The ACC is back in action this week, despite the postponement of Notre Dame and Wake Forest’s conference battle, and we are here to give you our top bets you can make for Saturday’s slate of games. All these bets – unless included in our parlay – have odds that are better than -200.
Louisville @ Pittsburgh, OVER 55.5
Louisville put up 34 points against a pretty decent Miami defense, and that was with three turnovers. If the Cardinals clean up the miscues, I anticipate them being able to put up another 30-35 points against Pitt. Meanwhile, Louisville’s defense looked absolutely abysmal, and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett has the talent to take advantage of the blown coverages that the Cardinals offered up at an alarming rate. I think Pitt races to keep pace with Louisville, trying to avoid a home loss, and this game ends up with both teams putting up 30+ points.
Syracuse @ Georgia Tech, UNDER 52.5
Talk about two abysmal offenses in this match-up. In four total games, these two teams have combined for 53 points. That’s horrendous. They should both be 0-2 had it not been for Florida State’s equally abysmal offense against Georgia Tech in the season opener. Syracuse has a pretty solid defense overall, keeping UNC in check for three quarters, and limiting Kenny Pickett and the Pitt Panthers to 21 points. I think this game is an ugly, defensive slog, where whichever team can break 20 points will claim victory. I can’t picture this game hitting the over.
NC State (+7.0) @ Virginia Tech
I flinched on this one. I liked Virginia Tech at first, but the Hokies really struggled at the start of last season, particularly in an embarassing loss to a BC team that lost by 24 to Kansas shortly after, and they’re playing a team that is already a week into their campaign. NC State boasted a new-look offense that was dynamic last week, plastering 45 points on Wake Forest. While Wake Forest isn’t as good as Virginia Tech, I wouldn’t bet on this Wolfpack offense losing by more than a touchdown right now. I’d be tempted to take the +210 moneyline here, but I’ll just give the spread as my go-to pick.
Miami (-11.5) vs. Florida State
This is probably the one I’m least confident out of the four, but I really am going to heap the embarrasment on the ‘Noles here. FSU lost by 17 at home to Miami last year, and the Hurricanes look a lot better this season. Meanwhile, the Seminoles were an absolute embarassment in their home opener, losing to an unimpressive Georgia Tech team in Week 1. Nothing gives me confidence that FSU keeps this one close on the road against their rivals, currently ranked 12th. I’m leaning Miami by two touchdowns in this one, covering the spread.
Coming up with a list of the top 7 moments to feature this week in college football was brutally difficult. Some of these are a series of games, others a specific national championship, and others are an unlikely or inspirational run to a national title. For the most part, I refined this list to postseason moments, or games that decided a national championship, simply because with such an overwhelming list of possible options to feature, I decided that the ones with the biggest impact would be the ones that had championship implications.
This selection at #6 may not be the most popular pick, but the 1959 Syracuse Orangemen not only surprised everyone by winning the national championship, they did so with dominance and few classic victories sprinkled in along the way. Shoutouts go to a few of the other stunning champions – the 1981 Clemson Tigers and the 1983 Miami Hurricanes being among the top few – but I picked the Syracuse squad due to their story prior to the season, combined with their utter dominance and Hall of Fame talent on their roster.
Entering the season, Syracuse was unranked and relatively unheralded. They had averaged 5.5 wins per season under head coach Ben Schwartzwalder in ten years, and had cracked the AP Top 10 just twice and finished the season ranked a total of three times in the 23 years of the AP Poll. the Schwartzwalder era had largely been one of slightly above average play and losses in big games, as shown by Syracuse’s 0-3 Bowl Game record. Their most recent bowl game appearance ended in meek defeat, 21-6 to Oklahoma on January 1st, 1959. Little was expected of the Orangemen in the upcoming season.
However, Syracuse’s defense was an absolute unit in 1959, dominating virtually every opponent they faced. The most points they gave up was 21, and that came in the opener against Kansas. How the Jayhawks scored 21 points is pretty remarkable, given that Syracuse held them to 67 total yards of offense. Syracuse still won 35-21 without major difficulty, and they then embarked on a wild ride of pure dominance.
In their next five games, the Orangemen gave up a whopping 12 points in total, posting three shutouts. They started by hosting Maryland and beating them 29-0, holding the Terrapins to 29 yards. They throttled Navy 32-6, Holy Cross 42-6, and then they punctuated their string of crushing victories by visiting #13 Pittsburgh and thumping the Panthers 35-0. Pittsburgh ran for negative six yards in the contest.
Leading the offensive surge was future Hall-of-Famer and sophomore Ernie Davis, who later won a Heisman in ‘61. Davis notched 11 touchdowns and averaged 7 yards per carry for the Orangemen, playing in his first real college action. All-Americans Roger Davis (guard) and Bob Yates (tackle) along with tackle John Brown, who played ten years in the NFL, provided running lanes for Davis. All-American Fred Mautino was a key cog in the passing game and often sealed off the edge for Davis as well.
Back to their season, Syracuse’s stunningly dominant 5-0 start to the season had vaulted them from unranked to #4 in the country. Their next game was the best one of the season and an instant classic against #7 Penn State. The Nittany Lions were 7-0 on the year, and they quickly became the first team to take a lead against the Orangemen, leading 6-0. Syracuse scored 20 straight points and led 20-6 into the fourth quarter. Despite being held to two yards of offense in the second half, Penn State manufactured two touchdowns on a kickoff return and a blocked punt that gave them the ball at the Syracuse 1. A Penn State touchdown made it 20-18, but as they did all year, the Orangemen stiffened up and turned back the 2-point conversion attempt to stay in the lead in the final minute, running out the clock from there.
Combined with a tough week from the top three teams in the country, Syracuse’s victory vaulted them to #1 in the AP Poll for the first time in program history. The Orangemen hammered a pair of cupcake opponents and then punctuated their regular season slate with a dominating 36-8 victory at #17 UCLA.
Syracuse drew #4 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, and they didn’t let the chance for a bowl victory and undefeated season slide by. The Cotton Bowl was a racially charged game, with Syracuse having three African-American starters in Davis, Brown, and fullback Art Baker. Texas was an All-White team, and the game was hosted in the deep south, in Dallas, Texas. There was a mini-brawl during the game, and Davis, Brown, and Baker had to stay in a separate suite from their teammates. Regardless of the situation, and the pressure to claim the national championship, Syracuse didn’t fold as many experts predicted. On the second play of the game, Davis took a pass and raced 87 yards for a touchdown. Later, he rushed it in from a yard out to put the ribbon on Syracuse’s 80-yard drive, catching a 2-point conversion pass for a 15-0 lead. Later, with the score 15-6, Davis snared an interception and returned it to the Texas 24. He then ran for 21 yards and, on a trick play, threw for the final three yards. He caught another conversion pass for a 23-6 lead that iced the game for the Orangemen. They would win 23-14 to secure the national title and their first major bowl victory.
Syracuse began the following year ranked #1, but consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Army saw them slide to #17. They did finish the year with an Orange Bowl victory, but Syracuse has not been ranked #1 since. They haven’t been in the Top 10 since 1996.
Roger Davis was the seventh overall pick in the 1960 draft, running back Gerhard Schwedes was a fourth round pick, Yates got his name called in the 7th, and, back in the days of the extended draft, end Dave Baker went in the 17th round.
Davis, as mentioned above, won the 1961 Heisman Trophy, the first African American winner. He was selected first overall in the 1962 draft, but he was tragically diagnosed with Leukemia, and he died before ever suiting up for a professional game. He was 23 years old. His three years at Syracuse were nothing short of spectacular, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979. Below are his Cotton Bowl highlights from the ’59-60 season.
The Setup The 2016 NCAA basketball tournament had been somewhat standard outside of the Midwest Region that saw Syracuse and Virginia clash in an Elite Eight match-up. Most people could have predicted Virginia being at that stage, and the Cavaliers had gotten there with few issues, an eight-point win in the Round of 32 their closest call. Virginia was the top-seed in the region, but prior to the first round, they weren’t necessarily the fan favorite to get to the Final Four, as Michigan State, the second seed, was a popular national champion pick among brackets. That all changed when the Spartans were stunned by 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee in the Round of 64, leading to absolute chaos on the bottom half of the bracket. Syracuse was the biggest beneficiary as, after beating seventh-seeded Dayton, they got to face Middle Tennessee in the second round. They won by 25 points, heading to the Sweet 16, where they received excellent luck again. Rather than third-seeded Utah awaiting the Orange, they met #11 Gonzaga, who had stunned the Utes by 23 points. Syracuse escaped the Bulldogs, 63-60, and moved on to create a very unlikely Elite Eight contest against the Cavaliers.
How it went down Virginia was the higher ranked team, but they hadn’t been in the Elite Eight since 1995. In that time span, Syracuse had reached that stage four times, including going to the Final Four in 2014 and winning a national championship in 2003. Whether it would be Virginia’s talent or Syracuse’s magic and pedigree that mattered was yet to be seen. However, the opening minutes were slow, as nerves showed for both teams. At the first media timeout, four minutes into the game, Syracuse led just 4-2. Both teams awoke, but it was UVA who truly roared to life, as the Cavaliers accelerated past the Orange with a 19-2 run that covered 8 minutes and 8 seconds of clock time. That set the tone, and Virginia’s suffocating defense allowed them to take a comfortable 35-21 lead into the break. UVA allowed Syracuse to creep within single digits to start the half, but the Cavaliers quickly re-asserted themselves. With 9:33 showing on the clock, ACC player of the year Malcolm Brogdon drove and kicked it out to London Perrantes. Perrantes buried a three and Virginia took a commanding 54-39 lead. But that’s where things got interesting, as Syracuse started to figure out Virginia’s defense. The Orange scored on their next five trips down the floor, but Virginia did manage a pair of layups to keep Syracuse at bay, 58-49. However, Syracuse then really made their move. Malachi Richardson got free at the top of key and he drained a three to make it a six-point game. As UVA pushed down the court, Richardson swiped at the ball and it began to sail out of bounds, but the freshman leapt out of bounds and turned to ricochet the ball off Brogdon to make it Syracuse ball. Tyler Lydon buried another triple on the ensuing possession and it was 58-55. Two layups later, and the Orange had an unlikely lead. Richardson extended it with another three. When all was said and done, it was a stunning 25-4 run for Syracuse that turned a 15-point deficit into a 64-58 lead with 3:27 to play. Virginia’s slow-moving offense got back within 64-62 with 26 seconds to play, but that was as close as they would get. After a Syracuse free throw, the Cavaliers missed a game-tying three. The Orange went 3-4 from the charity stripe in the final 15 seconds to ice the 68-62 upset win.
The Aftermath Syracuse’s Cinderella story struck midnight in the Final Four, as they were manhandled by North Carolina. Two years later, the Orange made another surprising run, roaring into the Sweet 16 as an 11-seed before losing to Duke. Meanwhile, Virginia’s fall was the start of a bottoming out that would then lead to their first national title. They lost in the Round of 32 in 2017, and then they became the first 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed, getting routed by twenty points by UMBC. The Cavaliers rebounded and, due to this year’s cancellation, are still the defending champions after winning it all in 2019.
NBA Notables Syracuse – NONE Virginia – Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks, Pacers)
The ACC was busy on Saturday, but there were a few yawners before a Notre Dame-Florida State thriller ended the day. Recaps and takeaways are here, as well as the one Sunday game still to be played in the conference.
Louisville 80 Clemson 62
The Game: Darius Perry scored 19 points, Samuell Williamson chipped in 14 points off the bench, and Louisville went on a 17-0 run in the first half to put away the Tigers with ease, the game never coming closer than 13 points in the second half.
The Takeaway: Clemson is not a legitimate ACC contender. The Tigers had their inspiring underdog week, when they snapped a 59-game road losing streak to UNC and beat Duke at home, but they’ve lost two of three since then, and I don’t see the Tigers making any serious run in the ACC Tournament.
UNC 94 Miami 71
The Game: Brandon Robinson balled out with 29 points for the Tar Heels, Armando Bacot had a double-double as UNC put up 51 points in the second half and rolled versus Miami to break a 6-game skid.
The Takeaway: Miami is the worst team in the ACC. They’ve lost 6 of 7 games with five of those losses by 16 or more points and three by 20+. They entered the day in a tie for last in the ACC with UNC, and they were run off the court by the Tar Heels, clearly highlighting their struggles to be competitive this year.
Syracuse 69 Pittsburgh 61
The Game: Buddy Boeheim put up 21 points, Marek Dolezaj notched 17 points, and the Orange stayed hot, putting away the Panthers at home for their fifth straight ACC win.
The Takeaway: Syracuse’s ability to win in different ways could be huge in March. The Orange beat Notre Dame in a shootout 84-82, but they relied on their defense to win on Saturday. During their current winning streak, four of their five wins have been 8 or less points – come March, their ability to win ugly close games could be clutch.
Boston College 61 Virginia Tech 56
The Game: BC got 23 points from Jairus Hamilton and outscored the Hokies 35-25 in the second half to overcome a halftime deficit and win at home.
The Takeaway: We have no idea what to expect out of BC. The Eagles beat Wake Forest and Notre Dame to start ACC play, but they lost four of their next five conference games, losing by 39, 18, 19, and 26 points. They lost to Pitt earlier in this week, but won today as an underdog – in conclusion? BC might be the worst or best team on your schedule depending on what version of the Eagles shows up.
Florida State 85 Notre Dame 84
The Recap: Highlighted by Wyatt Wilke’s 19 points 5 for 6 shooting performance from long range off the bench, Florida State shot 12/18 from deep as a team and held off a furious comeback by Notre Dame, who missed four shots in the final 15 seconds.
The Takeaway: Notre Dame is the best in the country at almost making huge comebacks. As the final Irish shot fell short of its mark, John Mooney grabbed the ball and hucked it at the base of the hoop in frustration. The Irish fell to 2-5 in one possession game and have lost four games in ACC play by a total of 7 points. In all four games, the Irish came back from a double-digit deficit only to lose it in the final seconds.
I don’t think there’s been much shift at the top in the ACC – I still view Louisville, Duke, and Florida State as the three favorites, but there were some performances that merited a second look as teams jockey for conference tournament position and potentially a spot in the NCAA field come March.
Biggest Risers: Syracuse, NC State After initially listing Virginia as a dark-horse candidate, I believe the Wolfpack became the ‘best of the rest’ in the ACC outside the aforementioned top 3. This past week, they ended Clemson’s surprising hot streak and edged Virginia on the road. I also think Syracuse made a statement this week – in my eyes, the Orange definitely put themselves squarely in consideration for an at-large bid come March. I still don’t see them contending for an ACC title, but they had some really gutsy wins that have them riding a four-game winning streak. They beat Virginia Tech on the road, and then they proved they could win without Buddy Boeheim, beating the Irish on the road 84-82. It was an impressive performance from a team that had lost to Notre Dame at home just two weeks earlier.
Biggest Fallers: Virginia, Notre Dame Both of these squads played victim to the risers this week. The defending national champions started conference play 3-0 and had me thinking this could be a team that would make another deep run, but they’ve lost four of five, including at home to the Wolfpack and the Orange. Their trademark defense keeps them in games, but this team has lost a lot of offensive firepower, and while they’ll likely make the tournament, I’m highly doubting they make a run. The Irish’s quest to reclaim some respect in the ACC took another hit with their home loss to Syracuse. They are 2-5 in ACC play, with the last four of those losses coming by a combined 11 points. With a star in John Mooney, the Irish are staying competitive, but they lack the finishing touch of a perennial winner, and that may plague them if they can’t figure it out soon.
QUICK HITS The ACC is still one of the best conferences, if not the best conference, in America, and they are loaded with Final Four contenders at the top of the standings. I see the ACC putting 8 teams in the tournament, and my prediction is that those teams will be Duke, Louisville, Florida State, NC State, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Virginia, and Notre Dame. Right outside the picture, I have Clemson and Pittsburgh. I’m declaring 4 ACC teams dead in the NCAA Tournament picture, and those teams are UNC, Miami, Wake Forest, and Boston College.
Biggest Upcoming Games Notre Dame @ #5 Florida State Pittsburgh @ Syracuse Clemson @ #6 Louisville