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Louisville Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Betting Picks and Predictions

22 September 2020

NCAAF Picks Austyn Varney
Date:Saturday, September 26th
Time: 12:00 PM ET
Venue: Heinz Field
Network: ACC Network
Spread: Pittsburgh -3
O/U: 53

The 1-1 Louisville Cardinals will go on the road Saturday to face off with the 2-0 Pittsburgh Panthers at 12:00 PM ET in Heinz Field. The Cardinals are coming off a disappointing loss to the Miami Hurricanes while the Panthers have blown both of their opponents out of the water. 

The Cardinals look to hold onto their top-25 ranking while the Panthers look to get into the top-15. Let’s dive into how this one will go.

When The Louisville Cardinals Have The Ball

The Hurricanes got off to a quick start against Louisville and it was a night of big plays. RB Cam’Ron Harris controlled the pace and he exploded with a 75-yard TD to open third-quarter scoring. D’Eriq King connected with Jaylon Knighton on a 75-yard TD to follow and the Cardinals were never able to make it close. 

They weren’t bad offensively, as Malik Cunningham threw for 307 yards and three TD’s while RB Javian Hawkins ran for 164 and a score. The problem was the defense, who allowed 485 total yards without forcing a single turnover. They also gave up three touchdowns on drives five plays or less.  It was definitely a strange game as the Cardinals possessed the ball for nearly double the amount of time while never holding a lead. 

They get a much different challenge in the Pittsburgh Panthers this weekend, who present one of the best defenses in the nation. They’ve allowed a combined 10 points through two games and the combo of Cunningham and Hawkins will face their toughest test to date. Don’t expect to see them move the ball with ease as they did in the first two weeks of the season. 

If Louisville wants to win this game, they’ll have to assert themselves early on the ground. The Panthers pass defense is simply elite and I don’t see Cunningham having the time to throw if they don’t get the running game going first. It’s certainly possible as Louisville has an elite offensive lineman and one of the best running backs in the country running behind it. 

Defensively, Louisville cannot make the same mistakes they did a week ago. The offense has no chance of making up for the points against this defense and they need to strap in for a dog fight. The Panthers will run the ball a bit but employ a spread attack that keeps defenses guessing. 

Wide receiver Tutu Atwell is one the best in the country and he has 192 yards and two touchdowns through two weeks. No matter how good this secondary is, Atwell is individually better and you can expect Cunningham to target him heavily in this matchup when he does drop back. 

When The Pittsburgh Panthers Have The Ball

The Panthers opened the season up with a commanding 55-0 win over the Austin Peay Governors. While that doesn’t seem very impressive, that same team went into 13th ranked Cincinnati and put up 20 points a week later. This defense is for real. 

They followed that performance up with a 21-10 win over the Syracuse Orange, who gave North Carolina a test a week prior. The Panthers held Syracuse to just 171 yards of total offense with most of that coming on a 69-yard TD that was a result of blown coverage. The Orange averaged a brutal 1.5 yards per carry on the ground and were tackled in the backfield six times. 

The Panthers defense wins them games and the offense does it’s best to not lose them. QB Kenny Pickett is nothing extraordinary, but he does a good job of taking care of the ball and getting it into the playmakers’ hands. He threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns against Syracuse with one interception. He ran for another score.

Vincent Davis and A.J. Davis split time at running back and keep each other fresh. Vincent is more of a pass-catcher and speedster while A.J. is more of a downhill runner. At wideout, look for Jared Wayne and Jordan Addison to see a bunch of targets followed by Shocky Jacques-Louis. Coaches have raved about the ladder and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a breakout game before long. 

Defensively, it was a big question whether or not this team would continue to dominate after Jaylen Twyman opted out. He’s a future 1st rounder and was going to be the best player on the team. Edge rushed Rashad Weaver stepped up in a massive way against Syracuse with seven total tackles and two sacks. This defense will continue to work together to replace Twyman.  

Spread Prediction

I like the Louisville Cardinals to bounce back and win this game as a slight underdog. They have the much better offense and this game will come down to how the Cardinals are able to move the ball against the elite Panthers defense. They’ve only allowed 10 points in two games, but haven’t been tested by an elite offense. 

The Cardinals were terrible defensively against Miami, but they still put up more yards than the Hurricanes and looked great offensively. I expect that Hurricane offense to be a top-10 group by year’s end and for that loss to look fine. The loss of Jaylen Twyman is going to eventually show up and I think it does this week. Look for Louisville to assert themselves on the ground to open things up for Cunningham and Atwell through the air.

The Panthers offense is far from explosive and this Cardinals defense won’t be surprised after chasing around D’Eriq King a week ago. The keyword in this game is discipline. The Cardinals are the better team if they don’t make mistakes and that’s exactly what I expect to happen as they fear dropping below .500. 

The Pick: Louisville +3

Best Sportsbooks For This Pick

New JerseyWilliam Hill square logoBet@William Hill
PennsylvaniaSugarHouse online casino square logoBet@SugarHouse
IndianaBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
West VirginiaBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
ColoradoBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
IllinoisBetRivers square logoBet@BetRivers

Total Prediction

While I do think the Pittsburgh Panthers have an elite defense, they haven’t been tested by an offense quite like Louisville’s yet. Malik Cunningham is a beast of a QB and Javian Hawkins is an even better RB. They’re both protected by an elite offensive line that’s going to put up a nice battle against the Panthers D line. 

The Cardinals defense is obviously nothing special, so I expect Pittsburgh to put up a few scores. I just expect the Cardinals to put up one more two more and for this over to hit with ease. The over is my favorite bet in this game. 

The Pick: Over 53

Final Score Prediction: Louisville 28, Pittsburgh 27

Best Sportsbooks For This Pick

New JerseyWilliam Hill square logoBet@William Hill
PennsylvaniaSugarHouse online casino square logoBet@SugarHouse
IndianaBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
West VirginiaBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
ColoradoBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
IllinoisBetRivers square logoBet@BetRivers

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