The Louisville Cardinals are off to an 0-2 start to the 2015 season both straight up and against the spread, and they're also just 3-2 SU and 0-5 ATS in their last five home games. Meanwhile, Clemson owns a four-game winning streak both SU and versus the numbers. In what's already a key game in the ACC Atlantic Division Louisville tangles with the Tigers Thursday night at Papa John's Stadium.
Point spread: This game opened as a pick 'em, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)
College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 22.4-20.0 Tigers
Why the Clemson Tigers can cover the spread
Clemson is off to a 2-0 start both SU and ATS after dispatching Appalachian State Saturday 41-10, covering as a 19-point favorite. The Tigers only led 3-0 after one quarter, but struck the end zone four times in the second quarter to take control. And while they didn't quite get the running game going, garnering 140 yards on 44 carries, quarterback Deshaun Watson threw three touchdown passes.
Two weeks ago Clemson opened the season with a 49-10 victory over Wofford, covering the 34-point spread.
The Tigers returned 10 starters this season, seven on offense but only three on defense. But that defense has only allowed 185 yards through the air and just 20 points through two games.
Why the Louisville Cardinals can cover the spread
Louisville was just upset at home by Houston 34-31 because it gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and two long fourth-quarter touchdown drives. The Cardinals led on three different occasions, but just couldn't put the Cougars away.
Two weeks ago Louisville trailed at Auburn 24-0, but hung just tough enough to rally for a back-door cover as 10-point dogs while outgaining and outrushing the Tigers. And while freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson struggled Saturday, backup Kyle Bolin threw for 157 yards and a score that gave the Cardinals a lead with six minutes go, possibly earning himself the start this week.
Despite what's happened so far, if Louisville can settle on a quarterback and toughen up on defense, it can still contend in the ACC Atlantic Division this season.
Clemson won this matchup last year 23-17, although the Tigers needed a pair of non-offensive touchdowns and a last-second red-zone stand to pull it off. This year, again, it appears Clemson comes in as the superior team. And until the Louisville defense shows it can make some stops the Cardinals should probably be faded. The smart money here rides with the Tigers.
Clemson is 4-0 SU and ATS in its last four games.
Clemson is 5-1 ATS in its last six games on the road in September.
Louisville is 0-5 ATS in its last five games at home.