By Marc Lawrence, PlaybookSports.com — Very interesting slate of games this weekend presents excellent chance to produced upsets. Here are the matchups we like best:
SYRACUSE over Clemson by 6
Back-to-back high noon starts for both squads sets the stage for this ‘Survivor’ version of ACC football, where we simply must ask the question: is it just us or does it seem as if Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is suddenly fallible? He offered no excuses for last week’s home loss to Florida State, a game in which the only lead of the game for the Seminoles was the fi nal score in overtime. In fact, it was so ridiculous that the Tigers won the stats, 429-311. Now 0-2 in the ACC for the fi rst time since 2010, all Dabo can do is focus on making it to the ACC championship game. As USA TODAY put it, “It’s been an incredible run: seven ACC championships, two national championships, four trips to the national championship game and fi ve trips to the playoff, all since 2015. Clemson remains a top-end program with realistic annual goals of competing for the ACC crown and battling for a playoff berth, but the dynasty is over.” Syracuse and head coach Dino Babers won’t give the Tigers any bulletin board material like that; they won’t have to since the Orange has given Clemson fi ts lately, cashing tickets in 5 of the last six series get-togethers. The Orange trailed Army 10-0 in the second quarter before reeling off 29 straight points in last week’s 29-16 win over the Cadets to improve to 4-0, and they enter the dome today with a 44 PPG offense and the nation’s No. 1 ranked team in Red Zone Defense. While the Tigers still own the superior athletes, it’s their troubled psyche that we question here. Not to be left out, the Well-Oiled Machine chimes in with this nugget, via THE CLINCHER: 4-0 conference home dogs in Game Five of the season are 11-3-1 ATS against foes who allow 19 or more points per game, including 10-1-1 ATS if the home dog surrenders fewer than 18.5 points per game.
Florida over KENTUCKY by 10
Like John Cale sang in his classic song ‘After Midnight’, we’re going to “Find out what it is all about” when it comes to this year’s Florida Gators. Leaving the Swamp for the fi rst time in a month poses the question: will we see the UF team that dominated Tennessee in a 29-16 beatdown two weeks ago or will we get the team that has lost two straight to Kentucky? We’re opting for the former, as Florida has been an underdog just ONCE in this series back in 1988 when the Gators took 1-point and, yes, they won the game. Yes, the orange-and-blue stands 39-4 SU in this series since 1980, (21-1 if allow 14 or fewer PPG), and will be looking to settle the score with UK for losses the past two seasons. Kentucky is getting a lot of chatter around the SEC after pumping out 38 PPG in a 4-0 start but who have the Wildcats played? Try Ball State (1-3), Eastern Kentucky (1-3), Akron (1-3) and Vanderbilt (2-3)… enough pastry to stock a Dunkin Donuts, eh? Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has worked wonders during his 10-plus years at Lexington but he’s a money-burning 8-14 ATS at home in conference games versus foes off an ATS loss. And when it comes to taking on a conference team playing with revenge, the Cats are more mild than wild, cashing just three tickets in their last ten tries. With another DIA, DIA play – dogs in action, doing it again.
Illinois over PURDUE by 11
The Illini might be 2-2 but in our book they’re an embarrassing FBS worst 0-4 ATS, partly because they rank 126th in Turnover Margin. Illinois HC Bret Bielema has had success in the shadow of the Neil Armstrong Engineering Building on the Purdue campus (seriously, how cool is that?) and Bielema certainly has a Big 10 track record of payback games. He’s rather good at it, 13-6 ATS on the road when seeking revenge and that includes a spotless 5-0 ATS mark since arriving in Champaign-Urbana. The Illini is another offensively challenged B1G team, not along the lines of Iowa mind you, but 89 points in four games might have been great in the 1960s when Neil Armstrong was a Purdue student. The desert made the Boilermakers the betting favorite, and that’s where things get ugly for Purdue. They are 1-6 ATS in the last seven games when laying points against avenging teams, 0-4 ATS at Ross-Ade last year and 0-3 SU at home this season. Purdue always seems tougher when they have the chip on their shoulder and here to knock it off is THE CLINCHER: Purdue is 0-12 ATS as a conference favorite of 18 or less points. Mere months away from his Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong had to eject when a lunar module simulator went haywire. We’re advising you to eject and reject PU, while injecting your local betting parlor with some moon rocks on Illinois. That’s one small bet for man.
L.A. Rams over INDIANAPOLIS by 10
It looks as if the Colts’ entire offensive assault these days will come from the leg of FG kicker Matt Gay, who became the first player in NFL history to nail four fi eld goals from 50+ yards in last week’s 22-19 overtime win at Baltimore. The win improved QB Gardner Minshew’s record to 2-10 SU and 3-9 ATS in his last dozen starts. Complicating matters, the Colts are 5-10 SUATS in non-division games following consecutive underdog wins. Given the fact that Indy is one of 6 NFL teams to have been outgained in each of their games this season, what are the chances for the Colts this week? It is not all that good. The Rams have a top coach and a quality quarterback, which makes them dangerous on any given Sunday. Especially knowing that the Lucky Shoes are just 2-12-1 ATS when coming off consecutive SUATS wins, including 0-8-1 ATS at home. Sean McVay delivers the knockout punch with THE CLINCHER: McVay is 5-0 ATS away in his career, and 5-0 ATS when coming off a loss in his career, against foes coming off a SU underdog win.
HOUSTON over Pittsburgh by 6
The Steelers defense rose to the occasion again last week when it picked off three Jimmy Garoppolo passes in a 23-16 decision over the Raiders. That makes it two weeks in a row they’ve bailed out Pittsburgh’s anemic offense. It’s so bad that the Steelers are one of only 6 teams in the league that have been out-yarded in each of their games this season. And as devotees of the MIDWEEK ALERT, you know that makes the Steelers a ‘Leaking Oil’ fade. On the other side of the fi eld, Houston rookie C.J. Stroud is the fi rst quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 900 yards, four passing touchdowns, and zero interceptions in their fi rst three starts. He also has the most attempts of any NFL quarterback without an interception this season. Through three games, Stroud has completed 73 of 103 passes (70.9 percent) for 877 yards and all four of his touchdowns while inside the pocket. Outside the pocket, where he was often dangerous as a playmaker in college, Stroud has only completed fi ve of 18 throws (27.8 percent) for 29 yards on 1.6 yards per attempt. Amazingly, he has accomplished all of this while playing behind an unsettled and injury-riddled offensive line that is allowing the third-highest pressure rate in the league. Through it all, he leads the league with a 77.8 percent completion percentage (14 of 18) against man coverage while tossing 222 yards and two touchdowns. The league average completion percentage against man coverage is 58.5 percent. So now that we’ve ascertained that we have the better QB in this game, we’ll lean on Houie’s 6-1 ATS mark as a dog with a win percentage of .333 or more when coming off its initial win of the season. With the Steelers staring dead ahead to a bigger clash up next with Baltimore, we hand it off to THE CLINCHER: Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin is 12-21-1 ATS as a non-division road favorite coming off a win, including 1-11 ATS during the fi rst six games of the season.
Miami over BUFFALO by 6
Miami scored the most points in the NFL since 1966 in last week’s 70-20 home rout of the Broncos. The Dolphins’ 1,651 yards are the most by any team through three games since at least 1940. The Dolphins’ 726 yards were second-most in NFL history – and they did it without the services of Jaylen Waddle! It was also only the 8th time a team won a game by 50 or more points since 1980. Furthermore, for what it’s worth, there have been only fi ve teams that tallied 60-plus points in a game since 1980. Each of them lost the money the following contest, going 0-5 ATS – yet none of them were seeking revenge from a playoff loss the previous season, as Miami is today. The fact that the Dolphins scored more points on Sunday (70) than the Broncos have all season (69) pretty much says it all about the state of affairs for both teams. So, what can we really expect this week, you ask? Certainly not 70 points. That’s a given. But considering that 17 of the last 22 teams that managed to put up 50-plus points on the scoreboard came back and won their following game, we’d be inclined not to back off the Dolphins’ aerial act anytime soon. And then there is the ever-present MIDWEEK ALERT, which calls out the fact that Miami is averaging 6.1 Yards Per Rush, which fi ts like a glove into a Bills’ defense that surrenders 5.9 Yards Per Rush. With the Fish 7-1 ATS in division contests behind Mike McDaniel, and Buffalo 2-7 SU and 1-8 ATS when coming off a SUATS win versus opponents coming off a win of 13-plus points, we say just do it.