Ever since a six-point loss at Clemson on Oct. 1, Louisville knew it was going to need a number of upsets to happen to teams in front of them in the rankings in order to re-enter the College Football Playoff discussion, and most of them came to fruition last weekend. The Cardinals hope to take advantage of their good fortune and impress the CFP committee with a resume-building win Thursday when they attempt to end Houston’s 14-game home winning streak.
Michigan, Clemson and Washington – three teams ahead of then-No. 6 Louisville (now No. 3) in the coaches’ poll before Saturday – all fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last weekend, putting the Cardinals in a much more favorable position — moving from No. 6 to No. 5 in the CFP rankings — to play for a national championship should they win out. For the first 45 minutes of its last contest, Louisville appeared to be on the verge of joining the aforementioned top-five teams before piling up 34 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 44-12 win over Wake Forest on Saturday. The Cougars lost two of their first three games in October to fall out of the Top 25, but they have seemingly righted the ship with back-to-back wins. Houston served notice early last season that it was ready to wreak havoc on the big boys of college football, forcing four turnovers and blocking a potential tying field goal in the final minute to pull off a 34-31 upset at Louisville.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Louisville opened as 14-point road favorites and was bet up half-point to 14.5. The over opened at 69 and has been lowered to 68.5. Check out the complete line history here.
Louisville – RB L.J. Scott (questionable, hamstring)
Houston – QB Greg Ward Jr. (probable, shoulder), WR Ra’Shaad Samples (questionable, concussion), WR Isaiah Johnson (questionable, concussion), OL Na’Ty Rodgers (questionable, ankle), QB Kyle Postma (out of season, arm).
WEATHER REPORT: The forecast for TDECU Stadium is calling for partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the mid-70’s, and minimal winds.
WHAT SHARPS SAY: While most pundits thought this would be a battle of undefeated teams before the season began, it is still a prime time showdown between top teams from the AAC and the ACC. Houston will look to preserve its spotless 13-0 home field record under Tom Herman, while Louisville is looking to stay on the cusp in the race for a top four spot in this year’s College Football Playoffs. It will all come down to which of the two quarterbacks, the Cougars’ Greg Ward or the Cardinals’ Lamar Jackson, steps up and delivers. Covers Expert – Marc Lawrence.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (9-1 SU, 5-4-1 ATS, 7-3 O/U) Quarterback Lamar Jackson continued to shatter records on a near-weekly basis last Saturday, breaking Teddy Bridgewater’s single-season school record of 4,048 offensive yards and tying another single-season school mark with his seventh 100-yard rushing effort. While the Heisman Trophy frontrunner was limited to season lows in total yards (298) and touchdowns responsible for (one), senior running back Brandon Radcliff sparked Louisville’s 41-point second-half explosion with a career-high three TDs and rushed for 141 yards, giving the Cardinals a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game for a school-record third time this season. Devonte Fields matched a personal best with three sacks Saturday, while fellow linebacker James Hearns added a career-high two of Louisville’s season-high seven sacks.
ABOUT HOUSTON (8-2 SU, 4-6 ATS, 4-6 O/U)Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. joined Case Keenum (20,114) and Kevin Kolb (13,715) as the only players in school history to amass 10,000 yards of total offense last weekend, and he moved into a second-place tie with Kolb (26) for the most wins by a Cougars quarterback. Junior wide receiver Linell Bonner caught nine passes for 97 yards Saturday, marking the fifth time this season he has managed at least eight receptions and 97 yards in the same game. Freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver continued to wreak havoc in last weekend’s 30-18 win over Tulane, recording his FBS-best (among defensive linemen) sixth pass breakup while adding 1.5 tackles for loss to give him 16.5 for the season.
* Cardinals are 4-0-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
* Cougars are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 vs. ACC.
* Over is 4-1 in Cardinals last 5 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Over is 4-0 in Cardinals last 4 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The betting public is split 50/50 on the spread. The over is another story with 73% of Covers users grabbing the over.