The college football season continues tonight with a quartet of matchups for bettors to choose from, including a matchup of ACC-cellar dwellers when Syracuse hits the road to meet Louisville, and a key B1G Ten contest between Purdue and Minnesota.
As we love to do here at OddsUSA, let’s take a deeper look at the two better matchups of the night where we will have two Best Bets AND a bonus parlay for those who are feeling a little dangerous tonight (H/T Baker Mayfield).
Let’s dive in!
Syracuse at Louisville
Spread: Louisville -20
Total: O/U 55
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, ESPN
Two struggling teams currently stuck in the basement of the ACC will get to play under the Friday Night lights with hopes of notching their second conference win of the season when Syracuse (1-7, 1-6 ACC) hits the road to face Louisville (2-6, 1-6 ACC).
It has been a season to forget for each program, with Syracuse looking for their first win since September 26th when they beat Georgia Tech 37-20, while Louisville has dropped six of their last seven games with their lone victory being a 48-16 blowout of Florida State on October 24th.
Syracuse last played roughly two weeks ago when they suffered a heartbreaking 16-13 home loss to Boston College. Cuse head coach Dino Babers elected to give true freshman JaCobian Morgan his first career start that day and for the most part, Morgan played well in his debut appearance as he went 19-for-30 for 188 yards with a touchdown and interception in the loss.
The Syracuse offense has been desperately looking for a spark all season and the seat Babers currently sits on has hit higher temperatures than it has in recent years, as the Orange rank 123rd out of 126 teams in total offense and have only topped 21 points once this season.
That’s a far cry from the offensive output we’ve grown accustomed to from a Dino Babers squad. This is a Syracuse team that does not have many playmakers on either side of the ball and that has torpedoed any hopes of Syracuse breaking out of the funk they’re in and becoming a more competitive team.
Tonight likely marks the last time of the 2020 season that Syracuse will have a chance to break out of their offensive rut as Louisville’s defense has not exactly been a stellar group, surrendering 30 points per game and nearly 400 yards of offense while getting lit up for 40-plus points on three separate occasions.
While Syracuse’s offense is unlikely to hit the 40-point mark, this could finally be the game that Dino Babers at least tops 21 points on the evening.
Perhaps Jim Boeheim can provide some pointers for how to play defense at Syracuse because the Orange have been pretty putrid here too.
Syracuse doesn’t have many NFL caliber players on their roster, but their two best defenders in Andre Cisco and Trill Williams both opted out for the 2021 NFL Draft, leaving their secondary with quite the bare cupboard of talent.
The Orange pass defense has been up and down all season and that’s in large part due to the fact that when it comes to stopping the run, Syracuse is really, really bad at it. The Orange currently ranks 109th against the run, giving up over 220 yards per game and a gaudy 5 yards per carry.
The one area the Syracuse defense has excelled in this season funny enough has been winning the turnover battle. Syracuse comes into tonight’s game leading the ACC in takeaways, and while the defense has still given up its fair share of yardage, they haven’t been getting skewered lately and have shown gradual signs of improvement throughout the season.
That’s not to say Louisville can’t move the ball this evening, but Syracuse’s defense shouldn’t let the Cardinals do whatever they wish either.
When it comes to 2-6 teams, few across the country have the offensive talent that Scott Satterfield’s Louisville Cardinals have. Louisville averages just over 440 yards of offense per game and has been especially dangerous in the red zone where they have scored in all but three trips inside the 20 this season.
The Cardinals are particularly good at running the ball, as they are ranked 4th in the ACC and 35th overall in the country with just over 200 rushing yards per game. This stat will be tested tonight, however, as top rusher Javian Hawkins (822 yards, 7 TD) announced he would opt out of the remaining three games to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Louisville will rely on backups Hassan Hall and Jalen Mitchell to pick up the slack for the departed Hawkins, but the pressure to replace his production will likely fall on the shoulders of signal-caller Malik Cunningham.
Cunningham has had a strong junior campaign, throwing for 1,907 yards and 15 touchdowns while completing over 60% of his passes, but the bugaboo with Cunningham deals with his penchant for turning over the football.
Where Syracuse is good at forcing turnovers, Louisville is just as good at giving the ball away. Turnovers have killed Louisville the entire season and are the biggest reason for their 2-6 record at this point of the year. Cunningham is responsible for 11 turnovers on his own (9 INT, 2 fumbles), and has to do a better job at protecting the football for Louisville to win.
The Louisville defense is ripe to give up big plays, in particular on the ground to opposing running backs. Fortunately for the Cardinals, however, Syracuse is simply not the offensive group that is likely to fully capitalize on those weaknesses.
The biggest strength on the Louisville defense comes in their secondary where the Cardinals boast the 28th overall passing defense in the country. This again figures to play to their advantage tonight considering they are facing a true freshman making only his second career start.
The Cardinals did run into issues with COVID-19 that left Louisville down nine players for their game against Virginia Tech last week. There have been no additional positive tests since, so the Cardinals should get most of those players back this evening, including four defensive linemen.
The line for this game opened with Louisville as 18-point favorites that have since ballooned up to 20-points as of this writing. Considering the struggles on both sides of the ball and a true frosh making his first-ever road start, I can see how oddsmakers would be inclined to favor the more talented Cardinals to win this game fairly easily.
However, Louisville’s tendencies to be sloppy with the football and give their opponents additional possessions is about the last thing you want to count on when betting on a team to cover a three-touchdown spread.
Prediction & Best Bet
Look for the Cardinals to attack the weaknesses on the Syracuse defense and try to establish the running game even without the services of future NFL running back Javian Hawkins. Syracuse will keep it under 20, but will once again struggle to generate anything on offense.
Prediction: Louisville 31, Syracuse 17
Best Bet: Syracuse +20
Purdue at Minnesota
Spread: Minnesota -1.5
Total: O/U 60.5
Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET, Big Ten Network
If there’s anything 2020 has done for all of us, it made 2019 a much better year in hindsight. There may not be another man in the country that longs for it to be like 2019 again more than Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck.
The 2020 season has been a rough one for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Just a year removed from Minnesota going 11-2, their highest win total since they went 13-0 in 1904, the Gophers have struggled mightily out of the gates to a 1-3 record including blowout losses to Michigan and Iowa, and have looked nothing like the 2019 version of themselves.
Meanwhile, Purdue sits at 2-1 on the season after a loss to unbeaten Northwestern last week and needs to win this game to keep pace in the Big Ten West division. This is a matchup that will likely determine whether or not Minnesota can turn it around and get back into bowl contention and whether or not Purdue has what it takes to take a run at a conference title game appearance.
Jeff Brohm’s offense has looked fantastic out of the gates for the Boilers, as they lead the Big Ten in passing offense with just over 305 passing yards per game, all this without the services of star wide receiver Rondale Moore, who could make his season debut Friday Night after dealing with a hamstring injury for the start of the season.
The lack of Moore in the lineup has not slowed down Boilermaker QB Aidan O’Connell, however, as the junior QB has thrown for 916 yards, 7 touchdowns, and two interceptions in the Boilers first three games.
Purdue is not restricted to only pick you apart in the passing game though, as bruising running back Zander Horvath is averaging nearly five yards per carry in his own right and is Brohm’s closer of sorts when Purdue is looking to put a team away.
The Boilermakers will be thrilled to face a Gophers defense that has looked downright miserable through the first three weeks of the 2020 season. Minnesota comes in allowing nearly 450 yards per game and a staggering 238 yards of rushing per game putting the Golden Gophers rush defense at 115th overall in the country. While Purdue is less likely to gouge Minnesota on the ground than other Big Ten foes, there should still be plenty of opportunity for their offensive to put up some points.
Defensively, Purdue is not going to confuse you for an elite unit, but they have deployed a “bend but don’t break” philosophy to their play through the first three games of the year as they’ve given up over 400 yards per game, but have limited opponents to under 24 points per game.
The Boilermakers are about as bang average as you could draw up as they rank 60th overall in total defense, however, they have shown some vulnerabilities in the secondary as they boast the 88th overall pass defense in the country and were picked apart at key moments in last weeks loss to Northwestern.
If there is cause for concern this evening for the Purdue defense it would be related to the fact their rush defense has yet to truly be tested this season. That will not be the case this evening as Minnesota boasts a Top 20 rushing attack and the 2nd best rush offense in the conference, only trailing that of playoff contender Wisconsin.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
While the first four games of the year have not gone the way P.J. Fleck could have hoped for, the long bright side in Minneapolis this season comes from the talented running back Mohamed Ibrahim. Ibrahim has nearly double the yardage (715) of anyone else in the Big Ten (Tyler Goodson, 375) and has already recorded 10 rushing touchdowns on the season.
Ibrahim is quickly being overused, however, and Minnesota desperately needs to get him some help before the Gophers essentially run him into the ground.
For P.J. Fleck, he hopes that elixir will come by way of his starting QB Tanner Morgan finding the form he played at all of last season when he led the Gophers to an 11-win season capped off with an Outback Bowl victory over Auburn. So far though, the junior quarterback has only tallied 192 yards passing per game with an ugly four touchdown, four interception split.
Simply put, the Gophers need a lot more from their quarterback going forward if they are to salvage this season in any capacity.
With Minnesota returning only four starters to their defense, it was expected there would be some struggles on that side of the ball. The struggles weren’t expected to be this severe though.
The Gophers have been nothing short of miserable defensively to start the 2020 season. As mentioned earlier, they have surrendered nearly 450 yards per game with more than half of the damage coming on the ground. They’ve given up over 35 points per game and have shown no signs of improving after a month of the season.
While Purdue may not be as dangerous running the ball as other Big Ten opponents, they’re certainly potent enough to attack a vulnerable Minnesota secondary that hasn’t been picked on a great deal yet because of how poor the rush defense has been. We will learn a lot more about the Minnesota pass defense after tonight.
Prediction & Best Bet
At some point, Minnesota has to get it together right? There’s just too much talent on offense for Minnesota to be this bad so far. Purdue is a formidable opponent, but I believe the Gophers will treat this game as though their entire season depends on it.
Look for Mohamed Ibrahim to have a huge night on the ground and for the Gophers to hold off a sneaky good Purdue team to get Minnesota their second win of the season.
Prediction: Minnesota 34, Purdue 31
Best Bet: Minnesota -1.5 (Would take up to -2.5)
If You’re Feelin’ Frisky: Parlay the following: Cuse +20, SYR/LOU UNDER 55, Minnesota -1.5, PUR/MIN OVER 60.5 (+935)
No long write-up for these, but if I were betting on the other two matchups tonight, this is where I would lean:
• Florida Atlantic/UMass UNDER 51
• Air Force (-9.5) over New Mexico