No doubt, Clemson will beat Syracuse. But will the Tigers also cover the spread? Here is a complete breakdown of everything you need to know about this game, including updated odds and our betting picks.
Syracuse Orange vs. Clemson Tigers
Saturday, October 24, 2020 – 12PM ET at Memorial Stadium
How To Bet Games With Giant Spreads
There’s no doubt about who will win this game. There’s no doubt about which team is massively more talented and about which team matches up better on both sides of the football. It would be really easy to simply write about how great Clemson is as a justification for betting on the Tigers. But the key question persists even despite the most scintillating description of Clemson’s advantages: is the current spread set by College Football Oddsmakers too high?
To make this game worth betting on, there needs to be some identifiable pattern. We’re going to find this pattern in history. This pattern answers questions like: how does Clemson, insofar as it has the same head coach preparing them for games, tend to approach situations like these?
While the match-up gives us a stupidly obvious-looking and therefore insufficient answer, history — in the form of trends — gives us a clear answer. That answer is: bet on the Orange of Syracuse.
In 2018, Clemson was favored by 50.5 points and failed to cover the spread against Furman. In 2019, the Tigers were favored by 48.5 points against Wofford. Wofford covered the spread. This year, Citadel found itself dogged by 50.5 points against Clemson and won ATS.
Clemson Injuries At Quarterback
Surely, Clemson is going to pull its top starters from the contest in order to avoid injury. So it’s worth looking at the backups. At quarterback, the team’s second- and third-string quarterbacks are both injured.
D.J. Uiagalelei has some kind of injury that Tiger coaches are quiet about. Supposedly, he is “sore” and so his coaches didn’t want to subject him to any kind of risk in the team’s blowout victory over Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, third-string quarterback Taisun Phommachanh is listed on the injury report. He broke his non-throwing hand last week, which caused his coaches to pull him from the game.
After both the second- and third-stringers at quarterback ceased to play, coach Swinney only had a walk-on freshman and literally the team’s punter as options at the position.
Missing Offensive Linemen
One weakness for Clemson this season has been its pass protection. After losing four offensive linemen during the offseason, the Tigers rank 79th in percentage of sacks allowed.
So, for Syracuse, we will see strong performances from team sack leaders Josh Black and Kingsley Jonathan. PFF rated Jonathan as the ACC’s third-best returning pass rusher. He distinguishes himself with his speed off the edge.
The ability of Black and especially Jonathan to hurry Tiger quarterback Trevor Lawrence up plays into the hands of Syracuse’s secondary. Quarterback pressure means more short passes, which means that tackling becomes important to wrap up opposing players for only short gains.
Based on previous PFF tackling grades, Trill Williams is a solid option to secure tackles against Tiger pass-catchers and ball-carriers. Recent ACC Player of the Week Williams plus the ball-hawking ability of Robert Hanna, who has one interception so far, will help limit Clemson’s big plays.
3-3-5 Defensive System
This year, Syracuse has moved to a 3-3-5 defense. The idea here is to create more complexity and more speed on the field and to confuse and unsettle opposing offenses into turning the ball over.
It has the personnel to maximize its performance in this scheme with Orange players versatile in their skill set. Mikel Jones, who had received an offer from Ohio State, exemplifies this versatility at the linebacker position. Jones leads the team in tackles. He’s a capable rusher from various spots on the defense and he’s also effective in coverage where he has multiple interceptions.
Last year, Lawrence threw two interceptions against Syracuse as he struggled at times to make effective passes while contending with Syracuse’s pressure. Currently, the Orange rank sixth nationally in interceptions. A team needs plenty of scoring drives in order to cover such a large spread. But turnovers will limit the number of the Tigers’ potential scoring drives.
Culpepper has settled in at quarterback for Syracuse. He’s coming off a three-touchdown performance last week. Offensively, Syracuse likes to spread out defenses with its formations. Their formations allow more space for wide receivers to get open.
So look out especially for the play-making ability of Taj Harris, the team’s leading receiver. With his explosiveness, he’s built to have an advantage against Clemson’s typically bigger and more physical cornerbacks, who will struggle with Harris’ speed. He excels at finding open spaces in the defense, making defenders miss, and outpacing defensive backs for large gains.
By itself, history indicates that this spread is too big for Clemson to cover. But also look for Syracuse’s playmakers at all levels of the defense in its 3-3-5 scheme to limit the big plays and number of scoring drives that the Tigers require just to approach the spread.
On offense, Culpepper and Harris will continue to connect in the passing game to create big plays of their own. For the above reasons, bet on the Orange to cover with your College Football Betting Picks.