Wake Forest and Syracuse meet Saturday, and while there are a few factors that are up in the air, we believe that this matchup offers us a prime situation to add the total to our College Football picks.
It's the ACC opener for Wake Forest and Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, although neither the Deacons nor Orange are going to be factors in the conference this season. Syracuse is listed at -4.5 on most College Football odds boards with a total of 43.
Don't Get Too Excited, Deacons Fans
Wake Forest had the worst offense of any Power 5 conference team last season. So it obviously was a good sign that the Demon Deacons had 591 total yards of offense in a 41-3 win over Elon to open the 2015 season -- but make sure you consider the competition. It was Wake's highest total since a 598-yard effort at Virginia on Oct. 25, 1975. The Deacs also matched the program record for time of possession, keeping the ball for 38:52.
QB John Wolford was the star for Wake in the opener, passing for a career-high 323 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a 70-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. That was the fifth-longest run by a Demon Deacon quarterback and the longest QB touchdown run since 1968. Wake outgained Elon 591-151 and had a 29-6 advantage in first downs. The Deacons hadn't gained 500 yards since facing Army in 2012 and were nine yards from the school's first 600-yard game since 1968.
Last season, Dave Clawson's first as the team's head coach, Wake finished last in the FBS in total offense by more than 50 yards. Their running game produced just 1.25 yards per carry and Wolford was sacked 45 times. So maybe things are better. Maybe.
Two defensive injury notes for Wake in this one. Junior safety Thomas Brown will play, albeit as a reserve, after missing the opener for a violation of unspecified team rules. However, sophomore defensive end Duke Ejiofor will miss another game with concussion-like symptoms.
Syracuse Starting Over At QB
The Orange's season opener was a good news/bad news type of deal. They routed Rhode Island 47-0 but also lost starting senior quarterback Terrell Hunt to a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury. He was hurt in the first quarter and had surgery Tuesday -- Hunt is going to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. It was Hunt's first game back since suffering a broken leg last Oct. 3 against Louisville. Hunt has played in 19 career games for the Orange and ranks 10th in team history with 2,621 passing yards. He has accounted for 24 career touchdowns and shares the Syracuse single-game record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback with 156 last season vs. Maryland.
Freshmen were the story in SU's win over Rhode Island. QB Eric Dungey replaced Hunt and completed 10 of 17 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Dungey joined AJ Long as the only true freshmen in program history to throw a touchdown pass in their debut. Meanwhile, freshman running back Jordan Fredericks carried 14 times for 103 yards and a touchdown vs. Rhode Island. Fellow frosh Dontae Strickland added two carries for 42 yards and a touchdown. The last SU true freshman to rush for a touchdown in a season opener was Damien Rhodes in 2002 against BYU. A total of 15 freshmen played for SU in the opener.
Third-year Syracuse coach Scott Shafer says he won't be dialing back the Orange's offense even though Dungey has only been on campus since July. Dungey won the backup job over redshirt sophomore Austin Wilson late in camp.
There is one other injury to be aware of and that's to receiver Ervin Philips, who caught both of Dungey's TD passes. He left the Rhode Island game late in the first half with a lower-body injury and didn't return. It's not clear yet if he will play Saturday.
Syracuse leads 3-1 and has won the past three. The Orange won 30-7 last year in Winston-Salem for their only ACC win and only victory over a Power 5 team in 2014. SU got a 42-yard interception return for a score from Robert Welsh and 51-yard fumble return score from Micah Robinson. Syracuse knocked out Wolford in the second quarter. Wake had just 68 total yards after that point of the game. The Deacons have never won in a dome, losing twice in the Carrier Dome and also in the New Orleans Superdome vs. Tulane in 1995. Wake Forest has lost 10 straight road games overall and nine straight ACC road games since dating to a 16-10 win over Virginia on Oct. 20, 2012
NCAAF Free Picks: It's Dungey's first career start, so backing a side with our College Football picks seems a bit risky in this situation. Wake Forest does have a pretty solid defense and you'd have to give the Deacons the QB edge here. I like the 'under' more than the side, but take the points. The Deacons are 4-0 ATS at sportsbooks in their past four September games. SU is 0-4 ATS in its past four ACC games. The 'under' is 11-5 in Wake's past 16 on the road. The 'under' is 6-1 in SU's past seven overall.
Free College Football Pick: Bet the Under at 5Dimes