Well, well. In case the early-conference slate seemed too predictable or devoid of stellar match-ups, the football gods let us know exactly what’s up on the last couple of weekends.
Iowa State over Oklahoma. California over Washington State. LSU over Auburn. Arizona State over Washington. Georgia Tech taking Miami to the final seconds. Purdue giving Wisconsin a scare to remember.
Oh, and the defending national champion Clemson Tigers lost to Syracuse, 27-24. No big thing.
Ironically, some teams that have beaten the Orangemen in 2017 are getting more of a boost in the odds than Syracuse! Meanwhile the Miami Hurricanes had to play in a near-hurricane, or at least a monsoon, last Saturday – only prevailing thanks to an all-time great catch by Darrell Langham for a 4th-down conversion with seconds left.
Mark Richt’s team could be ripe for a let-down after a heart-stopping win, and are hosting a hot new upstart whom they did not expect to present a challenge. Yet the bookies have other ideas. Miami is a prohibitive favorite on the money line and in the point spread, leaving bettors the option of choosing whether Syracuse is a vastly-improved program…or whether last week’s incredible upset was a total fluke.
Who: Syracuse Orangemen at Miami Hurricanes
When: Saturday, October 21st, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL
Lines: SYR (+16.5) at Miami (-16.5) / O/U Total: (59)
Last weekend’s take-down of Clemson was so stunning that it deserves a closer look. The Tigers obviously out-classed the Orange in the team speed department – Clemson’s big plays for touchdowns looked like men running away from children, while Syracuse hustled and fought for every 1st down. How exactly did they pull it off?
Efficiency in the short-passing game was crucial. QB Eric Dungey was as solid as a rock, going 20-of-32 with 2 touchdowns and no picks. Junior fireplug Dontae Strickland was a conversion-machine, averaging well over 4 yards a carry against one of the most imposing front-7’s in the game.
But the Syracuse defense deserves the lion’s share of credit. Despite being totally out-matched in track speed on the outside, the Orangemen held Clemson to less than 5 yards per carry and scored 4 crucial sacks. Dabo Swinney tried 2 quarterbacks, neither of which could find a receiver in the end zone.
Any talk of a “fluke” is more about the national media than reality. Syracuse has played a quartet of excellent games leading up to this one – losing close contests to talented LSU and NC State before beating Pitt and Clemson by a field goal each. That’s not the resume of a bad team that got lucky against the champs.
The Hurricanes are flying high at 5-0 after the dramatic win over visiting Georgia Tech. In truth, the ‘Canes dominated the 2nd half and out-gained the Jackets substantially on the day. But none of it would have mattered except for QB Malik Rosier’s cool, collected play in the closing moments.
Rosier’s 59% completion rate on the season may not be impressive to NFL scouts. But his 12-to-3 TD to INT ratio is rock solid. The Hurricanes are utilizing a WR corps of above-average role players, but their running backs are going wild – Mark Walton and Travis Homer have combined for 7 touchdowns and an amazing 8 ypc. Kicker Michael Badgley has missed only 1 try out of 30 combined XP and FG attempts on the year.
The defense has not been quite as consistent. The ‘Canes have given up 30 points to Toledo, 17 points to a hobbled FSU in the 4th quarter, and a big-yardage 1st half to Georgia Tech last weekend.
Expect a slight let-down for Miami. Historically, the jaunty Hurricanes have usually mimicked the attitude of ESPN – non-top 25 teams don’t matter, and who cares if they just upset a contender. The hosts will not prepare as hard for Syracuse as they do for Florida State or Virginia Tech…that’s just a fact of life.
The visitors will not reel off many big plays. But they can control the ball against Miami’s sturdy-but-imperfect defense. Combined with a less-precise offensive attack from The U, that will create value in the under.
Take under (59) points or gamble on Syracuse to surprise again.