A battle of the two final undefeated teams in the ACC–and two of the nine left in major college football–meet in South Carolina this week to determine which team will remain on the inside track to reach the conference championship game and potentially, the College Football Playoff. The odds are set and give Clemson a big advantage vs. Syracuse.
No. 14 Syracuse (6-0, 3-0 ACC), off to its best start in 35 years, visits No. 5 Clemson (7-0, 5-0 ACC). It’s just the sixth time in history that two teams that are at least 6-0 meet in an ACC conference matchup.
Syracuse Faces Largest Spread of the Season in Just Its Second Road Game
Clemson, who has won five-straight games in the series and is 8-2 overall, is a heavy favorite at home. The Orange, who have enjoyed playing in the confines of the JMA Wireless Dome for five of its six games, heads into a hostile environment for the first time all season. Their first road game was in Week 2 at UConn–not exactly a tough place to play as a visitor.
As you might expect, the odds for this game weigh heavily in the Tigers’ favor. They are riding a streak of 37-straight wins at home, which is tied with Florida State for the longest run in ACC history. Here are the game odds, courtesy of BetMGM sportsbook.
|(14) Syracuse Orange||+13.5||49.5||+400|
|(5) Clemson Tigers||-13.5||49.5||-550|
While Syracuse is just 2-8 overall against the Tigers, they covered in seven of those 10 matchups. Three of the last five matchups have been close. The Orange upset then-No. 2 Clemson 27-24 in 2017 at the Dome. The following year, the Orange were ranked 15th and 4-0 going into Memorial Stadium against No. 1 Clemson and had a lead in the fourth quarter of the game but fell 27-23 as 24.5-point underdogs. After two blowout losses, Syracuse lost 17-14 at home last year as 13.5-point underdogs when Andre Szmyt missed a potential game-tying field goal at the end of the game.
Key Matchup: Syracuse’s Run Defense vs. Clemson’s Running Game
The Orange leads the ACC in scoring defense with 13.2 points allowed per contest, which lowered last week when holding a Devin Leary-less NC State team to single digits in a 24-9 win last week. Syracuse is also second on the league in rush defense, giving up 95 yards per game.
Clemson runs the ball with Will Shipley, who is averaging over 100 yards per game from scrimmage this season. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei is also running the ball with more success, opening up the offense from when it struggled for much of last season.
The flip side of this matchup is also interesting, as the Tigers have the top-rated rushing defense in the ACC, keeping teams to 82 yards per game. That will be a challenge for Sean Tucker, but the junior shredded the Tigers for 157 yards last season, including a 54-yard run. Tucker put the game against the Wolfpack away last week with a 25-yard score late in the fourth quarter.
In another stat that will end one way or another, Clemson has scored at least 30 points in each of their games while the Orange defense hasn’t allowed a team to break the 30-point mark this season.
ATS Records Give Syracuse a Good Chance to Cover
The Orange are 5-1 against the spread this season and are 1-0 as underdogs, winning outright in a 31-7 Week 1 win against Louisville as 5.5-point dogs.
Meanwhile, the Tigers are 4-3 ATS. After covering in their opener over Georgia Tech, Clemson failed to cover in three-straight games. The Tigers, however, have covered in their most recent three, including as 4.5-point favorites in a 34-28 win over Florida State last week.
The same two starting quarterbacks and much of the defense is returning from last year’s 17-14 game, and with an added confidence on both sides of the ball, don’t expect Syracuse to be intimidated. The Orange will, however, be facing a huge step up in competition over much of their schedule, so quarterback Garrett Shrader will need to play mistake-free football in a pressure cooker to have a chance.
We predict that Syracuse will hang with the Tigers, especially given their recent history, covering the spread but having the game itself be just out of reach.
Prediction: Clemson 27, Syracuse 20 (covers +13.5, under 49.5)