If you are looking for a dark-horse team to reach the College Football Playoff, consider No. 19 Louisville behind its terrific sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson. Yes, the Cardinals are cursed having to play in the same ACcC Atlantic Division as Top-5 teams Florida State and Clemson, but U of L is good enough to beat both of them. It’s a huge favorite for the season opener on Thursday vs. Charlotte. Let’s take a look at the college football odds.
Here’s a Look at the Charlotte at Louisville College Football Week 1 Lines & TV Info
Why Bet on Charlotte?
Obviously the 49ers aren’t winning this game but could cover if Louisville is looking ahead. Charlotte won its first two games last year as a first-year FBS member over Georgia State and Presbyterian but then lost its final 10. The 49ers, who held their inaugural game Aug. 31, 2013, made the move to Conference USA in 2015 with an opportunity to gain full FBS member status with bowl eligibility in 2016.
There is plenty of room for improvement on both sides of the ball, and progress should be made with 16 starters returning. Junior college pickup Kevin Olsen, the younger brother of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and once a heralded recruit at Miami, won the starting QB job.
Charlotte is led by a pair of preseason all-Conference USA selections: senior running back Kalif Phillips and senior defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi. Phillips, a two-year starter, has rushed for over 3,000 yards in his three-year career. In 2015, he rushed for 961 yards and 5 TDs despite getting just four carries for 10 yards over the final three games due to injury. Phillips ranked fifth in C-USA in rushing and was among the league leaders with 190 carries. Ogunjobi, who has started all 34 games in school history, holds career records for tackles, tackles for loss and sacks.
Why Bet on Louisville?
The Cards finished 8-5 last year after beating Texas A&M 27-21 in the Music City Bowl. Jackson ran for a career-high and Music City Bowl-record 226 yards and two touchdowns and threw for two more scores.
Jackson finished with a bowl-record 453 total yards, and set the Louisville career rushing mark before the end of the first quarter in giving the Cardinals a 20-7 lead they never lost. Jackson ran for 126 yards in the first 15 minutes, including a 61-yard scoring run. Not only that, Jackson became the second quarterback from a Power 5 school to throw and rush for 200 yards in a bowl game in the past four seasons. The other: Johnny Manziel.
The Cards ended the season on a 6-1 run, including two straight victories over SEC teams. Impressive considering coach Bobby Petrino was faced with a first in his coaching history: three freshmen starters on the offensive line, including true freshmen Geron Christian and Kenny Thomas.
In Year 3 of the Petrino era, the Cardinals return 17 starters and have 41 players who have starting experience from last season’s team.
“It’s been a good preseason,” Petrino said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “I like the way the guys have worked, and I like the addition of the new staff members.”
The offense remains mainly intact, with the only defection was the loss of offensive tackle Aaron Epps — a starter at the tackle position. The return four offensive linemen in Geron Christian, Lukayus McNeil, Tobijah Hughley and Kiola Mahoni. U of L also returns three wide receivers — Jamari Staples, James Quick and Jaylen Smith, while also bringing back Keith Towbridge at the tight end position. Defensively, the Cardinals — a top 20 defense last season — also returns seven starters — led by linebackers Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields. Defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown is the lone returner on the defensive line, while the entire secondary is back in cornerbacks Trumaine Washington and Shaq Wiggins, as well as, safeties Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chucky Williams.
The Cardinals open the season at home for the 10th time in the last 11 years. The Thursday night opener will be the first since the Cardinals kicked off the 2007 season against Murray State — opening the season with a 73-10 win over the Racers.
My Free Pick
49ers are 1-3- 1 ATS in their last 5 road games.
49ers are 0-4- 2 ATS in their last 6 games overall.
Cardinals are 15-3 ATS in their last 18 vs. CUSA.
Cardinals are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
Give the points, go over on NFL lines.