College Football Betting Odds & Pick: Clemson vs. Virginia Tech (Saturday, Dec. 5)
Mike Comer/Getty Images. Pictured: Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
- Clemson enters its final regular-season game hoping to ignite its offense against a struggling Virginia Tech team.
- The Hokies lost big last week to Pittsburgh, although QB Hendon Hooker and RB Khalil Herbert lead a potent rushing attack that could trouble the Tigers.
- Darin Gardner explains how he’s betting this game and why he’s expecting a lot of first-half scoring.
Clemson vs. Virginia Tech Odds
|Clemson Odds||-21.5 [BET NOW]|
|Virginia Tech Odds||+21.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-1250/+700 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||66.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today.|
After Clemson finally returned to the field last week after a long layoff, the team hits the road this week to take on Virginia Tech in Saturday’s ACC game.
This will actually be the Tigers’ final game of the regular season, as the ACC announced Clemson’s previous game against Florida State will not be rescheduled.
Because of that, this will be Clemson’s last opportunity to get game reps in before its rematch with Notre Dame in the ACC championship.
On the other hand, Virginia Tech has stumbled to a 4-5 record and enters this game following a 47-14 loss to Pittsburgh. You really have to question how motivated this team will be as such a large underdog in this lost season.
Clemson’s numbers are well above average, but based on its standards, the powerhouse is probably looking for improvement.
On the season, the Tigers rank 11th in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, 10th in Success Rate, 19th in Explosive Play Rate, and, 11th in points per drive.
These would be incredible numbers for almost any program, but a juggernaut like Clemson probably wants to be closer to the top five in these metrics rather than the top 10 in my opinion. If I’m nitpicking this bad, it shows you how high the expectations have climbed for the Tigers.
You already know how good Trevor Lawrence is, but I’m still going to remind of his skills. Among all Power Five quarterbacks, Lawrence ranks third in both Pro Football Focus grade and EPA per play. Additionally, he has thrown only two interceptions in 228 attempts.
Lawrence’s 0.08% Interception Rate ranks fifth in the country among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts. Even with Clemson battling significant wide receiver injuries all season long, he has been incredible.
Running back Travis Etienne pulled a shocker when he decided to return to school, but things haven’t gone as smoothly for him as they did the past two seasons.
After his first three years, Etienne was averaging 7.8 yards per carry for his career. That put him tied for third all-time, which was actually very close to Darrell Henderson’s record of 8.2 yards per carry.
However, Etienne is currently only averaging 5.2 yards on the ground. This has dropped him to 11th overall in that YPC statistical category.
That said, why has Etienne’s production declined as a senior? Clemson had to replace four of five offensive line starters, and as a result, the run blocking has suffered. The Tigers only rank 74th in Line Yards and 92nd in Opportunity Rate.
Because of this, Etienne has not been able to hit explosive runs at will like in years past. After being one of the most powerful running backs in college football history his first three years, Etienne ranks just 42nd nationally in 10-plus yard runs per game.
Thankfully for Clemson, Etienne has made up for his decline in rushing production by becoming a valuable weapon in the passing game. Etienne has the second-highest PFF receiving grade in the country among all running backs, ranking first in EPA per catch at the position.
Against a weak Virginia Tech run defense, we will see if Etienne can bust off some big runs like he has done so many times in his brilliant career.
Go ahead and try to find any key defensive metric where Clemson doesn’t rank in the top 10 in the nation. The Tigers’ defense has been dominant all season long, which is what we have come to expect from them. Through nine games, Clemson has held five of its opponents under 20 points.
The Tigers’ defense ranks fifth in EPA per play allowed, fourth in available yards allowed and third in First-Down Rate. Clemson also does a great job creating Havoc (third in Havoc rate), really locking down in its own territory (ninth in Finishing Drives) on the field.
Virginia Tech has a great rushing attack, but Clemson’s defensive front should still have a significant advantage. On the defensive line, the Tigers rank eighth in Stuff Rate, 10th in Sack Rate, and 14th in Line Yards. In total, Clemson ranks eighth in Rushing Success Rate allowed.
Against a Virginia Tech team that relies on the ground game, Clemson matches up very well on defense.
Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies’ offense has been really effective, despite the team’s 4-5 record. However, you can make a case that it might be too one dimensional to move the ball consistently against this Clemson defense.
Overall, Virginia Tech’s offense ranks 17th in Success Rate and 22nd in Explosive Play Rate. The backbone of the offense is the run game, with quarterback Hendon Hooker and running back Khalil Herbert.
The Hokies’ star in the backfield is putting up Etienne-like stats this year, ranking second in the nation at 8.1 yards per carry. Hooker is a big contributor in the run game as well, racking up more than 600 yards in nine games.
Hooker also ranks fifth in PFF rushing grade among all quarterbacks. As for the offense, Virginia Tech currently ranks third in Rushing Success Rate.
The rushing game has done well, but the passing offense needs improvement. Hooker does rank fifth in PFF rushing grade but is much lower at 59th in passing grade. As a team, Virginia Tech sits at just 63rd in Passing Success Rate. The offensive line has been great in the run game, but pass protection is one reason why the passing offense has been a little disappointing.
The Hokies also rank 96th in sack rate. That’s something you don’t want to see heading into a game against Clemson’s defensive front.
Bottom line, Virginia Tech isn’t locking anyone down on defense. On the season, the Hokies rank 102nd in EPA per play; 103rd in Success Rate and 103rd in Finishing Drives on defense.
The defense definitely struggles with the run more than the pass. Virginia Tech ranks about average in Passing Success Rate allowed, coming in at 68th overall in the country. However, it ranks 114th in Rushing Success Rate and 110th in Defensive Line Yards.
Against North Carolina and its two-headed backfield, Virginia Tech allowed running back Michael Carter to average 12.6 yards per carry and Javonte Williams to average 8.5 yards on the ground.
That said, we could definitely see a vintage Travis Etienne performance against this Hokies’ defense.
Betting Analysis & Pick
I don’t see how Virginia Tech gets any consistent stops against Clemson’s offensive starters. However, the one thing we know about Clemson is that it tends to pull its starters quite a bit earlier than most teams. This has been a trend throughout Dabo Swinney’s tenure.
I project this total at 71 points but prefer to take the over in the first half rather than the full game because it’s just really hard to project when the Tigers will take their foot off the gas pedal.
I expect Clemson to come out hot and pile up the points early. Look to play a first-half total if you can still get 34.5 points and a decent price.
Pick: 1H Over 34.5.