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Free Pick Breakdown & Prediction: Syracuse vs. Clemson (10/22/2022)

By Ace Margolis
October 21, 2022
Photo by: Rich Barnes - USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse vs Clemson (10/22/22 – 12:00 pm EDT)

Line: Clemson -13.5
O/U: 49.5

Syracuse vs Clemson Overview

The Atlantic Coast Conference has one of its biggest matchups of the season this Saturday afternoon as 14th-ranked Syracuse tries to grab a win in Death Valley where the fourth-ranked Clemson Tigers will be awaiting them in South Carolina. The Orange are coming off a Week 7 home win over N.C. State while the Tigers took care of Florida State on the road in Tallahassee, meaning both teams Syracuse and Clemson come into this game undefeated.

Syracuse Analysis

If all the college football experts were to pick the most surprising team of the 2022 season, chances are many of them would choose Syracuse who went 5-7 last year and already surpassed that total by starting this season 6-0. Head coach Dino Babers has turned the Orange into a legitimate program this season and, after beating 15th-ranked N.C. St. last Saturday, Syracuse now finds themselves 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the ACC, only second behind first-place Clemson. The Orange have also been fantastic against the spread going 5-1 although they’ve only managed to go 2-4 against the over/under.

Let’s look over the Orange’s season up until this point and see why it’s been impressive. To start the season, they opened up against Louisville at home as 5.5-point underdogs and handled them easily, 31-7. They would also go on to win their next five games, with all but one of them going against FBS teams, including victories over Purdue, Virginia, and N.C. State. Syracuse’s only road game, on September 10 against UCONN, was a 48-14 win that had no problem covering the -23.5 spread. As a whole body of work, Syracuse’s season has looked great with the one misnomer being that they’ve only played one game away from home so far, which will change when they visit Clemson this Saturday.

So, how the heck are the Orange doing it? Everything starts with an incredibly stubborn defense, one of only 17 college teams giving up less than 300 yards of offense per game. In fact, Syracuse’s overall defense ranks eighth in the country and is seventh-best in first-down defense. They also do not allow a whole lot of yards on the ground, giving up 95 yards per contest, good for 11th in the nation. Sean Tucker drives the offense as he’s put up 644 yards rushing on the year at 107.3 yards per game, 14th-best in college football.

Syracuse Analysis

Clemson will enter this game ranked fourth in the nation as they’ve gone a perfect 7-0 including 5-0 in the ACC, which is good for first place in the conference. Last year’s team finished the 2021 season with a 10-3 mark but if they continue on their current trajectory, they should surpass that with Syracuse as the only ranked opponent left to play. Speaking of ranked opponents, the Tigers have gone 2-0 against theirs this season, beating Wake Forest and N.C. State in consecutive weeks, 51-45 and 30-20, respectively. Clemson has gone 4-3 ATS and versus the over/under this year.

Looking at the team’s statistics, it’s easy to see why they’re ranked so high in the polls as they have some solid numbers on both sides of the ball. More so than many other teams in college football, Clemson is evenly-balanced as they rank 21st overall in points per game at 38.6 and 26th overall in total scoring defense by holding opponents to 19.7 points a contest. Their greatest asset this season, however, is a run defense that only allows 82.7 yards a game, fourth-best in the country. The Tigers are also efficient when it matters, ranking 14th overall in 3rd down conversion percentage.

Clemson has a few players that have contributed significantly to their undefeated season so far starting with quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei whose ability to manage mistakes is overlooked. He has 17 touchdown passes against only two interceptions and has scored 21 TDs on the season so far. In the backfield, Will Shipley helps get the running game going and is 15th in the nation with 567 yards on the ground so far to go with eight TDs, which is tied for sixth overall. On the defensive side of the ball, Myles Murphy has five sacks including four solos, tied for fifth in the country.

Free Pick – Clemson -13.5

Syracuse is one of the best stories in college football so far but it’s not wise to take a battle-tested team like Clemson for granted. As great as the Orange have been on defense, their success has almost exclusively been at home. This game is on the road in Death Valley, one of the nation’s most challenging college football venues, and the crowd is going to be rocking. The Tigers have also beaten the Orange in eight of their line nine meetings, including all four games in Death Valley. Syracuse’s offense also relies heavily on its running game, something Clemson is great at stopping. The Orange’s undefeated season stops Saturday. We’re picking Clemson -13.5.

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