An Impressive Second Debut Is in the Cards
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Today marks the return of Head Coach Bobby Petrino to the Lousiville Cardinals' sidelines, as they host new ACC rival Miami in the season opener for the two teams.
Louisville is where Petrino became a household name in the football coaching ranks. He guided the program to 41 wins in four short seasons from 2003-06 before leaving for the NFL and starting a handful of controversies during his short span with the Atlanta Falcons and a rocky off-the-field ride at the University of Arkansas.
Petrino quietly eased his way back to the coaching ranks at Western Kentucky and now is front and center again on the big stage. Bovada has put Cardinals as a 3½-point favorite over the 'Canes.
I like Louisville to cover here, based on a few factors working in their favor.
First of all, the Cardinals' defense was highly unhearalded last season, with Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater garnering most of the headlines on the other side of the ball. However, Louisville's D allowed a stingy 12 points per game last season. They only return four starters from that unit, but the school did lock in former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to a new deal, and I expect at least somewhat similar results from their defense in 2014.
Louisville will have a sizeable edge at quarterback, with Bridgewater's backup Will Gardner now taking the reins of the Cardinal attack. He'll be helped tremendously with the team's leading rusher, Dominique Brown, behind him at running back. The same can't be said for Miami, where they'll be digging three spots deep in their chart for a starting QB in Brad Kaaya.
Lastly, the information provided using the Bovada data tool on the Home page tells a lot to me.
For starters, there was Louisiville's dominant 27-point win over Miami last December in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
While I know Bridgewater played a large role in that win, a number of key players from the victory will be back on the field tonight and this time with a rowdy home crowd behind them. Also notice the Betting Trends section, where you'll see the trouble Miami had in covering last season; they only managed to do it once in their final eight games.
I don't know that Louisville knocks the pants off Miami -- we'll leave pant removal to Petrino and his hired help -- but they make a very compelling case for covering Bovada's low number of 3½, and that's where my money will be tonight.
My pick: Louisville -3.5
Result: Louisville 31 Miami 13 Cardinals cover
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