Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#339 Western Michigan 63 vs.
#340 Syracuse -4.5
Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 12:00pm EDT
Written by Nick Raffoul

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#339 Western Michigan University
#340 Syracuse University
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The Western Michigan Broncos will travel to the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon for a tough non-conference battle versus the Syracuse Orange.

The Orange have lost by a combined 78 points over the past two weeks, but they have a chance to build some confidence against a MAC opponent this week. Western Michigan isn’t just going to roll over though and they come into the week averaging 40.7 points per game. The Broncos lone loss, a 51-17 drubbing versus Michigan State, will have them eager to show that they can compete with major conference opponents. Can Western Michigan hang on the road versus a Syracuse team that has lost two in a row?

Eskridge not likely to haunt Orange in rematch

It seems to be all or nothing for the Broncos so far this season, as their first three games have been decided by an average of 38.7 points per game. Luckily, they’ve escaped with a 2-1 record during that span and are fresh off another blowout win at home against Georgia State. The Broncos rumbled their way to a school-record seven rushing touchdowns behind star running back LeVante Bellamy. After averaging just 2.9 yards per carry through the first two contests, the senior running back exploded for 192 yards and three scores on 12.8 yards per carry last week. Backfield mate Sean Tyler added 138 yards and two rushing scores in the 57-10 win. Quarterback Jon Wassink was an efficient 15-of-20 passing for 246 yards and a touchdown, while the defense held Georgia State to just 336 total yards on the day. Wassink came into the season with 30 career touchdowns and just 10 interceptions for his career and the senior has completed 70.7 percent of his passes so far this year.

The main difference on the outside this year will be D’Wayne Eskridge’s presence as a two-way player. Despite entering as the highest-graded returning wide receiver in the MAC Conference (72.3), the team thought he would have a better chance of making the pros as a defensive back. In last year’s matchup, Eskridge finished with eight receptions for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He comes in with 14 tackles (10 solo) and four passes defended this season after racking up 776 yards and three touchdowns out wide as a junior. However, he’s only caught one pass for 20 yards through the first three games, so this could be the game that he’s unleashed on the offensive end.

Orange show improvement on defense vs. Clemson

Syracuse is trying to bounce back after getting dismantled in back-to-back weeks, but they are coming off a better-than-expected performance last week versus the No. 1-ranked Clemson Tigers. The Orange picked off starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence twice, while holding the Tigers to just 5-for-14 on third down, but they weren’t able to get anything going offensively, especially on the ground. Syracuse had just 187 total yards and 15 rushing yards on 42 attempts, thanks to eight sacks by the Clemson defense. Only Akron has surrendered more sacks than Syracuse’s 14 this season. The offensive line has been a major reason for the team’s 1-2 start this year and the team is averaging just 2.4 yards per rush (118th of 130 FBS teams).

Despite the loss the Orange actually moved up to 66th in the SP+ rankings, which is also precisely where The Athletic has them ranked in their Top 130 Power Rankings. Syracuse isn’t expected to make any changes to the depth chart this week, so the continuity should serve them well at home versus Western Michigan.

Tommy DeVito will have to be more careful with the football (4 INT), but the Orange could be better served by keeping the ball on the ground this week. Western Michigan has given up 196.3 rushing yards per game this season. Senior running back Moe Neal leads the Orange in rushing with 158 yards and a score. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry versus non-conference opponents, so expect him to have a big day on Saturday.

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Syracuse comes into the week favored by five points, but this is by no means a lock for the Orange. The defense looked much-improved versus Clemson, which is a welcome sight after they gave up 63 points to Maryland the week prior, but they will have their hands full versus a high-flying Western Michigan offense. The Broncos have enough playmakers to make this game interesting and Syracuse’s offensive line play has been atrocious in the early going. The Orange are also averaging 8.3 penalties per game, which has also stunted scoring drives this season. There’s just not too many things to hang your hat on for the Orange in this game, so take the Broncos to cover and potentially pull off the upset on the road this week. 

Prediction: Western Michigan +5

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I expect this to be a relatively low-scoring affair and I think there’s some value in the under here. Thanks to some poor offensive line play, Syracuse’s offense has really underperformed through the first three games, but they’ve been fairly solid on the defensive end. Western Michigan isn’t likely to hang a 40-spot on the road and the Orange haven’t topped 24 points yet in a game this year. The total is set at 65.5 points, which seems like a lot to play with in this spot. Take the under with confidence in this matchup on Saturday afternoon. 

Prediction: Under 65.5
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.