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NCAAF – Week 3 – Previews, Articles, Info, etc, Thursday 9/17/15

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    #11 Clemson heads to Louisville Thursday night
    By Brian Graham

    Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium – Louisville, KY
    Kickoff: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET
    Line: Clemson -5.5

    No. 11 Clemson looks to stay unbeaten when it travels to winless Louisville on Thursday night.

    The Tigers have rolled over a pair of weaker opponents (SU and ATS) to start the season, beating FCS Wofford and 18.5-point underdog Appalachian State by a combined score of 90 to 20. The Cardinals have played a much tougher schedule than their Thursday opponent, losing (but covering) in a neutral-site game with Auburn to open the season before falling at home to 13-point underdog Houston last week. These teams played a tight contest last season in South Carolina when host Clemson held on for a 23-17 victory over Louisville in a game where both schools combined for a mere 124 rushing yards on 70 carries (1.8 YPC). Road favorites coming off two straight games of allowing 14 points or less facing a team that allowed 31+ points in two straight contests are a whopping 27-5 ATS (84%) in the past 10 seasons. However, bettors on the Cardinals can point to the fact that road favorites of 3.5 to 10 points, in the first month of the season, after closing out last season with 3+ straight wins are just 15-48 ATS (34%) since 1992. While the Tigers have a few injuries of concern with WR Mike Williams (neck) and K Ammon Lakip (suspension) out, and OL Ryan Norton (leg) questionable, the Cardinals are really hurting, especially on offense. QB Will Gardner (ribs), TE Cole Hikutini (shoulder) and WRs James Quick (ankle), Jamari Staples (knee), Alphonso Carter (hamstring) and Emonee Spence (hamstring) are all questionable for Thursday. Quick had 101 receiving yards in last year’s loss to Clemson.

    Clemson has had no trouble moving the football last season with a great balance of run (181 YPG, 4.2 YPC) and pass (281 YPG, 8.3 YPA). QB Deshaun Watson has completed a whopping 77% of his passes for 442 yards (9.2 YPA), 5 TD and only 1 INT this season. A dozen different players have already recorded a reception this season, led by sophomore WR Artavis Scott, who has nearly identical catch-yards-TD numbers in both games (6-75-1 and 6-73-1). Scott also caught 10 passes against Louisville last year, but gained only 66 yards on those double-digit grabs. Senior WR Charone Peake is coming off a huge game against Appalachian State with four catches for 86 yards and 2 TD. On the ground, it has been sophomore RB Wayne Gallman rumbling for more than 75 yards in both contests, totaling 171 yards on 5.9 YPC and three touchdowns. With Louisville’s defense allowing more than 200 rushing YPG this season, Gallman could be in for a big afternoon. The Tigers have also been fierce on defense, holding opponents to 256 total YPG on 3.8 yards per play. Opposing quarterbacks have a dreadful 32.6% completion rate (15-of-46) against Clemson, while opposing rushers are gaining only 3.6 yards per carry. The unit was also very opportunistic last week with four forced turnovers.

    Louisville’s offense has been decent so far this season with 27.5 PPG and 400 YPG, but there are major questions at the quarterback position. Assumed starting QB Will Gardner is still not 100 percent, so head coach Bobby Petrino isn’t sure who his starter should be between freshman QB Lamar Jackson (26-47, 268 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT) or sophomore QBs Reggie Bonnafon (8-13, 67 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT) and Kyle Bolin (10-18, 157 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT). The Cardinals have already committed six turnovers and are one of just three FBS teams to have three quarterbacks with double-digit pass attempts this season. The Louisville ground game hasn’t done much either with 154 rushing YPG on 4.2 YPC. Jackson is the team’s leading rusher with 122 yards on 4.4 YPC and 2 TD, while senior RB Brandon Radcliff is close behind at 119 rushing yards on 4.4 YPC and 2 TD. Radcliff had no running room last year against Clemson with only 23 yards on 11 carries (2.1 YPC) in that defeat. Defensively, the Cardinals have been a mess, surrendering 32.5 PPG, 23.0 first downs per game and a 61% completion percentage. Four takeaways in the two games have certainly helped, but they were out-rushed 226 to 70 in last week’s loss to Houston.


    Clemson at Louisville
    By Joe Nelson

    The ACC may be the forgotten Power Five conference at times but the league will be on center stage this week with Georgia Tech and Notre Dame being one of the biggest games of the weekend plus several ACC/B1G clashes taking place on Saturday. While Wake Forest and Syracuse technically opened up league play last week the first big game of the ACC conference season is the Atlantic showdown Thursday night between Clemson and Louisville, here is a look at that key matchup.

    Matchup: Clemson Tigers at Louisville Cardinals
    Venue: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky
    Time/TV: Thursday, Sep. 17, 7:30 PM ET – ESPN
    Line: Clemson -6, Over/Under 50½
    Last Meeting: 2014, at Clemson (-9½) 23, Louisville 17

    While Florida State remains the premier team and favorite in the ACC Atlantic and the conference as a whole, the Atlantic division race is expected to be a closer race in the 2015 season with Clemson and Louisville as chief threats to the Seminoles. Both teams gave Florida State very tough games last season and both were considered ACC title and national playoff sleepers before the season started.

    Hopes for making national noise are over for Louisville as the Cardinals are off to a stunning 0-2 start in the second season back in Louisville for Bobby Petrino. After falling behind early against Auburn in the opening week, Louisville nearly rallied back in that game before ultimately losing by seven despite a substantial production edge. After that big national game the Cardinals were perhaps a bit flat last week in the home opener as they were upset by Houston. A 0-3 start would be a tough pill to swallow for a team that has just seven total losses in the past three seasons combined and will still have to play in Tallahassee in the first half of the season.

    In two games Louisville has allowed 65 points after allowing just over 21 points per game last season and featuring an elite defense that allowed only 309 yards per game. Louisville has already surrendered 416 rushing yards after allowing just 109 yards per game on the ground last season on 3.3 yards per carry. While the defense has not been as strong as last season the biggest issues through two weeks have been on offense with seven turnovers and difficulty running the ball.

    It was a wide opener quarterback competition for the Cardinals and so far freshman Lamar Jackson has seen most of the snaps with Reggie Bonnafon playing a few series against Auburn and Kyle Bolin playing a few series in the Houston game. Jackson has made some dynamic plays on the ground but he has completed just 55 percent of his passes and has been responsible for four turnovers. Will Gardner was the primary quarterback last season and it is not clear when or if he will be ready to return to action after tearing his ACL last season.

    Brandon Radcliff has rushed reasonably well for the Cardinals through two weeks but e has seen limited action in part because of the passing situations Louisville has often been in playing from behind. The ball has been well spread around a young receiving corps and the offensive line that had to replace three starters from last season has shown some growing pains.

    Clemson has lost to Florida State each of the last three seasons and as a result has finished second in the ACC Atlantic in three straight seasons since winning the conference title in 2011. It has been four straight double-digit win seasons and three straight bowl game wins for the Tigers, beating national forces LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma in succession for a great run led by Dabo Swinney. With at least two regular season losses each year Clemson has never really been seriously in the national title hunt however and the next three games figure to make or break the season for Clemson with this tough road test followed by home games with Notre Dame and Georgia Tech to open October after a bye week.

    Through two weeks Clemson has delivered back-to-back convincing wins outscoring Wofford and Appalachian State by a combined score of 89-10. While Wofford is a FCS school it is a regional rival and Appalachian State is expected to be one of the top Sun Belt teams this year yet Clemson led 31-0 at the half. The Tigers did catch some breaks with turnovers in that game as they only outgained the Mountaineers by 94 yards but it has been a promising start considering that Clemson lost two of its first three games last season.

    Sophomore quarterback DeShaun Watson has played well through two weeks with nearly 450 yards passing and five touchdowns and the Tigers were clearly a better offensive team last season when Watson was healthy. Watson could emerge in the Heisman race and the offense has a lot of potential this season but there are concerns about the defense even with strong numbers through two weeks. Clemson had one of the nation’s top defenses last season, allowing just over 16 points per game and only 261 yards per game. The defense lost seven of the top nine leading tacklers from last season however with the front seven particularly impacted. Through two weeks the new group has looked effective but the real tests are about to begin.

    Last season Clemson won 23-17 in this matchup in a game where both teams had very limited production. Watson was injured early in the game as Cole Stoudt led Clemson most of the game and the Tigers amassed just 229 total yards and 12 first downs. Louisville only had 10 first downs as incredibly the teams combined to go 3-36 on 3rd and 4th down attempts. Clemson grabbed the lead early with touchdowns on a punt return and a fumble recovery but Louisville tied the game late in the third quarter before Clemson kicker Ammon Lakip hit two field goals and the defense delivered some big stops, including holding the Cardinals from inside the two-yard line at the end of the game.

    While the hopes for Louisville as a national sleeper are over the ACC race is still alive and the Cardinals could at the very least play spoiler. The 0-2 start has featured close losses against quality teams and if the Cardinals can clean up the turnovers they could still have a very successful season. Clemson has a daunting schedule ahead as Florida State is likely still in the driver’s seat but Watson and the Tigers still have the potential for another great season and momentum can build with each win starting with this first big road test.

    Historical Trends: Clemson is just 3-7 ATS on the road the past two seasons including going 0-3 ATS as a road favorite last season. Going further back Clemson is on a 24-38-2 ATS run as a road favorite since 1990 and Swinney is 14-15 S/U and 15-14 ATS on the road since he took over in 2009. Bobby Petrino’s Louisville teams are 19-11 ATS at home and 6-5 ATS as an underdog in his five-plus seasons from 2003 to 2006 and since taking over last season. The home underdog track record has not been impressive for Louisville going 9-16 ATS as a home underdog since 1994, including covering in just two of the last 10 instances but last season’s game with Florida State was the only time Petrino has been on the sidelines with Louisville getting points at home and Louisville will be a bigger home underdog Thursday night than they were last season against a defending national title champion Seminoles team that had won 23 games in a row.


    Tech Trends – Week 3

    Note that Dabo was 0-3 as road chalk LY. Tigers just 3-7 vs. line as visitor since 2013.

    Slight to Louisville, based on Clemson road trends.


    Game of the Day: Clemson at Louisville

    Clemson Tigers at Louisville Cardinals (+6.5, 51)

    Ninth-ranked Clemson begins its pursuit of a spot in the ACC title game when it visits winless Louisville on Thursday in the conference opener for both schools. The Tigers have rolled over two lesser opponents to begin the slate while Louisville lost to Auburn and Houston and is looking to avoid its first 0-3 start since 1984.

    Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a broken hand early in an October contest against the Cardinals last season and the injury caused him to miss the following three games. “I wouldn’t say this game matters more,” Watson, a sophomore, said at a press conference. “Each game is the biggest game for me.” Louisville hasn’t announced a starting quarterback but is expected to turn to sophomore Kyle Bolin, who would represent the team’s third starting quarterback in three games. “He hit hands and he executed what we were asking him to do in that part of the (Houston) game and I think he’s had a good week of practice,” Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino told reporters.

    TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.

    LINE HISTORY: Books opened the Cardinals as 5-point home dogs but that is now up to +6.5. The total opened at 54 and is down to 51.


    Clemson – OL Ryan Norton (Out, leg), WR Mike Williams (Out indefinitely, neck).

    Louisville – TE Cole Hikutini (Questionable, shoulder), WR Emonee Spence (Questionable, hamstring), QB Will Gardner (Questionable, ribs), DE Johnny Richardson (Questionable, knee), WR Alphonso Carter (Questionable, hamstring), WR Jamari Staples (Out, undisclosed), WR James Quick (Out, ankle).

    WEATHER: Temperatures expected to be in the high-70s with wind blowing toward the north endzone at around five miles per hour.

    WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Deshaun Watson threw for 248 yards and three TDs in a win over Appalachian State on Saturday. The Tigers will look to move to 3-0 as they face a struggling Louisville team on Thursday.” Jesse Schule.

    WHAT BOOKS SAY: “We opened Clemson as 4.5 point faves over Louisville and was quickly bet up to our current number of Clemson -7 with the Tigers seeing 76 percent of the action and the OVER 52 point total getting all the early action.” Michael Stewart, CarbonSports.

    ABOUT CLEMSON (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS, 1-1 O/U): Watson has completed 77.1 percent of his passes for five touchdowns in two games while displaying no lingering signs of the major knee injury he suffered last November. Sophomore receiver Artavis Scott has a team-best 12 catches — he had 10 receptions versus Louisville last season — as the Tigers deal with the loss of standout junior Mike Williams (fractured neck), who had 1,030 receiving yards in 2014. A strong defense is receiving stellar play from junior free safety T.J. Green (23 tackles), junior defensive end Shaq Lawson (4.5 tackles for losses) and junior strong safety Jayron Kearse (seven career interceptions).

    ABOUT LOUISVILLE (0-2 SU, 1-1 ATS, 1-0-1 O/U): The Cardinals have dropped their first two games for the first time since 1998 and settling on a starting quarterback is becoming a necessity. Sophomore Reggie Bonnafon started the opener against Auburn and freshman Lamar Jackson started the second game before Bolin entered and passed for 157 yards and one touchdown in the final quarter against Houston to likely draw his starting opportunity. Defensively, junior strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons leads the squad with 24 tackles and two interceptions, junior outside linebacker Keith Kelsey has 23 tackles and team’s only two sacks and senior outside linebacker James Burgess has 18 tackles.


    * Tigers are 6-0 ATS in their last six games in September.

    * Tigers are 0-5 ATS in their last five conference games.

    * Cardinals are 0-6 ATS in their last six home games.

    * Over is 5-1-2 in Cardinals’ last eight games overall.

    CONSENSUS: Fifty-eight percent are backing Clemson.



    Thursday, September 17th, 2015

    Clemson (-6) at Louisville 7:30 ET ESPN

    The embarrassment of a 0-2 SU start, including a home loss on this field as 12 point favorite last week to Houston (34-31), will have the Cardinal ready to soar just 5 days later at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Louisville HC Petrino may be a jerk, but he is a prideful motivator when dealing with his CFB teams. Clemson’s home wipeouts of outmanned Wofford and App St. have masked the potential decline of only 3 returning defensive starters. At an inflated price tag of more than a TD from where this line would have been opening week, look for Louisville to bounce, with revenge (23-17 but outgained Clemson 264-229), knowing that Petrino is a righteous home revenger and a near 90% SU play/BBL. Upset no surprise to this bureau!

    35-13 (73%) Joe’s FREE Plays this Season.


    2015 College Football

    Louisville is 0-2 after losing as 13-point favorite to Houston last week, turning ball over four times (-3), allowing Cougars to run ball for 226 yards, convert 11-22 on third down. Clemson (-9.5) beat Cardinals 23-17 at home LY, despite being outgained 264-229. Since ’10, Louisville is 0-4 as home underdog. Playing a freshman QB has its disadvantages. Tigers are 1-4 in last five games as road favorite. This game opened at pick ’em; Clemson has been bet up to -6.


    Clemson cashing wagers in September games
    Andrew Avery

    The Clemson Tigers have jumped out to a 2-0 record both straight up and against the spread, but that’s not surprising to faithful Tigers’ backers who know their team is money in September. The ACC program is now 6-0 ATS in their last six football games in the month.

    The Tigers were thumped 45-21 to open the season at Georgia last season on Aug. 30, falling well short as 10-point road dogs, but went on to cash their next three games which were all in September.

    Clemson backers will look for more success when the Tigers visit Louisville Thursday evening.

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