The Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to Kentucky in Week 1 to battle the Louisville Cardinals. Kickoff is set for 8:00 PM EST on Monday, September 2nd at Cardinal Stadium and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Taking a look at the Week 1 college football odds, Louisville opened as a 19.5-point home underdog. That number has jumped even higher after early betting, as the Cardinals are currently listed at +20.5. The total for the game is sitting at 57.5 points.
Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds: Louisville vs Notre Dame
Notre Dame was spectacular during the regular season in 2018, going 12-1 overall and clinching a spot in the College Football Playoff Semifinal. That’s where their impressive run came to an end, however, as the Fighting Irish dropped the Cotton Bowl 30-3 to the eventual national champion Clemson Tigers. QB Ian Book is returning to lead the offense after throwing for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. He should have another solid season in 2019, as most of the offensive line starters will remain the same. However, he will need to develop quick chemistry with some of the new additions to the roster at several key positions, as both RB Dexter Williams and WR Miles Boykin are now in the NFL. It certainly won’t be easy to replace both the leading rusher and receiver from 2018, so Book may need to focus on getting trusted TE Cole Kmet the ball more regularly over the next few weeks as this new look offense settles in.
On the other side of the ball, the Fighting Irish managed to hold opposing teams to an average of just 17.3 points per game (9th overall) on 332 total yards. Notre Dame was equally as impressive against both the pass and the run, ranking 32nd and 30th in the nation respectively.
Louisville is coming off of a horrendous season in 2018, as they went just 2-10 overall and failed to win even a single conference game by going 0-8 in ACC action. As a result, the Cardinals finished dead last in the entire conference and fired head coach Bobby Petrino in November with two games still left on the schedule. Scott Satterfield will try to turn things around in a hurry, but it looks like Louisville fans will likely be in for yet another long season. QB Jawon Pass had a miserable sophomore season after taking over for former Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, throwing for less than 2,000 yards and getting picked off more times than he found the end zone (12 interceptions, 8 touchdowns). While the experience he gained during his first year as a starting quarterback at the collegiate should help, it remains to be seen just how much improvement he can make under a new coaching staff.
While the Cardinals were well below average on the offensive side of the ball last year, their play on defense was far worse. Louisville gave up a ridiculous 44.1 points per game (128th overall) on 484 yards of total offense. While they couldn’t stop opposing offenses on the ground or through the air, they were especially bad against run after getting torched for 277.3 rushing yards per game (127th overall).
NCAA Football Betting Predictions & Free Pick: Notre Dame -20.5
While Notre Dame isn’t an offensive juggernaut by any means, I still think they offer a ton of value in this particular matchup despite having to play on the road. It is impossible to overstate how terrible Louisville was on both sides of the ball last year, especially defensively. While a new coaching staff should make a difference down the road, it’s hard to imagine that the Cardinals come flying out of the gate here in Week 1.
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It is important to remember that Notre Dame was just one win away from playing for a national championship last season. Yes, losing both Williams and Boykin over the off-season certainly leaves some big voids to fill on the depth chart. However, the experience of Book combined with a battle-tested defense should help buy the Fighting Irish some time to develop their younger players as the year progresses. I have my doubts about whether this latest Notre Dame can repeat their impressive season from 2018 with key pieces missing from their formidable offense, but that potential problem will likely only flair up against better competition. The Cardinals are a bad team with glaring problems on both sides of the ball who have yet to play a regular season game under an entirely new coaching staff – I’ll take the Fighting Irish to cover on the road in this one.