Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Welcome to week 2 of the 2020 ACC football season, where volatility will be in full force and predictions will surely fall short. Do we condone gambling? No. That being said, it’s no fun to stay away from the game. Here are three picks for conference games this weekend in the ACC (lines are courtesy of Bovada).
Syracuse +21.5 vs. Pittsburgh
Is anyone in the ACC besides Clemson good enough to be three score favorites in a conference matchup? Make no mistake, Syracuse showed little competence and confidence against a subpar game by the No. 18 Tar Heels. However, they were aggressive, particularly in the first half against UNC when taking one-on-one shots when faced with single coverage on the outside. They did not connect on a high enough percentage of the throws, but they showed the ability to be dangerous enough to give Pittsburgh’s defense enough trouble to respect that threat.
Pittsburgh’s defense is certainly their best unit by far. Led by Paris Ford, Pitt’s All-Conference candidate at safety, this is a group that plays fast and is strong in the trenches. However, Syracuse’s spread offense should mitigate the advantages Pitt has, especially if they continue taking downfield shots against man coverage.
Pittsburgh’s offensive ineptitude makes this bet an attractive option. While Syracuse may not be a great offense either, they do not play as conservative as Pittsburgh does. The Panthers averaged a measly 21.2 points per game last year behind a running game that failed to pay dividends. Quarterback Kenny Pickett has shown some talent as he enters his senior campaign but this year he will be without key receiver Maurice Ffrench who was the Panthers’ most explosive receiver in 2019.
This has the feel of a low-scoring matchup, and three scores is a generous amount to give Pittsburgh in their season opener.
Duke -5.5 vs. Boston College
For the first half of last week’s bout with the Fighting Irish, Duke handled themselves with poise and confidence. Predicating their offense on the quick passing game and getting the ball in the hands of their playmakers early in the down, Duke was able to control the tempo of the game. They were still in it until the fourth quarter until Notre Dame scored 10 points in the final stanza to cement a victory but remained competitive throughout the contest.
The Blue Devils had success moving the ball in the first half, especially in the first quarter. Transfer quarterback Chase Brice looked accurate and in command of Duke’s offense, signaling that the coaching staff did their job this offseason in bringing him along quickly. David Cutcliffe’s reclamation of playcalling duties certainly aided the offense’s effectiveness, at least for one week against a very good defense. Boston College will be under the tutelage of new head coach Jeff Hafley who has been touted as a defensive minded head coach, but it may take time for that unit to gel which should allow a less rusty Duke offense to prevail on Saturday.
In comparison to Duke’s offense, Boston College lost their engine in running back AJ Dillon, who was a second round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers back in April. Without him as a sustainer, it will be up to David Bailey who rushed for 844 yards in 2019 to pick up the slack. Although the stats may not show it, Duke was relatively good at containing Notre Dame’s rushing attack and I imagine they have similar success here against a lesser opponent.
Overall, I like Duke’s known quantities at quarterback and playmakers than the unknowns at Boston College, especially when considering the Eagles are playing their first game under a new head coach after a shortened offseason.
No. 18 Louisville -2.5 vs No. 17 Miami
This game is Saturday’s big ticket item on the schedule and for good reason. Louisville is coming off a comfortable 35-21 win over Western Kentucky, while Miami had their own decisive 31-14 win over UAB.
Louisville is only getting 2.5 points from oddsmakers which means Miami would be favored on a neutral site. I’m not sure I would agree with that sentiment. The quarterback matchup will be fascinating to watch as both Micale Cunningham and D’Eriq King are two of the most dynamic players in the conference. Cunningham, an incredible runner with the ball in his hands, showed significant strides as a downfield passer against WKU which leads me to believe Miami will have a tough time chasing him around the field.
That’s not to say Louisville’s defense won’t struggle containing D’Eriq King, however. But King is a piece of the whole puzzle when it comes to Miami’s offense, considering they ran for over 300 yards against UAB. Cam’Ron Harris and King combined for over 200 of those yards by themselves, so it’s clear that Louisville will need to be able to stop the run. Scott Saterfield would be wise to show eight man boxes against King to force him to become a thrower, which he is able to do but less dangerous overall compared to creating plays out of structure.
This will be a good game, but Louisville has enough playmakers on the outside to produce explosive gains through the ground and the air with Micale Cunningham running the show. I don’t think Miami’s ground control game plan will effectively counter the scoring output the Cardinals will have. Hitting the over (65) would be another solid play here.