Syracuse Orange vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (-1.5)
Fri., December 28, 5:15 p.m. ET
Three things to know before betting on Syracuse-West Virginia:
1. Syracuse defied all expectations to finish with a 9-3 record (8-4 against the spread). Its only losses came to ACC Coastal Division champion Pittsburgh and College Football Playoff teams Clemson and Notre Dame. 'Cuse ended its regular season winning four of five both straight up and against the spread, including a 42-21 road victory over Boston College as a 3.5-point underdog in its regular season finale. That win sets the Orange up for a couple of nice trends in the Camping World Bowl:
·Over the past 10 seasons, teams scoring at least 34 points per game coming off a win of at least 21 points are 52-24 against spreads between +3 and -3 when playing a team allowing between 21 and 28 PPG.
·Over the past five seasons, teams with winning percentages between .600 and .800 coming off a double-digit road win are 26-8 against spreads between +3 and -3 when playing a team with a winning record.
2. West Virginia quarterback Will Grier was phenomenal this season. Grier finished third in FBS in passing yards per game (351.3) and passing touchdowns (37) and was fourth in Heisman voting. But Grier will sit out this game, choosing not to risk injury as he prepares for the 2019 NFL draft. Giving sophomore QB Jack Allison some reps before he becomes the full-time starter next season could pay dividends down the road, but missing a player of Grier's caliber deals a substantial hit to West Virginia's chances in this game.
The Mountaineers' starting left tackle Yodny Cajuste will also skip the Camping World Bowl. One of three linemen to share the Big 12's Lineman of the Year award this season, Cajuste's absence will make life a lot harder for Allison. News that Grier and Cajuste would not be playing dropped West Virginia from -7 all the way to -1.5, but it's arguable that West Virginia should be an underdog at this point, especially since its defense allowed 26.5 points per game this season, 60th in FBS.
3. It's hard to imagine a team being more well-rounded on special teams than Syracuse. Freshman kicker Andre Szmyt made 28 of 32 field goals this season (including three of three from 50-plus yards) and won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best placekicker. Punter Sterling Hofrichter was named first-team All-ACC on the strength of 43.26 yards per punt (30th in FBS). The Orange also ranked among the top 40 teams nationally in average kickoff yardage (64.06, 15th in FBS) and average opponent kickoff yardage (59.95, 39th-lowest). In a game projected to be close, special teams can make a big difference—very likely in Syracuse's favor.
Pick: Syracuse +1.5
Confidence Level: Very High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)