(1) Clemson -26.5 over Georgia Tech (bought half) -120:
Hard to believe it’s already been just over a month where the top ranked Tigers (4-0 3-0) took care of business in their ACC opener 37-13 over Wake Forest. Three games later since then the champs from 2 seasons ago look even more fine tuned remaining undefeated while outscoring their opponents 132-40 over that stretch. Last week in a nationally televised game from Death Valley, the Tigers mauled previously ranked Miami (3-1 2-1) 42-17 behind a dazzling performance from Heisman hopeful Trevor Lawrence (29/41 292 3 TD). It seems like light years away from last season’s rocky start, but Lawrence is focused on returning to the national stage. The All-American junior wasted little time barely 5:00 into the game giving the Tigers the lead for good with a 24 yard TD pass to Braden Galloway (4-74 2 TD). He also hooked up with Galloway just before halftime on an 11 yard scoring toss to give Clemson a 21-3 first half lead. Lawrence closed out the scoring in dominating fashion finding Davis Allen from 22 yards, his only scoring catch of the game. Travis Ettienne (17-149 8.8 2 TD) found the end zone on scoring runs of 2 and 72 yards as the Tigers racked up 550 total yards including 258 on the ground. The star senior also caught 8 passes for 73 yards and has emerged as one of the major dual threats in the country. Clemson’s defense forced 4 turnovers and wreaked havoc on D’Eriq King (12/28 121 2 INT) who proved to be stagnant when it came to Miami moving the ball. In fact, King (14-84 6.0 1 TD) provided the Hurricanes their only offensive TD with a 7 yard run midway through the 4th quarter, otherwise the other points Miami could muster was a Jose Borregales 42 yard field goal and a 48 yard blocked punt to paydirt by DJ Ivey. Miami managed just 9 first downs to Clemson’s 34, and were outgained 550-210. King was also sacked 6 times, 3 by Baylon Spector. Clemson heads down south to Georgia Tech (2-2 2-1) to face the Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Yellow Jackets come off an impressive 46-27 win against Louisville last week as Jeff Sims (11/21 249 2 TD) was able to expose a vulnerable Cardinals defense against the pass, a rare incentive for GT these days. Jahmyr Gibbs (13-61 4.7 1 TD) opened the scoring running for a 7 yard TD 6 minutes into the first quarter. GT then used a 32-6 second half after falling behind 21-7 late in the first half. Jamaious Griffin (5-15 3.0 1 TD) ran for a 3 yard score midway through the 3rd quarter while Sims (7-64 9.1 1 TD) scampered 22 yards to paydirt to earn back the lead. Sims then lit it up in a decisive 20 point 4th quarter hooking up with Malachi Carter (3-89 1 TD) from 19 yards out to give the JAckets a 32-27 lead eventually followed up by a Sims scoring pass to Gibbs of 19 yards (2-60 1 TD) clinching the win and haltimg a 2 game losing streak. GT’s defense forced 4 lost fumbles despite allowing 471 total yards to the Cardinals high powered offense. Malik Cunningahm (19/33 229 2 TD) hung in tough after throwing two first half TD passes. He also ran for 2 scores (14-50 3.6 2 TD) and Javian Hawkins (26-155 6.0) helped convert several first downs to keep Louisville drives alive, but it wasn’t enough due to key turnovers in important spots forced by Georgia Tech.

Lawrence (84/116 1140 10 TD) has used prosperity, maturity, durability, and experience to right the ship after a nightmarish 2019 start where he produced 8 TD and 5 INT through his first 5 games. Despite losing his return to the national championship, Lawrence dominated in the second half of the season that has unquestionably carried over to his team’s advantage. After what looked to be a quiet start for Etienne (56-392 7.0 4 TD), he quickly silenced his critics with a breakout performance which should only become more enhanced as the season progresses. What makes this balanced offense averaging nearly 44 points per contest even more dangerous is the receiving core led by Amari Rodgers (12/206 3 TD), Frank Ladson Jr (9-179 2 TD), and Etienne (9-172 1 TD), all deep threats capable of producing yards after catches eluding opposing secondaries. Head coach Dabo Sweeney was fortunate to keep the majority of his returning squad as well as inheriting a disciplinary scheme on both sides of the ball. Clemson is extremely quick paced and refuses to take their foot off the gas until they build insurmountable leads. They average nearly 480 yards overall and are 16th in the country in offensive efficiency. This formula does not bode well for GT’s defense, yielding 32 points per contest and exposed significantly against Louisville despite the win. While playing with swagger through 4 games, they must also control a tendency to give up big plays and have their offense produce more to keep opponents off the field. In Georgia Tech’s losses to Central Florida and Syracuse, the Yellow Jackets defense was exploited by big plays and its shortcomings in pressuring the quarterback. The end result was 86 points and 1,017 yards allowed in two games. Quez Jackson leads the club with 33 tackles, and 5 players already have a couple of sacks. However, Wesley Walker is off to a slow start slow to the punch on the outside and will need to keep a more stern eye and anticipate Lawrence’s versatility with the same going true for David Curry especially if the Tigers look to ground and pound with Etienne succeeding on numerous touches in the backfield and out in the flat.

Sims (65/119 944 5 TD 8 INT) showed ample improvement this past week against Louisville, however it was against one of the most prone defenses capable of giving up big plays in the secondary. Given GT has been known for the triple option attack and speed off the pitch, Sims (44-251 5.7 3 TD) is certain to call his own number often and again. The Jackets need to control tempo and not make mistakes in order to keep a potent Clemson offense to a minimum. Gibbs (46-232 5.0 2 TD) will also get the bulk of the work early, and don’t think that Geoff Collins won’t take chances in some trickeration when it comes to the passing game. Carter (14-213 2 TD), Jalen Camp (14-142 1 TD) and the all purpose Gibbs (8-146 3 TD) are proven weapons, but they face a huge challenge against Clemson’s defense which is among the best in the country as evident by their 19 sacks and 6 team INT’s thus far. Spector and Miles Murphy have each recorded 3.5 sacks already and are a one-two punch in total tackles. The Tigers allow only 13 ppg thus far and are 10th against the run yielding a mere 90 yards per contest overall with an equally intimidating secondary. Brent Venables has this team prepared week after week no matter who the opponent may be and his fundamentals established a foundation that has allowed their backs, safeties and corners not only see the field early, but excel and grow quickly.

Georgia Tech’s run-first offense is averaging 213.8 yards on the ground, but let’s see them put up similar numbers against a well balanced defense on the ground and through the air like Clemson’s. Also, though Clemson’s methodical approach against Miami worked, the Tigers can connect on a big play as well as any team in the country. Additionally, if Sims looks complacent and tentative, there won’t be much opportunity to duplicate the success of Lawrence, Etienne, and the balanced receiving core which is capable of doing damage consistently and often.

I’ll have a second pick for Saturday up shortly.


(4) Notre Dame -16 over Louisville (bought half) -120:
Staying in the ACC on a Saturday afternoon in South Bend we have Louisville (1-3 0-3) looking for their first conference win against 4th ranked Notre Dame (3-0 2-0). The Irish didn’t look as dominating as they could have been, however the National Primetime Spotlight and colder weather didn’t get in the way of Notre Dame staying undefeated with a 42-26 win over Florida St. Kyren Williams (19-185 9.7 2 TD) scored on TD runs of 46 and a yard out respectively, including the clincher early in the third quarter that gave the Irish the lead for good. Ian Book (16/25 201 2 TD) looked poised and efficient throughout the evening finding Michael Mayer (2-25 1 TD) from 8 yards out and later Bredon Lenzy (3-29 1 TD) on a 6 yard strike as ND tallied 554 yards of total offense against an undermanned and outclassed FDU defense. Book (9-58 6.4 1 TD) also ran for a score as did Chris Tyree (11-103 9.4 1 TD)while Jason Mckinley caught 6 passes for 107 yards overall. Jordan Travis (13/24 204 1 TD 1 INT) was mediocre at best and was sacked 5 times by the Notre Dame defense. Jordan Travis (19-96 5.1 1 TD) and LaDamian Webb (13-59 4.5 1 TD) led a Seminoles offense that gained 153 yards of rushing offense. Tamorrion Terry (9-146 1 TD) had a career game but FSU couldn’t take advantage of an otherwise sloppy Irish offense in the second half which committed 3 turnovers overall.

Book (47/75 608 3 TD 1 INT) has looked rather pedestrian through 3 games thus far, but has gotten a big lift from Williams (48-359 7.5 4 TD) and Tyree (25-188 7.5 2 TD) thus far. Williams is also tied for the team lead in receiving yards (6-114) with Javon McKinley (6-114) with Tommy Tremble (9-110) as a vibrant third option though none have yet to find the end zone. Book has also ran for 4 scores on his own, and this ND offense while modest and methodical like to rely on the ground game where they do most of their damage. ND is 13th in the country averaging 230 rushing yards and 435 overall. The Irish average 40 points per contest, but looked kind of sluggish against Duke, and called off the dogs early against South Florida. Brian Kelly doesn’t seem to be the type to put the pedal to the metal, but focuses more on consistency rather than a quick pace. Their luck might change against Louisville, a defense which has allowed 37 points per contest and has looked a couple of steps behind since their hard fought win over Western Kentucky. Doran Ehteridge and Monty Montgomery each lead the Cardinals with 2 sacks but allowed Georgia Tech to expose them to a game the Jackets are not normally used to excelling in which is the passing game allowing 46 points last week. Also, they’ve recorded only one interception all season, so it’s essential ND focus on ball control and not commit any turnovers which could be vulnerable to beating themselves if the game is close early. Clearly, as evidenced in Louisville’s outings, the process still has a lengthy journey. There have been missed assignments, poor alignments, subpar tackling and the inability to create turnovers.

Cunningham (73/124 986 9 TD 5 INT) has been the perennial one man show thus far for the Cardinals, and has stayed healthy while proving that he is capable of being at the helm for the long haul. Javian Hawkins (85-468 5.5 3 TD) is a one man wrecking crew for this Louisville running game which has otherwise looked impressive thus far. Top targets for Cunningham are Tutu Atwell (25-281 4 TD) who caught 6 passes for 52 yards and a score in the losing effort against GT. Dez Fitzpatrick (13-234 1 TD) got off to a great start, but has only 2 catches for 50 yards in as many games. Irish head coach Kelly and DC Clark Lea were less than impressive against a Seminoles team that hung in last week, and need to put the pieces together this week against an inconsistent but fluid Louisville squad who is capable of making big plays. Like Louisville, the Irish have recorded just 1 INT all season. Kyle Hamilton is the featured back on defense with 16 tackles, tied with Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah. Isaiah Foskey has 3 sacks thus far, but the Irish can’t look past another conference foe, especially given the fact that a lower tier opponent virtually hung in until late, most attributed to poor tackling.

This could be the transition game the Irish need to be recognized as the top 5 power they are, and not just on paper. Book is recognized as the unequivocal leader of the Irish, but he hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers…because he hasn’t had to. Running back Kyren Williams carved up the Seminoles for 185 yards and two touchdowns last week, and I expect another big performance against a Cardinals defense that allowed almost 200 yards rushing to Georgia Tech. While I praise Cunningham in taking some chances, even during this disheartening losing streak, this could be a make or break game for the Cardinals to keep their bowl hopes alive, and that’s not great news especially this early into the season.

Best of luck however you play!
YTD 1-7 .143 -7.00