College Football Pick
It should be smooth sailing for Clemson the rest of the way to the ACC title Game, but with how they’ve played this season, you never know. Syracuse has shown more fight under Dino Babers this season and won’t back down from a fight. That said, the Tigers opened as -26 point favorites.
The Orange can’t be completely discredited. They have a nice upset win over Virginia Tech from a couple weeks ago, are coming off a bye and have won two straight. On the other end of that, they gave up 62 points to Louisville and 50 points to Notre Dame, both Games at home this season. Now on the road, where ‘Cuse haven’t played anyone of relevance yet, there could be some issues.
But Clemson is still hard to trust, despite being undefeated. The Tigers have Games where they either beat up opposition, or take down quality teams such as Auburn and the aforementioned Louisville. But then there’s also been times when they had trouble against Troy and should’ve lost to NC State. If they don’t put in a full effort, this team becomes an unknown and coming off a big win at Florida State, could be in for another let down.
Will that matter against Syracuse, though? When these teams met last year, Clemson scored plenty, but didn’t completely blowout the Orange even though they were arguably a lesser team in 2015. The Tigers won 37-27 behind 368 passing yards, 105 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Deshaun Watson. That could easily happen again, considering Watson has thrown for 300-plus yards in Four of the last five Games. To help, Wayne Gallman returned from a concussion last week and saw 20 carries, so he’s good to go.
With how the Syracuse defense has looked against any decent offense this year, there’s no reason to believe they can stop Watson and company. Getting this cover will depend on what the ‘Cuse offense can do behind Eric Dungey.
Interestingly, current backup Zack Mahoney was the starting QB in last year’s Game and yet the Orange still dropped 27 points on this Clemson defense. Dungey is notably a better quarterback and that could again lead to a cover for Syracuse. While Watson has looked good, so has Dungey. He has at least 300-plus yards in five of the past six Games, throwing for 434 at Boston College last Game. Along with that, he’s found more room on the ground as of late with 160 rushing yards in the last two contests.
The problem may be that running back Dontae Strickland has struggled to 3.9 yards per carry alongside Dungey. Without anyone else to help Dungey, the Orange are still averaging just 26.9 points per Game.
But will Dungey be able to keep up with Watson, who could be aiming for 50 points? That means Syracuse will need to get at least 20 points, which isn’t out of the question.
The Orange are 5-2 ATS in their last seven ACC Games and 5-2 ATS in their last seven road Games vs. a team with a winning home record. The Tigers are 5-2 ATS in their last seven home Games, but 2-5 ATS in their last seven following an ATS loss.
Our Pick – Clemson -26