Virginia vs Syracuse Odds, Predictions, Picks: College Football Betting Preview (Friday, Sept. 23)
Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Quarterback Garrett Shrader and the Syracuse Orange.
Virginia vs Syracuse Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The Syracuse Orange entered Year 7 of the Dino Babers era with a win total of 4.5 games and plenty of questions about what its offense would look like with Garrett Shrader at quarterback.
The Orange then upset Louisville on home turf to begin the year and beat Purdue in dramatic fashion with a touchdown in the final seconds last week.
Their preseason win total was 4.5 games. They're now 3-0 and solidly favored to start 4-0 for the first time since 2018, when Syracuse won 10 games in the only winning year under Babers.
Virginia has barely scraped by thus far and has not looked impressive in doing so. The Cavaliers are 2-1 but have failed to cover the spread this season. A 24-3 loss to Illinois looks ugly on the early-season résumé, and the Cavaliers needed a last-second field goal to beat Old Dominion at home last week.
Despite the advantages in some of the matchups here for the Orange, Syracuse is a fortunate 3-0, and the box score from the Cavaliers' last win against Old Dominion was a bit misleading.
The number has inflated too far on the Orange, and that creates value on the Hoos.
While the sample is a bit small in college football since 2005, teams that are 0-3 against the spread tend to fare well against teams that are 3-0 against the spread.
Virginia's offense has struggled mightily in the red zone to begin the 2022 season, and it's a decent bet that some of that will positively regress going forward.
The Cavaliers rank 32nd in Rushing Success Rate, which is the bigger weakness of the Orange on paper. Louisville and Purdue couldn't do much on the ground, but neither team is built around rushing attacks and is generally pass first.
The ability to successfully run the ball would, in theory, help them inside the 20, and I'm more inclined to believe that the Cavaliers' struggles inside the opponent's 40 will correct itself a bit going forward.
Even though the game did come down to the final kick, Virginia had a 98% post-game win expectancy in the two-point victory. The Cavaliers still moved the ball at will with eight trips past ODU's 40-yard line; they just turned that into only 16 points.
Syracuse does have a bend-don't-break defense historically under Tony White, but the Cavaliers should have plenty of success moving the ball from a Success Rate perspective.
The biggest weakness of the Cavaliers offense has been the offensive line. UVA ranks 126th in pass blocking, but the strength of the Orange's defense is not the pass rush. Syracuse couldn't get anywhere near Aidan O'Connell last week and didn't even get much pressure on Malik Cunningham in Week 1.
Brennan Armstrong had a terrible game on the road in Week 2 at Illinois, and that's a concern heading into a difficult road environment in Syracuse's dome.
I also don't think you can just throw out his past two seasons of effective and efficient quarterback play, either, though. Yes, the Cavaliers lost both their offensive coordinator and QB coach, but Armstrong ranked extremely highly in PFF's metrics and had 48 big-time throws to just 21 turnover-worthy plays in the last two seasons.
Babers hired both Robert Anae and Jason Beck from Virginia to be his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The goal was to try to improve Shrader as a passer in his first full season as Syracuse's starting quarterback.
Through three games, the results have been encouraging. He didn't fare quite as well in a home game against Purdue last week, but Shrader was the top-graded passer in all of the Power Five conferences after two weeks, per PFF.
The offense still runs through star running back Sean Tucker, even though he too was bottled up by the Purdue defense last week. But the Orange have a more explosive passing attack in 2022.
The cracks started to show when Shrader was finally pressured last week.
Looking at our matchup matrix below, we can see that Virginia does have an advantage in the defensive line pass rush battle. The Cavaliers should be able to get to Shrader, who has been considerably less consistent when pressured. He averages four fewer yards per attempt and has three turnover-worthy plays in these situations.
That hasn't resulted in an interception yet, but Shrader was quite fortunate to avoid a turnover last week against Purdue. In fact, the Orange were fortunate to avoid defeat. Purdue won the box score pretty clearly, gaining 180 more yards for a 78% post-game win expectancy.
The Orange could just run all over Virginia, and that's the major concern with backing Virginia at a solid underdog number here. Tucker is extremely dynamic and explosive even though he had a poor game against Purdue.
It's a positive for the Orange knowing that Illinois ran for 4.5 yards per carry and 198 total yards against the Hoos two weeks ago.
Virginia vs Syracuse Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Virginia and Syracuse match up statistically:
Virginia Offense vs Syracuse Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Syracuse Offense vs Virginia Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||103||66|
|Seconds per Play||25.2 (43)||27.4 (86)|
|Rush Rate||52.7% (73)||60.6% (26)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Virginia vs Syracuse Pick
From a buy-low and sell-high perspective, Virginia has to be the side here.
The Cavaliers have vastly underperformed to this point and have yet to cover a spread. They entered the season with a win total of seven, albeit on the weaker side of the conference and with an easier nonconference schedule.
The Orange's preseason win total came in at 4.5.
After three weeks of football, which includes a fortunate win for Syracuse, the Orange are now laying more than a touchdown. I understand that Virginia's offense has been terrible in the red zone and the offensive line has underperformed, but Syracuse's defensive line is not one that induces Havoc.
Plus, Virginia's defense should know its former coordinator's offensive plan well.
I'm highly confident the Cavaliers will not finish the season as one of the 10-worst teams in Finishing Drives in the country. Virginia will have enough success on the ground to keep this game competitive, and its offensive line won't buckle as much as it has in recent games.
The market has come down off of the key number of 10, but I still like Virginia at nine or better.
Pick: Virginia +9 or Better