Louisville vs. UCF College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions: Will Cardinals Bounce Back?
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham.
Louisville vs. UCF Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Louisville looks to rebound from an opening weekend loss when it heads to Orlando to take on UCF.
The Cardinals got blown out in Week 1 by ACC foe Syracuse, 31-7, which was unexpected considering they closed as -5.5 favorites on the road. Louisville narrowly beat UCF, 42-35, last season at home, so we’ll see if it can win a straight win over the Knights.
UCF beat South Carolina State, 56-10, in Week 1, so there’s not a lot we can take away from that game. This is now Year 2 under Gus Malzhan after going 9-4 and beating Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl in 2021.
After losing to Louisville last season, the Knights will no doubt be out for revenge in this game.
If you look at the advanced box score from the Syracuse game, this pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
Image via COLLEGEFOOTBALLDATA.COM
Louisville passed the Syracuse 40-yard line five times and came away with only seven points. The Cardinals still gained 6.2 yards per play, but they also turned the ball over three times.
So, essentially everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong for Louisville.
Malik Cunningham is probably the best running quarterback in college football, but his ability as a passer is underrated. Yes, he didn’t have a great opening game. But in 2021, he put up a PFF passing grade of 82.7, averaged 8.6 yards per attempt and recorded a 70.7% adjusted completion percentage.
On the ground, his PFF run grade came in at 90.7 (fourth-best in FBS). He led all FBS quarterbacks with 20 rushing touchdowns as 755 of his 1,142 rushing yards came from designed runs, which was also the most in college football.
Malik Cunningham led P5 QBs last season in:
🥇 Rushing Yards – 1,142
🥇 Rushing TDs – 20pic.twitter.com/EAXe20UmhO
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 12, 2022
The good news for Cunningham is that he has four starters back on the offensive line, including first-team All-ACC guard Caleb Chandler.
Louisville also snagged the No. 3-ranked running back from the 2021 recruiting class via the transfer portal in Tiyon Evans. He went for 89 yards, 6.8 yards per carry and a touchdown against Syracuse in the opener and makes this rushing attack extremely dangerous.
— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) September 4, 2022
The Cardinals defense was quite poor last season. Louisville ranked 74th in Success Rate Allowed, 100th in Finishing Drives Allowed and 84th in EPA/Play allowed.
A lot of those problems came in the front seven, especially against the run, as Louisville finished outside the top 80 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, EPA/Play Allowed, Rushing Success Rate Allowed, and rushing explosiveness allowed.
It does return second-eam All-ACC edge rusher Yasir Abdullah, who had 10 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss last season. It also brings back two other starters, plus an Arizona State transfer who gives it some depth. So, this unit should be improved from those horrible numbers a year ago.
The secondary was the strength of the Louisville defense last season, and it returns Kei’Trel Clark, who was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2020 but missed a boatload of time due to injury last year.
Scott Satterfield also went out and first-team All-ACC cornerback Quincy Riley from Middle Tennessee, along with a host of other transfers. This unit should continue to be the strength on the defense even if it did allow 9.3 yards per attempt in the opener.
The Knights have a new starting quarterback in John Rhys Plumlee, who comes over from Ole Miss. Plumlee was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and started a few games back in 2019 but averaged only 6.10 yards per attempt and had a PFF passing grade of 60.1.
So, he’s a massive downgrade from what UCF had at the quarterback position last season.
UCF does bring back their running back tandem of Johnny Richardson and Isaiah Bowser, who combined for 1,587 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021.
Plus, it has 132 starts returning on the offensive line, so this rushing attack is going to be just as good as it was in 2021 when it ranked 25th in EPA/Rush.
Defensively, UCF has eight starters coming back but loses three starters on the defensive line, including first-team All-AAC defensive end Big Kat Bryant.
The Golden Knights ranked 74th in Defensive Line Yards, 70th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 118th in rushing explosiveness allowed. That’s not going to bode well against a dual-threat quarterback like Cunningham, who recorded 99 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in this game last year.
The secondary is going to be one of the best in the group of five this year. The entire unit remains intact and added Austin Peay transfer Koby Perry, who was one of the best defensive backs in FCS last season.
In 2021, UCF ranked 15th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, sixth in explosive passing allowed and 29th in EPA/Pass Allowed. So, Louisville’s focal point will likely have to be Cunningham and the rushing attack.
Louisville vs. UCF Betting Pick
Even though UCF has matchup advantages on offense in the running game and in the secondary, this line is too high for the Knights. Their issues in the front seven are going to be rigorously put to the test against one of the most talented rushing attacks in college football.
I have UCF projected at -0.9, and our Action Network PRO Projections have UCF as a -3 favorite. I like the value on the Cardinals at +5.5 or better.