A little over four months before the two teams square off in Atlanta, a sportsbook is already making Auburn a solid favorite over Louisville in the season opener. 5Dimes, never shy about offering odds and lines on games still quite a bit in the future, released lines on several of the most prominent opening weekend games, including listing Auburn as a 12.5 point favorite over Louisville. As Bud Elliott with Tomahawk Nation points out, ACC across the board teams are underdogs in the opening weekend's biggest games (Virginia Tech to Ohio State, North Carolina to South Carolina, Virginia to UCLA).
That Auburn is a favorite in this game should not be a surprise. Neither should it be taken primarily as a sign of disrespect for Louisville. Most preseason top 25 rankings have Louisville a marginally top 25 team while listing Auburn in or around the top 10. With the turnover in personnel elsewhere, Auburn could very well challenge for an SEC championship in 2015.
While Auburn is a favorite, I think it might be for the wrong reason. Most think of Gus Malzahn and his offenses putting up tons of points (which they do) and envision the game being something of a shootout. That was Bud's take in the article linked above. But Louisville returns virtually everyone in the front seven, has emerging talented depth up front in guys like DeAngelo Brown and Kyle Shortridge, and welcomes Devonte Fields, Josh Harvey-Clemons, and Shaq Wiggins to the defensive lineup to help offset some of the losses from last year. Louisville's defense should at least be able to put together a respectable performance no matter how good Auburn's offense will be.
If there's a reason to think it'll be about a two-touchdown spread, look at the questions surrounding the Louisville offense. A quarterback battle carrying on into fall, anywhere from 3-5 new offensive line starters, and the loss of a special player like DeVante Parker all still cloud the picture as that opener gets closer and closer. If the offense in year two of playing for Petrino makes some substantial strides, especially up front, then it should be a competitive game. If Auburn wins by 12.5 or more, it's much more likely that Louisville won't be able to score enough to keep up than their inability to get off the field on defense.