It's crazy to think, right?
Clemson football is favored by double-digits on the road and there are hard-to-find reasons to trust the Tigers to cover the spread. Heck, there should be a real concern that they might not win straight up at this point.
The offense ranks dead last in the ACC in yards and points per game. There are only eight out of 130 quarterbacks in college football with a worse Expected Points Added rating than D.J. Uiagalelei.
Sure, the Tigers might have found their identity against Boston College two weeks ago with a run game that produced 231 yards, but they still only won by six points as a 14.5-point favorite at home and had to settle for too many field goals.
The last time Clemson went on the road was late September, and it tasted defeat in overtime at N.C. State. The Tigers were a double-digit favorite there, too, and they were slightly favored over No. 1 Georgia in a neutral-site game in Week 1.
So it's hard to back Clemson on the road at Syracuse on Friday with a 13.5-point spread sitting out there, especially when you consider the Orange covered all but one game. The Tigers have covered none.
So what is the betting market telling us about a line that's actually gone in favor of the visiting team? Is there real faith that an offensive turnaround is coming this week for the Tigers? Is the defense, even banged up, so dominant that it can make a pretty good Syracuse run game one-dimensional?
Even if Clemson takes away the run portion of the RPO from quarterback Garrett Shrader and running back Sean Tucker and forces the Orange to move the ball primarily through the air, you still have to back a Tiger offense that hasn't scored more than 21 points in a single game against FBS competition this year.
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The Orange have been pretty stingy, though, producing the 22nd best total defense and fourth-most sacks in college football through six games. That's a solid reason to take the points in this one.
Need another one? How about the home-field advantage? Syracuse produces a lot of noise in the Carrier Dome and the Tigers have a lot of players who haven't been there yet.
A loud crowd in the "Loud House" could come into play in one of the most important aspects of the game: third-down conversions. The team that wins this category on both sides of the ball likely wins the game. And it might be the key to believing in a Clemson cover.
On offense, the Orange has a third-down conversion rate of 35.6 percent, which ranks 97th in the country. Clemson's defense is allowing conventions on 35.8 percent of third downs, which ranks 37th.
On the flip side, the Tigers are 70th on offense, converting 39.1 percent of their opportunities. Syracuse is right behind Clemson on defense at 35.3 percent. It's a small edge for the Tigers, but if they play a clean game, getting off the field on defense and controlling the clock and the game on offense could spell an easy victory.
Total: See below
Best bet (3-2): We headed into the bye week with an easy cover on the first-half under against Boston College to build some momentum and get back on the winning side record-wise. Picking this week's game is much tougher as the lines are getting sharper and there's less margin for error. And while conventional wisdom says this is going to be another low-scoring game for Clemson, a week off to improve offensively mixed with a Syracuse team coming off a 40-37 overtime loss makes it feel like the total is a few points too low. Let's go OVER 45 this week.
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