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College Football Odds, Pick & Prediction for UCF vs. Louisville: Friday’s Week 3 Betting Preview

College Football Odds, Pick & Prediction for UCF vs. Louisville: Friday’s Week 3 Betting Preview article feature image

Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Louisville Cardinals standout quarterback Malik Cunningham.

  • UCF takes its high-flying offense to Louisville on Friday night.
  • Central Florida's offense is one of the best in the country, while the Cardinals defense could be tired playing its third game in 12 days.
  • Check out Collin Barnes' preview and betting prediction of the game below.

UCF vs. Louisville Odds

Friday, Sept. 17
7:30 p.m. ET
UCF Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-110o / -110u
Louisville Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Louisville will play its third game in 12 days against a UCF team that has averaged 49.5 points and totaled 622 yards per game — both second in the country.

This third meeting of these two programs in their history will be decided by one factor: UCF’s defense against Louisville’s rushing offense. Whichever team wins this line-of-scrimmage battle will come away with the win.

Central Florida Knights

UCF got the job done last week, beating Bethune-Cookman by a final score of 63-14. More importantly, the Knights focused on assignments and details against an opponent they were favored to beat by 45 points.

UCF enters this game with a 2-0 record after beating Boise State in Week 1 and making easy work of Bethune-Cookman.

After the Knights’ recent announcement that they will be joining the Big 12, lights couldn’t be brighter for UCF on Friday night. Can Gus Malzahn live up to the hype against his first Power Five opponent?

Knights Offense

UCF is a hard team to pressure, and its offensive line has done an impressive job of protecting the quarterback.

It’s done well to clear running lanes for senior running back Isaiah Bowser, who took advantage of that in his last game with a four-touchdown performance. This big offensive line will test the deep front seven that Louisville has utilized so far this season.

UCF has also run 171 plays, which ranks third among teams that have played two games. Louisville, for comparison, has run only 141.

It will be interesting to see how Louisville reacts to another fast-tempo offense and what it learned from its season opener against Ole Miss.

Knights Defense

The pass defense has not been good, but fortunately, neither is Louisville’s. After two games, the knights have allowed 259 yards per game, six fewer yards than the Cards.

UCF currently leads the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 44 yards on 40 carries in two games.

Some may take with a grain of salt after seeing the teams it’s played, but Bethune-Cookman averaged more yards per carry (1.71) against UCF than Boise State (0.77) did. In its first two games, UCF allowed only two running plays for 10 yards or more and none in the second halves of either game.

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Louisville Cardinals

Last year, Louisville failed to win four games when it was an underdog by three points or fewer. And after the season opener against Ole Miss, Louisville has lost its last six games as an underdog.

UCF is not a ranked opponent, but the Knights are as close as a team can get, coming in at No. 26 in the AP poll.

There have also been many issues surrounding the Louisville athletic department this week, centered around questionable hires and fan complaints about the stadium and services at the first home game.

As we all know, winning fixes most problems. Can Louisville pull off an upset to get this team on track and sweep those problems under the rug for now?

Cardinals Offense

The Cardinals beat Eastern Kentucky by 27 points and racked up 441 total yards in Week 2, which seems impressive at face value.

However, once you realize that it was against an FCS team that surrendered 501 yards against Western Carolina, which the following week was beaten by No. 3 Oklahoma, 76-0, it loses a lot of its luster.

Louisville (-30) was up 30-3 with 10 mins to go in the 4th and needed one more score to cover … and then this happened.

Final: Louisville 30, Eastern Kentucky

— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) September 12, 2021

And there were other issues for the Cardinals that we can’t ignore:

They couldn’t get a solid running attack until the Colonels’ defense wore down; they managed only 34 yards on 11 carries in the first half. The Louisville offense scored only two touchdowns on its own without help from defense or special teams.

Quarterback Malik Cunningham posted only two drives that resulted in touchdowns, 72 yards in 11 plays, and 74 yards in three plays.

The Cardinals also had to punt on four of their first five possessions and were 4-of-14 on third downs. They were 0-for-5 on third downs in the second half and managed only 10 points against an FCS team.

Cardinals Defense

The Cardinals’ defense was much more efficient in their home opener than what we saw in Atlanta against Ole Miss. After surrendering 381 passing yards to Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, the secondary emphasized preventing downfield shots, and it seemed to have worked.

Despite going 21-for-32, EKU quarterback Parker McKinney threw for only 129 yards before getting pulled. The Colonels only put up three points, which is what you should expect from an FCS team playing a Power Five team in its home opener.

But after what we saw in Atlanta, it is good to see this Louisville defense show effort and execution.

UCF vs. Louisville Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how UCF and Louisville match up statistically:

UCF Offense vs. Louisville Defense




Rush Success 14 100
Line Yards 8 96
Pass Success 14 69
Pass Blocking* 17 125
Big Play 13 128
Havoc 12 115
Finishing Drives 14 92
* Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Louisville Offense vs. UCF Defense




Rush Success 53 7
Line Yards 50 1
Pass Success 55 65
Pass Blocking* 22 100
Big Play 111 40
Havoc 50 51
Finishing Drives 55 106
* Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 67 126
PFF Coverage 85 68
Middle 8 1 44
SP+ Special Teams 82 78
Plays per Minute 15 101
Rush Rate 52.6% (76) 54.6% (70)

Data via College Football Data (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF & SportSource Analytics.

I don’t see any way Louisville gets the running game going against this UCF defense.

And as far as the passing game goes, I don’t have enough faith in Cunningham’s ability given his history with interceptions. So, I will be taking UCF -7 (110).

UCF vs. Louisville Betting Pick

UCF -7 is available at almost all books, but I would not go above the key number of 7. I recommend betting up to -7 at a price of -125.

Pick:  UCF -7 (-110)

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