BOZICH & CRAWFORD | Louisville vs. Clemson -- Split Decision
Louisville or Clemson? Kentucky or South Carolina? WKU or Louisiana Tech? Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford make their picks on those three games and two others.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville football program has defeated Texas, Alabama, Florida State, Notre Dame and other programs that seemed a universe beyond U of L before Howard Schnellenberger injected ambition into Cardinal football more than 30 years ago.
Anybody missing from that list?
A few names, but Clemson has absolutely moved to the top of the discussion.
In three seasons in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Louisville has been about five or six plays from sitting 3-0 against the Tigers.
Instead, Louisville sits 0-3, and my guess is you remember all the reasons as well as that the Tigers’ combined margin of victory is merely 15 points.
Chapter Four will unfold at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Saturday night. All-Eyes-On-Louisville Moments like this are why athletic director Tom Jurich brought Bobby Petrino back to the program when U of L joined the ACC.
With Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois out for the season, Louisville will not have a better chance to settle into the front row of the ACC Atlantic Division.
Are the Cardinals ready?
We’ll find out. First, Eric Crawford and I make our weekly college football picks, in the new and improved against the spread style this season.
Clemson at Louisville, 8 p.m., ABC (WHAS locally)
THE LINE: Clemson by 3.
Lee Corso wanted to talk about Lamar Jackson and Louisville’s offense against Clemson’s defense. I get it. It’s the sexy story line. Strength against strength. Heisman Trophy winner against defending national champion for the first time since Johnny Manziel took on Alabama.
According to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports, Clemson’s defense has averaged one tackle for a loss for every 10.5 snaps.
But I keep wondering if the more decisive matchup will be Louisville’s defense against Clemson’s offense.
After two games, the Cardinals have allowed seven passing touchdowns. Only three FBS teams have allowed more. But U of L is only giving up 1.55 yards per carry against the run, third to Michigan and LSU (and better than Clemson’s 1.83 average).
Is Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant good enough to take advantage of Jaire Alexander’s absence? Can new Louisville defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon dial up fixes for a unit that is allowing 50 yards per game more than it did last season under Todd Grantham?
Sorry, Coach Corso. That’s the matchup that I believe will determine the winner Saturday night.
Eric’s Pick: U of L 31, Clemson 28
Rick’s Pick: Clemson 27, U of L 21
Kentucky at South Carolina, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
With all the talk about Benny Snell’s health and Stephen Johnson looking over his shoulder at Drew Barker on offense, another issue resonated with me during Kentucky’s struggle against Eastern Kentucky last Saturday.
Eastern Kentucky completed better than 72 percent of its throws against the UK secondary, a veteran group that was billed as the strength of the unit. Full-sized, experienced, talented guys who struggled to control an FCS passing attack.
The Wildcats rank No. 100 in pass defense after two games – and now they have to defend Jake Bentley, a guy many consider one of the top 3 throwers in the Southeastern Conference.
Plus the game is in Columbia, where the thought of four consecutive losses to the Wildcats is more than many South Carolina fans can imagine.
THE LINE: South Carolina by 6 ½.
Eric’s Pick: South Carolina 24, UK 14
Rick’s Pick: South Carolina 27, UK 17
Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky, 7 p.m., www.watchstadium.com
Remember that Illinois team that limited the Hilltoppers to a touchdown in a 20-7 WKU loss in Champaign a week ago?
Well, Charlie Strong’s offense put 47 on the Illini Friday night in Tampa in a 24-point victory. Gained 680 yards. Had three backs go for 100 or more.
The comparative score game is always dangerous. But offense is not Charlie Strong’s thing, remember?
If you watched WKU huff and puff against the Illini, you know that Mike Sanford, Mike White and the rest of the WKU offense need to show more efficiency, energy and creativity Saturday night against Skip Holtz and friends if the Hilltoppers expect to remain a Conference USA heavyweight this season.
THE LINE: WKU by 6 1/2
Eric’s Pick: WKU 35, La Tech 24
Rick’s Pick: WKU 35, La Tech 31
Purdue at Missouri, 4 p.m., SEC Network
THE LINE: Missouri by 7 1/2.
It’s never encouraging when a team fires its defensive coordinator in early September, but Missouri made the move after allowing 851 yards in its first two games. The Tigers’ pass defense has been particularly shaky, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete nearly 67 percent of their passes and 270 passing yards per game – and that’s after playing Southwest Missouri State in their opener.
Not a good time to be facing Jeff Brohm and the Purdue air attack, which has averaged one passing touchdown per quarter while splitting its first two games.
Eric’s Pick: Purdue 35, Missouri 24
Rick’s Pick: Purdue 31, Missouri 27
Texas at USC, 8:30 p.m., WDRB (Fox Sports)
Texas looked terrible while losing to Maryland and then overpowering while beating San Jose State, 56-0.
USC looked over-hyped while beating Western Michigan and formidable while dominating Stanford.
USC over Stanford and Maryland over Texas are the two results I’ll focus on while trying to project this one. USC intends to make the national playoff this season so this is a Must-Win for Troy. USC has been gashed for more than 216 yards rushing per game, but I wonder if Texas has the running game to take advantage of that.
THE LINE: USC by 15.
Eric’s Pick: USC 45, Texas 35
Rick’s Pick: USC 41, Texas 28
Last week: Eric 3-2; Rick 3-2.
Season totals: Eric 5-5; Rick 7-3.
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