually put up a bunch of yardage last year…and excelled in their bowl appearance against a Sun Belt defense.
Ohio: 55 in total defense (55 in passing, 49 in rushing)
Louisville: 23 in total defense (16 in passing, 48 in rushing)
Louisville’s defense didn’t get enough media love last year. Their edge here increases when you adjust for strength of schedule. Can Ohio get enough points on the board against that Louisville defense to hang within a three-touchdown spread?
Returning Starters (Projected Quarterback)
Ohio: 6 on offense, 4 on defense (Tyler Tettleton)
Louisville: 5 on offense, 9 on defense (Teddy Bridgewater)
And, Louisville returns nine starters on defense! You know Bridgewater is going to make some plays for the Cardinals. The pointspread cover will likely come down to what Ohio is able to do when the Bobcats have the ball.
Current Vegas Line: Louisville by 20.5, total of 58
Frankly, the numbers above don’t justify that high price. Louisville will have to bring their A-game to beat the spread. Or, Ohio’s inexperienced defense will have to fall apart under big TV game pressure, which is always possible in a showcase spot.
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Back Monday to wrap up Labor Day Weekend football with Florida State at Pittsburgh. Don’t forget that’s a CONFERENCE game now that Pittsburgh has joined the ACC!
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