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Louisville Betting Odds Preview

Last year the Cardinals took advantage of a weak schedule to win 12 games, including a bowl. Now Louisville takes a step up in competition, as it changes conferences again, moving from the AAC to the ACC.

The Cardinals also make a return to the past, having re-hired former head coach Bobby Petrino, after Charlie Strong left to take over at Texas. The offensive-minded Petrino has a few ingredients to work with on that side of the ball, but he'll have to find a replacement for three-year starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and fill a bunch of holes on defense. Still, Petrino had great success here in his first stint, and there's no reason to think he can't do it again.

Louisville Odds to Win ACC: 10/1 at Bovada
Louisville Odds to Win College Football Championship: 150/1 at Bovada
Louisville Regular Season Win Total: 8 at Bovada

Louisville started 6-0 last season, and looked like it might run the table. But the Cardinals blew a 21-point lead and lost at home to eventual AAC champion Central Florida. Louisville then won its last five in a row, and beat Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl to finish 12-1. It should be pointed out, though, that the Cardinals didn't play a single game last season against a team that was ranked at the time.

Louisville also went just 5-7 ATS last year, in part because it was favored by so much so often. In fact, while going 23-3 SU over the last two seasons, the Cardinals have gone just 13-14 ATS. But now, playing supposedly tougher competition, perhaps the betting lines on Louisville won't be so prohibitive.

This year the Cardinals only return 11 starters, fourth-fewest in the conference. Seven starters are back on offense, including last year's leading rusher, leading receiver and four along the offensive line. But they will have to replace Bridgewater, who accounted for 78 touchdowns during his three seasons behind center. And only four starters return on defense.

Louisville gave up just 12 points per game last year; it's a very good bet that figure will increase this season.

The Cardinals open this season with a Labor Day night rematch with Miami. They later host Florida State on a Thursday night, but have to play at Syracuse, Clemson and Notre Dame. The rest of the schedule is manageable, with games against new conference rivals like Virginia, North Carolina State and Boston College. And they miss most of the top contenders in the Coastal Division, like North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Pitt and Georgia Tech.

Louisville went 9-4 in Petrino's first season here back in 2003, and 41-9 over his four seasons. They also scored a ton of points, while developing several quarterbacks into NFL draft choices. With a new coach comes new systems, which take some time to sink in, but the Cardinals could begin contending in the ACC right away.

ACC Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5

Florida State 4/11
Clemson 10/1
Louisville 10/1
North Carolina 10/1
Miami 12/1
Virginia Tech 12/1
Duke 20/1
Georgia Tech 25/1
Pittsburgh 40/1
Syracuse 66/1
Virginia 66/1
North Carolina State 100/1
Boston College 200/1

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Louisville will go down in the history books as the last Big East football champion after earning a share of the title and the automatic BCS bid to the Sugar Bowl, where it stunned Florida 33-23 as a 14.5-point underdog. With a good chunk of talent back from that 11-2 SU squad it is little wonder that the Cardinals have been opened as prohibitive favorites to enter the history books again this season as the first ever American Athletic Conference champs.
Odds to Win AAC: 4/7 at Bovada
Regular Season Win Total: 11 at Bovada

One thing that is for sure about Louisville this season is that it will open the year as the class of the AAC after being ranked No. 9 in the nation in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. The expectation level for Charlie Strong’s team is through the roof primarily because of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a defense that returns 10 of 11 starters from last year’s squad.

Bridgewater continues to build momentum as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate after throwing for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns last season while completing 68.5 percent of his passes. He also did a good job at taking care of the ball with just eight interceptions on the year. He lost a couple of targets from the passing game but his top two receivers DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland remain in the fold.

The defense will once again be anchored by linebacker Preston Brown and a tandem of talented safeties in Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor. All the Cardinals’ success on the field unfortunately did not translate to a big bankroll for anyone wagering on them with a 6-7 record against the spread last year. They were 4-7 ATS as a favorite and the total went OVER in seven of 12 games.

AAC Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 8

Louisville 4/7
Cincinnati 4/1
Rutgers 4/1
UCF 15/2
SMU 25/1
Connecticut 33/1
South Florida 33/1
Houston 50/1
Memphis 66/1
Temple 75/1