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Clemson Tigers vs. Louisville Cardinals Point Spread - Pick

Clemson Tigers (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) vs. Louisville Cardinals (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date/Time: Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky
TV: ABC

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: CLEM -3/LOU +3
Over/Under Total: 58

The Clemson Tigers come to Kentucky to face the Louisville Cardinals in a big ACC matchup on Saturday. Louisville enters this game having won their first two games and on Saturday, they beat North Carolina in the conference opener, 47-35. Defending Heisman winner Lamar Jackson has looked great, passing for over 300 yards and running for over 100 yards in both games. The difficulty ramps up this week against Clemson. The Tigers are also 2-0 as the defending CFP champions, having beaten Kent State in week one, followed by a big 14-6 win over 13th-ranked Auburn on Saturday.

Last season, the eventual champion Tigers beat Louisville in a 42-35 game where two Clemson touchdowns in the final half of the fourth quarter locked up the win. Both quarterbacks had big games, with only the Cardinals' Jackson back for this season. He got off to a rough start, but ended up with 295 yards through the air and 162 yards on the ground. Whether Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant can replicate the production Watson had last season remains to be seen.

Lamar Jackson seems to have come around even more after winning the Heisman last season. He seems more mature and has even added some bulk to his 6'3" frame. Having him back there is like having a great QB and a tailback all in one guy. He makes more dump-offs and seems to force the issue less than he did last season. While he is the best player in college football, Louisville is ultra-reliant on him. That works against the teams they've been beating for the past year and change, but we'll see if that one-dimensional offensive approach hurts them against the better defenses they face this season.

This game will also give us a better idea if Jackson has the tools around him to give Louisville a chance to really thrive this season. A major concern seems to be the offensive line, where some youth needs to develop. The line has been hammered with penalties in the first two games. Center Robbie Bell, a freshman, seems to be a little over his head. But if that part of the team holds up, they have some tools on offense. Malik Williams was big on Saturday with 149 yards on the ground. And Jackson connected well with Smith Jaylen, who has 183 yards and a 75-yard TD, in addition to Dez Fitzpatrick, who hauled in two scoring grabs. With 705 yards against UNC on Saturday, offense is definitely the name of the game for Louisville.

Again, things will get harder here and that would seem to pertain most to the other side of the ball. Pass-defense stands out as a potential problem area for the Cardinals. Without corner Jaire Alexander, they are a bit thin in that area. The Tar Heels put up nearly 400 yards of aerial yardage on Saturday. Drew Bailey and James Hearns provide a spark up-front, with Stacy Thomas in the middle. But again, after allowing so much through the pass last season, having a secondary that is dicey and not at full-power is not ideal when preparing to face the defending College Football Playoff champions.

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Clemson is now showing their depth and recruiting prowess under Dabo Swinney over the past several years. QB Kelly Bryant, a gifted junior, has shown a flash of dual-threat capability that could go a long way in this offense. Sure, they lost a bulk of their production with the departure of Watson, Gallman, and 3 of their top 4 top receivers, but the defense appears to be back in championship form, which should allow the offense some time to come around. Against Louisville, however, they're probably going to need to come up with more than the 14 points they put up against Auburn. Look for backs Tavien Feaster, Adam Choice, and CJ Fuller to come around, while receivers Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow, and Ray Ray McCloud get it done aerially. There's a lot of championship and big-game experience on both sides of the ball for Clemson.

It might be hard to remember for some that the Clemson defense was at one point a serious liability. It's now a team strength and their 11 sacks was a big part of the win over Auburn on Saturday. Their line is maybe the best in the country, anchored by Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, and Austin Bryant who had 4 sacks last week. At linebacker, Kendall Joseph, Dorian O'Daniel, and Chad Smith look to be a very solid unit. The secondary looks to get a boost from SS Tanner Muse, who looks to be shining in his first season as starter, along with some good experience at the corners. Allowing 3 points to Auburn is an awfully-good sign, but this might be the defense's toughest test of the season coming this week, a little early for this unit to be in top form.

This is an exceptionally tough one to call. Clemson is the more-complete team, but they barely beat Louisville last season with a stocked and experienced offense. Now they will have to do it with some new faces. But even those guys have experience, so it's not like it's their first rodeo, except for QB Kelly Bryant. The bigger weakness seems to exist on both lines of scrimmage for Louisville. After watching the Louisville O-line hanging on for dear life against the likes of North Carolina, I see the Clemson defense having the last say this Saturday.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Clemson Tigers minus 3 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Clemson vs. Louisville game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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