Last Updated: 2017-12-29
As the college football bowl season continues it has come to a time when every game that is played features two very good teams. That is again the scenario in the TaxSlayer Bowl. This bowl game will kick things off as the early game for the schedule on Saturday December 30th.
The TaxSlayer bowl will start at high noon eastern standard time and will be televised on ESPN. In the past this bowl game has featured a team from the Southeastern conference up against a team from the Atlantic Coast conference or the Big Ten football conference. This year the team that is going up against an SEC opponent is a team from the ACC. That team is the Louisville Cardinals.
The Cardinals are led by Heisman candidate quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Cardinals were 8-4 during the regular season and they were just 4-4 straight up in conference play. Because of the poor conference record, they finished fifth in the ACC Atlantic conference. They were behind Boston College, Wake Forest, NC State and of course Clemson in the standings. They had a big win at Florida State but could not overcome some tough losses to Clemson and North Carolina State. They did finish the season on a hot streak as they won three in a row and four out of the last five games.
Although they had a winning record straight up, the Cardinals faltered against the betting spread. They were just 5-7 against the spread (ATS) overall, and 4-6 ATS in the last ten games, although they were 3-2 ATS on the road.
Although many believed they would draw the LSU Tigers in this game they are going to play against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs had the exact record that Louisville posted on the season. They were 8-4 straight up and managed to finish at 4-4 in conference play. This was just enough to earn the Bulldogs a fourth place finish in the SEC West division. They finished behind LSU, Auburn and of course the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs had an impressive early season win over LSU, but some ugly losses to Georgia, Auburn and Alabama.
At the betting window the Bulldogs fared much better than the Cardinals. They were 7-5 ATS on the season and 5-5 ATS in the last ten games overall. With two teams so evenly matched it only makes sense that the odds would be close.
However that is not really the case as the college football odds makers opened up the Cardinals as (-5) point favorites. This line continues to move higher and higher and now it can be found as high as (-6.5). The Cardinals are nearly a touchdown favorite in this game. In fact several sportsbooks have the (-7) so make sure to shop around for the best line in this game. This move can be attributed to the fact that over 77 percent of the betting action is coming in on the Cardinals.
This bowl game is being played in Jacksonville Florida and warm weather usually means more points. This could be why over 76 percent of the money coming in on the over / under is on the over. With Jackson at QB for the Cardinals and many people thinking warm weather will be in the forecast, they are expecting big points. The total opened up at 61 and has since skyrocketed to 63 at nearly every online sportsbook.
Both teams will have to scout tape of the other team since they have never met on the football field in the past. With no previous meetings to use to prepare for this game, the coaches will have to work overtime to get as much information as possible.
The Cardinals are 4-1 against the spread (ATS) in the last five games overall, but are just 1-6-1 ATS in their last 8 non-conference games. The Cardinals are 2-7 ATS when they are going up against a team with a winning record and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game.
The Bulldogs are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game and 5-2 ATS when they are playing against a team with a winning record. However they are also 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following a straight up loss and just 1-4 ATS in the last five games against the ACC.
The biggest concern in this game is motivation as Dan Mullen left to take the head coaching job at Florida and took the majority of his staff with him. This team will be coached by the running backs coach Greg Knox and will have to get ready for Louisville and Jackson.
If the Bulldogs have any hope of winning they will have to do it with defense. They have an impressive squad that only allowed an average of 13 points per game in the eight wins that they had. On offense they will have to find a way to score points with the loss of quarterback Nick Fitzgerald who broke his ankle in the game against the ole Miss Rebels. QB Keytaon Thompson will be thrust into action and will have to get the help of Aeris Williams if they hope to put some points on the scoreboard.
Jackson may have difficulties at first but he will wear down this defense especially if the Bulldogs offense cannot muster any points. He will look forward to facing another SEC team after getting routed last year by LSU in a bowl game.
While Jackson keeps the offense going, the Cardinals defense will need to play just as well. The defense of the Cardinals allowed an average of 233 yards per game and just 16 points during the winning streak.
Everything is going right for the Cardinals and going against the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are banged up and do not have time to prepare and this will leave them gasping for air in the second half. An improved defense and Lamar Jackson will lead the Cardinals to a win (and cover) in this bowl game.
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