Free College Football Picks: Syracuse vs. Notre Dame Odds and Expert Predictions
Syracuse Orange vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Saturday Nov. 17, 2:30 p.m. ET
The Irish absolutely control their own destiny when it comes to making the College Football Playoff. They just need to win this game and then win at USC next week. The latter is all but a given - the Trojans are a mess and on the verge of a coaching change. But this is the kind of game that has to have Notre Dame fans absolutely terrified. Syracuse is a solid 8-2 team with two respectable losses - in overtime at Pitt and by only four against Clemson. They will play tough. And the game is at Yankee Stadium. Quirky settings for games always add a degree of uncertainty.
Notre Dame goes into this game as the better team, but this also sets up as the second-most-likely game a current playoff contender plays that could lead to a loss - behind Michigan's visit to Ohio State next week.
Syracuse at Notre Dame Betting Storylines
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was injured last week and missed the game. That was a serious concern - he is leading the country in completion percentage and has really turned the offense around since taking over the job. Book is expected to be back at full health this week, but even if he isn't it is less of a concern since Brandon Wimbush looked very solid last week in relief. Syracuse has a defense that is well below average in every regard, and particularly vulnerable through the air, so Notre Dame will have plenty of opportunity to score. The Irish offense hasn't been entirely explosive or elite this year, but it can score when it matches up well against a defense, and this should be a good time for them.
Notre Dame will have to score, because Syracuse is certainly capable of doing so. They rank seventh nationally, averaging 44.4 points per game. Quarterback Eric Dungey has been playing well, but the real story in this game is the running attack. The Orange ran for 326 yards last time out against Louisville, led by junior running back Moe Neal's career game. Notre Dame's defense is competent but not overwhelming, and their run defense is the most underwhelming aspect of their game. We will be looking for Syracuse to establish the run early. If they do that, then things really get interesting - both in this game and for the teams like Georgia, Oklahoma and Washington State looking for a route into the playoff.
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers got his first signature win at the school last year when they stunned Clemson. That was during his second straight 4-8 season at the school, though, so this year is different. This is his first and biggest chance to really prove that the turnaround is real - the same turnaround he has made in his first two stops on his coaching career. I'm sure people will suggest that this just exposes some biases in me, but I would take Babers over Brian Kelly if I had to choose one to run my program over the long term - and I wouldn't hesitate for even a second to make that decision. I trust Babers to have his team ready for this game. And while Notre Dame is unbeaten and rolling, they benefited from playing a Michigan game in their opener that was way off their best game, and then haven't really played a lot of dangerous games since - Stanford was hugely overrated, and Virginia Tech was inconsistent. This is arguably the second-toughest test the team has faced, and it comes at a challenging time for them. They have everything to lose, and Syracuse has nothing.
Syracuse at Notre Dame Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Notre Dame favored by 9.5, and that number has since moved through the key number of 10 to sit at 10.5. Nearly 60 percent of bets have come in on the underdogs, so we aren't at all likely to see the line move any higher, and it could even fall slightly. The total opened at 61.5 and has climbed to 65.
The Orange are 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 games overall, 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games against teams with winning records, and 5-2 ATS in their last seven games on a neutral field. Notre Dame is 4-1 ATS in their last five in neutral sites. They are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games overall but just 8-20-1 ATS in their last 29 games in November. Syracuse has gone "over" the total in four of their last five games, and Notre Dame has gone over in six of seven.
Syracuse at Notre Dame Predictions and Picks
I am going against a personal trend. I almost never play totals. But I had success with them last week, and again it is the total that is talking to me here. I lean towards taking Syracuse to cover - even if they don't pull off the upset they are getting a lot of points. But I don't trust either of these defenses, and I respect both offenses. This isn't a pile of points for a game like this, and there is a good chance we will see a bit of a shootout. These teams both like to go over the total, and we are going to bet they are going to continue that trend. The over it is.
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