Syracuse vs


at Bronx NY
Thu, Dec 29
11:00 AM Pacific
Rotation: 253
Odds: Minnesota -11, Total: 44

Game Analysis

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Lean – Syracuse (+11)  21   MINNESOTA  26

I don’t understand why Syracuse is a 10-point underdog. I know that the Orange will be without running back Sean Tucker, NFL-bound LT Matthew Bergeron and defensive backs Williams (injured), Chestnut (transfer) and Carter (transfer). However, Tucker averaged only 4.5 yards per rush if you exclude the game against FCS team Wagner and the defensive losses don’t appear to be that severe.

Tucker was well below the 5.1 ypr national average and shouldn’t be too tough to replace. Losing Bergeron hurts more than losing Tucker but even if the new running back would have averaged 4.2 ypr in place of Tucker’s 4.5 ypr the offense without Bergeron (worth a point per game based on my algorithm) would still be 0.1 yppl better than average with Garrett Shrader at quarterback (Del Rio-Wilson was horrible in two games when Shrader was injured).

Minnesota’s defense rates at 0.5 yards per play better than average, which is not nearly as good as the 13.6 points per game allowed (vs FBS teams) suggests. The 27.9% successful third-down conversions allowed is unsustainably low and that percentage was 36.9% the previous 3 season under defensive coordinator Joe Rossi. I project only 281 yards at 5.3 yppl for Syracuse in this game.

Minnesota’s offense also has a third-down conversion rate (51.7% in FBS games) that is higher than it should be. I expect Minnesota to convert more third-downs than an normal team running back Mo Ibrahim rarely losing yardage, but he was the main back the previous two seasons too, with the same quarterback, and the Gophers converted 45.7% in those years. Minnesota’s offense is just 0.3 yppl better than average but their ability to move the chains and control the ball (34.8 average time of possession) makes them better than that and I project the Gophers to run 15 more plays from scrimmage than Syracuse in this game.

The Syracuse defense is without DBs Williams, Chestnut and Carter but I don’t think they’ll be that much worse. Williams missed the team’s final 4 games and Carter was replaced in the starting lineup by Jason Simmons, who ended up leading the team in passes defended despite starting only 5 games. The Syracuse defense was 0.1 yppl better in those final 4 games without Williams and with Simmons in the starting lineup. I think Carter saw the writing on the wall and transferred because he knew he wasn’t getting his starting spot back. Losing Chestnut is a minor issue given that he defended just 2 passes all season, which is not good. I did adjust a bit for Chestnut being out but it’s not that significant.

It’s unclear which of Minnesota’s quarterbacks will start, as 4-year starter Tanner Morgan is back practicing, but young buck Athan Kaliakmanis looks like he might continue to start. Kaliakmanis did have a significantly higher compensated yards per pass play but he completed just 52% of his 102 passes this season and those down the field throws he likes (he averaged 16.3 yards per completion) aren’t likely to be available against a Syracuse defensive scheme that is designed to take away those types of passes. The Orange keep everything in front of them, which is why they allow just 9.6 yards per completion, and they will give opponents the easy throws (67% completions allowed). I think Morgan (67% completions) is better suited to keep the chains moving against a defense like that than the inaccurate gun-slinger that Kaliakmanis is. I do think that Morgan will also play (and he may start) and I’ll use Minnesota’s overall passing metrics. I project 391 yards at 5.7 yppl for the Gophers in this game and it would be a bit lower if Morgan played the entire game – but with a lower projected interception rate in that case.

Overall, the math favors Minnesota by 7.7 points, which is close to the opening number of 7 points. I think the market has significantly overreacted to the players that Syracuse won’t have, who weren’t particularly good (aside from the offensive left tackle).

In addition to the line value, Syracuse applies to my best bowl situation – a 65-10-2 ATS big underdog situation that continues to win (6-1 the last 3 years). That angle only applies to underdogs of 7 points or more (with some other variables) and those big dogs are 37-40 straight up. I could be wrong about the Syracuse defense not being significantly affected by the two defensive backs that transferred and perhaps the back taking Tucker’s spot is even worse than I project (although projecting 0.9 ypr worse than average running back is pretty bad). I also don’t adjust for coordinators leaving a team before the bowl (both ‘Cuse coordinators are gone) because there is no evidence that it makes a difference. So, there is some variance in the math. However, the situation is good, and I’ll lean with Syracuse plus the points.

  • Team Stats
  • Game Log
  • Syracuse
  • Minnesota


  • Run Plays 29.5 36.8
  • Run Yards 144.1 177.7
  • YPRP 4.9 4.8


  • Pass Comp 16.1 21.4
  • Pass Att 27.4 31.4
  • Comp % 58.8% 68.1%
  • Pass Yards 220.6 207.7
  • Sacks 3.6 2.5
  • Sack Yards 20.7 14.6
  • Sack % 11.7% 7.2%
  • Pass Plays 31.0 33.8
  • Net Pass Yards 199.9 193.1
  • YPPP 6.4 5.7


  • Total Plays 60.5 70.6
  • Total Yards 344.0 370.8
  • YPPL 5.7 5.3


  • Int 0.6 0.8
  • Int % 2.3% 2.6%
  • Fumbles 0.4 0.8
  • Turnovers 1.0 1.6
  • Points 28.3 22.7
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