Fan bases from many of Clemson’s bitter ACC rivals moaned and groaned as the team overcame Alabama to win a national championship in January. But if those loyalists were to set their emotions aside for a moment, they would realize that by taking the trophy, the Tigers have uplifted the conference to A-#1 in the college football landscape.
Given the new top-dog status of their league, the Louisville Cardinals might have been in line for a top-10 preseason ranking. Yet the team’s late-fall and winter collapse (1-5 vs the spread in their last 6 games) has left them ranked at a mere #17 as the 2017 season begins, despite QB Lamar Jackson’s well-deserved hype as an annual Heisman favorite.
Meanwhile, Purdue has seen the Big Ten transform from a widely mocked also-ran conference to a breeding ground for championship teams in the past few years. But after going 3-9 in 2016, are the Boilermakers doomed to an “also-ran” status of their own?
Who: Louisville Cardinals vs Purdue Boilermakers
When: Saturday, September 2nd, 7:30 PM EST
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Lines: Louisville (-26) at Purdue (+26) / O/U Total: (67.5)
The Cardinals, heavily favored to prevail in Week 1, return their best player on both offense and defense. The nimble and cannon-armed Jackson had a tremendous 2016 season, passing for 3546 yards with 30 touchdowns and an additional 21 rushing TDs. On defense, the team returns starting safety and leading tackler Chucky Williams, who also intercepted 4 balls in 2016. But there are questions at receiver and on the defensive line.
Does Purdue have a chance to slow down a traditionally hot-starting contender like Louisville? David Blough is a junior QB who passed for 3000+ in ’16, though he was careless with the ball and threw 21 interceptions. Purdue lost its last 5 games last season, so we can’t give them the momentum-advantage despite the Cardinals’ late collapse.
This is largely a “home” game for the Boilermakers from an attendance perspective, though it’s technically a neutral-site contest played at Lucas Oil. Purdue’s defense may have a big chunk of the crowd on its side, but it will not have the familiar field in West Lafayette to lend comfort as the squad takes on a grease-lightning attack.
Bobby Petrino is not known as a good sport. If the Cardinals get a chance to pour it on against a Big Ten team, expect Jackson to play well into the 2nd half and even the 4th quarter. As with other season-opening mismatches, a few points for the Boilermakers in the 1st half may simply prod Louisville into scoring more.
There’s always a chance that Purdue could ride on emotion and good breaks and make the game close. But we’re calling it a 60% to 70% chance that Louisville goes up big by halftime. In that scenario, there is little chance for the underdog to stem the tide and prevent losing by 4 touchdowns or more.
Take the Louisville Cardinals ATS.