LSU already has two SEC wins and it boasts a Heisman Trophy candidate in Leonard Fournette, but do not expect too much scoring in a dead non-conference spot at Syracuse.
Points may be relatively hard to come by in a non-conference affair in upstate New York on Saturday when the LSU Tigers (2-0, 1-1 ATS) of the mighty SEC pay a visit to Syracuse Orange (3-0, 2-1 ATS) of the ACC in a battle of unbeatens from the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY at 12:00 Noon ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
The posted total at Pinnacle Sports is 46½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -106.
Heisman Trophy Favorite?
LSU had its scheduled opening game vs. McNeese State cancelled due to severe weather, meaning that the Tigers have opened up their season with two conference games in the SEC with great results as first they posted a 21-19 road win at Mississippi State, albeit while failing to cover the three-point spread, and they then followed with a 45-21 home blowout of Auburn.
This early season success for the Tigers has been fueled by running back Leonard Fournette, who just may have thrust himself into the role of Heisman Trophy favorite as he has carried the ball 47 times for 387 yards and six touchdowns through just two games while averaging an unworldly 8.2 yards per carry!
Syracuse meanwhile has also been the winning college football pick in all three games, although the competition has been nowhere near the stratosphere of what LSU has faced. This is the fourth straight home game for the Orange to open this season, and so far they have beaten Rhode Island of the FCS 47-0, Wake Forest in the ACC opener 30-17 and then Central Michigan 30-27 in overtime last week while failing to cover the point spread for the first time in 2015.
Do Tigers Care That Much?
The Tigers have certainly been impressive while moving up to eighth on the AP poll, but there must be some question about just how focused they will be for this non-conference road game vs. an unfamiliar foe that LSU has not faced since 1989 after those two big conference wins. And remember that Fournette is basically the only reason LSU has been climbing the rankings.
That is because the offense has been totally one-dimensional and the defense, while good, has not lived up to the usual great LSU standards either. The Tigers are averaging a mere 72.5 passing yards per game as quarterback Brandon Harris is averaging a miniscule 4.7 yards per pass attempt, or just slightly more than half of what Fournette is averaging per carry!
The LSU defense is allowing a commendable 319 total yards per game, but the 3.2 yards per rush it is allowing is slightly up from past seasons and the pass defense has been prone to allowing some big plays. Luckily for the Tigers, that should not be much of a concern this game vs. probably a backup quarterback (or two).
First Time 3-0 Since 1991
The Orange improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1991 with the overtime win over Central Michigan here at the Carrier Dome last week, but they also suffered potentially a big loss when starting quarterback Eric Dungey suffered a concussion in the third quarter and is in all likelihood out for this contest. And from a football viewpoint, the offense certainly stagnated once Dungey was forced from the game.
In fact, the Orange did not record a single first down the rest of the second half during regulation time under their backup quarterbacks Austin Wilson and Zack Mahoney, although to be fair, they did record one on the winning overtime drive before Jordan Fredericks ran it in from four yards out for the victory. Still, the drop-off after Dungey was obvious and we do not see the backups generating much vs. an SEC defense here, no matter how lethargic LSU may be.
Besides, the running game has been the strength of the Orange offense anyway even with a healthy Dungey, as Syracuse is averaging 208.7 rushing yards per game on 5.0 yards per carry. The Orange will no doubt lean on that running game here in an attempt to shorten this game and hang around, although not having Dungey around to at least keep the LSU defense honest could hurt a lot.
Trending the ‘under’
Finally, Syracuse is primarily an ‘under’ team as it has gone 9-4-1 in the last 14 Orange games overall, including 7-2-1 in the last 10 games vs. teams with winning records. Additionally, the ‘under’ is 6-1 in the last seven LSU games after the Tigers gained more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
Given this dead spot on the LSU schedule and a Syracuse team that is run-oriented in nature and figures to be even more so with Dungey out, look for an ‘under’ in the Carriers Dome on Saturday.
College Football Pick: LSU, Syracuse ‘under’ 46½ (-106)