Charlotte 49ers (2-10) at Louisville Cardinals (8-5)
|Date & Time||Thursday September 1, 2016, 7:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Louisville Cardinals -39.5 -- Over/Under: 59.5
Coming up on Thursday, September 1 from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, we’ve got opening-week college football action between the Charlotte 49ers and the Louisville Cardinals.
The 49ers are coming off a rough 2-10 season in 2015 (0-8 in the conference), dropping their final 10 games in a row after a pair of wins to open the year. Head coach Brad Lambert returns for his fourth season with the 49ers and will try to right the ship in 2016.
On the offensive side of the ball, Charlotte was anything but consistent last season. The 49ers averaged 173.5 YPG passing, but did manage a respectable 163.6 YPG on the ground. Junior transfer Kevin Olsen will step in here and try to get those aerial numbers up. Kalif Phillips will return as Charlotte’s lead running back following his 967 yards and five touchdowns on 190 totes in 2015.
Defensively, Charlotte was susceptible to the run last year, allowing 193 YPG on average in rushing alongside 229 pass yards per game. The good news is that leading tackler Nick Cook (74 total tackles in 2015) will be returning to lead the 49ers as the primary ILB.
As for the Cardinals, they posted an 8-5 record last season (5-3 in the ACC) on the way to the Music City Bowl. Louisville defeated Texas A&M in that game, and head coach Bobby Petrino will be looking for another bowl victory this year.
The Cardinals’ offense put up 245.1 passing yards per game in 2015 and added 171 YPG on the ground. Louisville’s top two rushers will be returning this season in QB Lamar Jackson (960 yards; 163 attempts) and RB Brandon Radcliff (634 yards; 139 attempts). Wide receivers James Quick and Jamari Staples will be back once again as well. Quick posted 624 yards on 39 catches last season; Staples managed 638 on 37 grabs for the Cardinals.
Looking at the Louisville defense, they're coming off a pretty strong year. The Cardinals allowed 212.5 passing yards and 120.2 rush yards per game in 2015, and will be looking to better those numbers this season. Leading tackler Keith Kelsey (106 total tackles in 2015) returns this year to anchor the Cardinals D.
The 49ers are 1-3-1 ATS in their last five road games, and 0-4-2 ATS in their last six games overall. The over is 4-1 in Charlotte’s last five road games as well.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are 15-3 ATS in their last 18 versus Conference USA and 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games. Louisville is also 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games in September, and the over is 4-1 in their last five games overall.
Louisville retains a lot of talent from last season and should come out of the gate strong. The spread is pretty daunting, but given the disparity in talent here it’s understandable. I would normally like the Cardinals to cover here but asking them to win by 40 points seems like a little much. I’ll take Charlotte to keep it close (relatively speaking).