The Atlantic Coast Conference college football schedule got underway last week, with 11 of its 15 teams in action. Two of those, Miami and Louisville, kicked off with wins over the only non-conference opponents they will face the rest of the season.
In similar fashion, Louisville defeated Western Kentucky 35-21, and Miami overcame UAB 31-14. On Saturday night, the two face off in Louisville, Ky., in front of 12,000 fans in the first league contest for both teams.
The ACC eliminated divisions for 2020, and Notre Dame opted to play for a conference title, so the 15 teams will be competing for one of the top two spots to advance to the conference championship game in Charlotte. The conference expanded the number of league games from eight to 10 for 2020 while allowing a single non-conference game.
After Clemson’s demolition of Wake Forest in their opening game, it would appear that 14 teams are chasing the other spot in the championship game.
In the AP poll that doesn’t include any Big Ten teams, even though the conference announced an October start of its season, Miami is ranked 17th and Louisville 18th, so this is a big game for both teams if they hope to contend for the crown.
Miami has to face Clemson, but Louisville ended up dodging the Tigers in the revamped schedule, making this game even more important for the Hurricanes.
Two Explosive Quarterbacks
These offenses are both led by an explosive quarterback who lit up the scoreboard in their season debut. D’Eriq King transferred to Miami from Houston and had an immediate impact for the Hurricanes, throwing for 144 yards and a touchdown while adding 83 yards and another score on the ground.
Micale Cunningham was spectacular for Louisville in the opener, completing 19 of 34 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns and running for 24 yards and another touchdown.
Last year, the Hurricanes drilled Louisville 52-27 in a game in which Cunningham left due to injury. Besides King, Louisville will have to pay serious attention to Miami running back Cam’Ron Harris, who averaged 7.9 yards per carry on his way to 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns against UAB.
The Cardinals were able to hold Western Kentucky to 119 yards on the ground, but containing Harris will pose a much different challenge.
Oddsmakers Expect a Close Game
Louisville is a 1.5-point favorite at home, indicating what could be a tight final result. Home-field advantage is still difficult to quantify, with so few fans allowed to attend and the way they are spread out inside the stadium.
The over/under is set at 65.5, which would portend a high scoring affair if that’s anywhere close to accurate. Last season’s matchup resulted in 79 total points, so perhaps the defenses will need to step up their game this time.
Miami hasn’t been able to get a signature win in quite a while, and a road victory in Louisville over a healthy Cunningham-led offense would be a big step forward for the Hurricanes. Judging from last week’s outcomes, Louisville’s passing game is ahead of Miami’s, giving them a slight edge at home, especially if the Cardinals can contain Harris and make King put the ball in the air.