Syracuse may be 3-6, but the Orange have played a tough schedule and they can become bowl eligible by winning their last three games, starting with this home finale vs. Duke.
The home team could be offering value Saturday despite its current losing record when the Duke Blue Devils (7-1, 3-1 away), currently ranked 24th in the AP Poll, pay a visit to those Syracuse Orange (3-6, 1-5 home) at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY at 12:30 ET in a game available on ESPN GamePlan and ESPN3.
The posted line at Pinnacle Sports for this contest is Syracuse +3½ at current odds of -117.
Orange Have Faced Tougher Schedule
The Orange are now 3-6 for the season following a 24-17 loss to NC State here in Syracuse last week that dropped them to 1-5 at home with the only win being by one point vs. an FCS foe in Villanova 27-26 way back on opening week. To be fair though, Syracuse has played mostly a killer schedule since then, as it has faced an SOS that is ranked 24th across all of college football according to the Sagarin Ratings.
Duke is no longer just a basketball school as it has returned to football prominence under Coach David Cutcliffe, winning 10 games last season and then throwing a scare into Johnny Manziel’s Texas A&M team in the Chick-fil-A Bowl before succumbing 52-48. It should be pointed out though that the Blue Devils’ college football pick record of 7-1 this year has been gathered against an SOS ranked 100th according to Sagarin, the weakest SOS of any ACC team.
Solid Defensively Despite Slate
Despite facing a tough slate that has included the likes of Clemson on the road, Florida State and Louisville at home and Notre Dame on a neutral field, the Syracuse defense has actually hung in well ranking 38th in the country in total defense allowing only 353.8 yards per game on just 3.3 yards per rush and 7.3 yards per pass attempt.
The problem has been an offense that is managing just 20.1 points and 372.2 total yards per game, but again, much of that has to do with facing stiff defenses. That is not the case here however as despite Duke’s gaudy record, the Blue Devils rank just 81st in the land in total defense surrendering 422.5 yards per game and they have been especially porous against the run ranking 107th while allowing 214.0 rushing yards per game on the ground on 4.7 yards per carry.
And one thing that Syracuse does reasonably well offensively is run the football, averaging 163.3 rushing yards on 4.5 YPC, so the Orange could very well control Time of Possession in this contest, which is a nice trait for a home underdog.
Biggest Challenge to Florida State?
Duke may be the final obstacle between Florida State and a College Football Playoff spot as the Blue Devils lead the ACC Central Division and maintaining that standing would earn a spot almost certainly opposite of the Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game. Still, not all the news surrounding this 7-1 Duke team is rosy.
For starters, the fact that the Blue Devils have such poor defensive numbers vs. the weakest schedule in the conference seems like an obvious red flag. Also, Duke is 3-1 inside the ACC and all three wins have been by single-digits, with the Devils’ lone loss coming in probably their toughest game to date vs. the Miami Hurricanes on the road, so they are still lacking that true signature win vs. a quality team.
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), the remainder of the Duke schedule does not look daunting either so it could easily enter the ACC Championship Game without having beaten anyone of note, which does not seem like a good way to prepare for a truly great team like Florida State.
Final Home Game This Year
Then again, it may not even be a given that Duke gets there if it loses this game, and remember that Syracuse still has incentive as even at 3-6, the Orange could still become bowl eligible by winning their last three games. And as if that were not incentive enough, this is already the final home game of the season for Syracuse, which has a bye next week followed by road dates at Pittsburgh and Boston College to end the regular season.
With all of this in mind, expect a maximum effort from Syracuse playing at home for the last time that could quite possibly lead to an outright upset of a potentially overrated Duke team based on its SOS on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Syracuse +3½ (-117)