Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The hype machine began early for Louisville as the Cardinals were ranked ninth in the AP preseason poll. By Week 12, the Cards are 19th and in a tie for second place in their own conference.
UCF leads the American Athletic standings at 4-0, including a road victory over Louisville. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are a half-game behind, tied with both Houston and Cincinnati at 4-1.
Speaking of Houston, the Cougars are in Louisville just one week after losing a five-point decision at UCF.
Louisville is favored by 16 points despite having played one of the weakest schedules in all of football. The Cardinals are ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense partly due to the lack of decent opponents. The lone solid team they faced - UCF - beat them at home less than one month ago.
Now its another home game, this time against the Houston Cougars, who went to Orlando last week and almost pulled off the upset, but could not get the ball into the end zone on four tries from UCF's 7-yard line.
Getting back to the spread for Saturday's contest, the Cougars are 16-point underdogs after getting 13.5 points at UCF last week. That is somewhat surprising because the Knights already defeated the Cardinals in Louisville!
The two reasons the spread is so high is, 1) the Cougars are involved in so many close games, which keeps their power number from rising, and 2) Louisville's number was rated too high at the beginning of the season. In addition, the Cardinals' number has increased since losing to the Knights, but the two wins (over South Florida and Connecticut) came over teams playing their backup quarterbacks.
Houston has been beaten just twice this year and both times the margin of deficit was below fewer than six points. BYU got the best of the Cougars by one point on Oct. 19 and UCF defeated them by five last Saturday.
Furthermore, Houston is a perfect 4-0 ATS as an underdog this year while Louisville has covered just two games since crushing Ohio the first week of the season.
Take Houston plus 16 points in the first of four three-star plays.
Staying in the AAC, UCF has a matchup with Temple in Philadelphia on Saturday. The Knights come into this game off the previously mentioned 19-14 victory over Houston. In addition, they have a short turnaround for their next game - at home against Rutgers next Thursday.
Temple had last week off to prepare for its first-ever meeting with UCF. Since changing their starting quarterback, the Owls have averaged over 30 points per game - all ATS victories. Don't forget, they averaged just 16 ppg in their first five contests, Moreover, Temple is 16-8 ATS in its last 24 games as underdogs. Meanwhile, the Knights are 3-6 ATS in their last nine games as road favorites.
Take Temple plus 16.5 points.
To complete the AAC triple play, South Florida hosts Memphis in a battle of two 2-6 squads. However, that is where the similarity ends.
The Bulls' two wins came over Cincinnati and Connecticut, while the Tigers defeated the likes of UT Martin and Arkansas State. It is true South Florida's offense has been pathetic for most of the season. Nevertheless, it looked fine against Houston on Halloween night with freshman Mike White under center. The quarterback threw for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the road.
Memphis has won just two games this season even though six of its eight matchups have been played at home. The Tigers are 0-2 on the road, and 2-24 in their last 26 games away from home. Yet despite those numbers, they are actually favored in this contest.
Take South Florida plus 1.5 points.
Duke holds all the cards in the Coastal Division race. If the Blue Devils win out, they will face Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Who would have thought that two months ago?
The first step to accomplish that feat comes on Saturday when they will face Miami (Fla.) at home. With a win, Duke will extend its winning streak to six games and hand the Hurricanes their third straight loss.
Miami has been a shell of its former self in recent weeks, losing by a combined 45 points to Florida State and Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes allowed 83 points and over 1,000 total yards in those contests, numbers that does not bode well for them against the Blue Devils.
Take Duke plus 3.5 points.
Go with Syracuse +38 (Florida State), California +2.5 (Colorado), Nebraska +6.5 (Michigan State), Illinois +33 (Ohio State), Navy -7.5 (South Alabama) and Arkansas State -7.5 (Texas State).
Take Florida +13 (South Carolina), Kentucky +12.5 (Vanderbilt) and San Diego State -5.5 (Hawaii).
THIS YEAR'S RECORD
After 11 weeks, my record stands at 71-66-3 following a 4-6 week. The two five-star plays split, so that overall record stands at 12-7 overall. The three-star selections went 1-3 for a 13-16-1 total. The two-star choices finished 1-2 for a 29-24 overall mark and the one-star play went 1-0 for a 17-19-2 total.
THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"
1) Florida State, 111.5; 2) Alabama, 111; 3) Oregon, 109; 4) Baylor, 106.5; 5) Ohio State, 103; 6) Arizona State, 101; 7) Wisconsin, 100.5; 8) Stanford, 100; 9) Missouri, 99.5; 10-T) Clemson and LSU, 99; 12) Oklahoma State, 98.5
(The Dirty Dozen is not a reflection of a given team's won-loss record. It is based on power ratings used to predict spreads for the upcoming week. At the beginning of the season, all FBS teams are assigned a power number, which changes on a week-to-week basis depending on the results of the previous week.)