Week 4 NCAAF Parlay: Virginia Travels to Syracuse

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Tyrone Tracy #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers is tackled by Ja'Had Carter #1 of the Syracuse Orange during the third quarter at JMA Wireless Dome. Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

The top sportsbooks have released their odds for this week’s college football action. One game, in particular, interests me as worth investing in: Virginia vs. Syracuse.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play both the spread and the total for this game.

Feel free to parlay both bets at an online sports betting site in order to maximize your profit.

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Syracuse Orange

Friday, September 23, 2022 – 07:00 PM EDT at JMA Wireless Dome

Brennan Armstrong's Regression

Last year, Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong completed 65.2% of his passes while throwing 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

This year, he is completing 52.9% of his passes for 1.9 fewer yards per attempt, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.

Lack of Scoring

Armstrong's regression in individual playing quality largely explains why Virginia has gone from averaging 33.8 points per game last year to 9.5 points per game this year.

Virginia's lack of scoring is not a matter of having played more difficult or higher-level opponents.

So far, the Cavaliers' schedule has been rather soft. They were favored by three touchdowns in their season opener against Richmond and they were also favored strongly in their last home game against Old Dominion.

In between those two games, they faced Illinois, whom they also played last year, where they scored 42 points in a win against the Illini.

Against this same team, this season, Virginia mustered three points in a loss.

Not Much Has Changed

As I will explain, this diminished ability to score points is crucial because the Cavalier defense is not better this season.

Though they are allowing fewer points, they've only faced an FCS school, an Illinois team that ranks 68th in scoring offense, and an Old Dominion squad that ranks 105th in the same category.

The task is to investigate why Virginia's offense has regressed and whether we have reason to expect any improvement in its performance on Friday.

Virginia's Wide Receivers

Heading into this season, Virginia's wide receiving group was supposed to form a formidable strength of the offense, but its lack of depth is creating a crisis.

Two players were injured for the season during the offseason and as a result, all of five wide receivers have caught a pass this season.

Two of those players have combined for four receptions, while three other receivers caught 38 passes.

One player, Billy Kemp IV, who has three receptions so far and was viewed as an important piece heading into this season, remains out with an illness.

A Lack of Depth Will Affect Remaining Receivers

So, Virginia will play on Friday essentially with three wide receivers, and this lack of depth puts an unreasonably heavy burden on those wide receivers.

Not only do they have to run routes when Armstrong drops to pass, but they also have to help block on running plays.

They are out there for about 70 snaps with negligible relief. As a result, they are dropping many catchable passes –the team's position coach counted, for example, about 5-10 drops against Old Dominion.

Other Positions

Not only the wide receivers, but Armstrong himself is off. His participation in a new offensive scheme that favors vastly more balanced play-calling may explain his regression.

Individually, he had thrived in his team's passing-centered air-raid concept and he also suffers for playing behind a completely revamped offensive line.

All six guys who had starting experience last year have departed. Moreover, he lacks run support from his team's annually anemic running back group.

UVA's leading rusher averaged 3.7 YPC in his team's sole contest against an FBS school.

Syracuse's Defense So Far

Defensively, Syracuse might seem to be vulnerable to the offensive feature that Virginia at least wants to boast about and that we associated with Virginia last year, which is a strong pass attack.

This vulnerability seems to be evident in the 29-point scoring output that Purdue, a uniquely pass-heavy team, produced in its last game against Syracuse.

However, the fact that the Boilermakers produced a similar scoring output against a Penn State team that ranked 15th nationally in pass defense last season and that returned excellent defensive backs, suggests that their output against Syracuse is more a reflection of their own quality than of Syracuse's lack thereof.

Both Penn State and Syracuse have a strong group of defensive backs, but Purdue has a quarterback in Aidan O'Connell who is on point this season –he's thrown eight touchdowns to one interception– and Purdue's depth at wide receiver is immeasurably stronger than Virginia's.

Syracuse Cornerbacks

When previewing this season, ACC Network analysts rated two Syracuse cornerbacks as among the top three cornerbacks in the ACC.

Garrett Williams was graded as the fourth-best cornerback in the conference last year according to PFF and fellow cornerback Duce Chestnut defended 11 passes while intercepting three.

With these two back, one should expect the Orange to improve upon their already strong national ranking last year of 34th in pass defense.

Virginia's small collection of wide receivers, tired as they will be in their small rotation, will be stymied by Syracuse's solid cornerback group.

Syracuse Offense vs. Virginia Defense

Last season, Virginia's defense was abysmal, allowing 34.7 points per game while ranking 125th in rush defense and 95th in pass defense.

It's hard to imagine this team improving much, if at all, in these respects after losing three of its top four tacklers, including two important defensive backs and its two co-leaders in sacks.

Their backups, returning starters, and a couple transfers will have to step up in magical fashion.

The Orange offense, behind Sean Tucker's running and Garrett Shrader's improved pass efficiency, is averaging 31.5 points against Power Five competition after blowing out Louisville and escaping Purdue.

As a bonus consideration, the Orange offense ranks first in red zone scoring percentage, while Virginia's ranks 123rd.

Parlay Verdict

I like Syracuse to cover because it can easily exceed 30 points against this Cavalier defense, while Virginia's offense continues to struggle to reach double digits.

The posted total is as high as it is because oddsmakers have not adjusted to UVA's newfound scoring struggles, nor do they sufficiently respect the quality of Orange defensive personnel and the extent to which they match up positively against Virginia's pass attack.

There is so much room for Syracuse to secure a big win while the "under" hits, especially because the Orange defense has been great in its team's blowout wins about not permitting any garbage-time scoring.

For the above reasons, I recommend parlaying the Orange and the "under."

Be sure to use our trusty parlay calculator for your parlay betting needs.

  • Syracuse -10.5 (-110)
  • Under 53.5 (-110)

NCAAF Pick: Two-Legged Parlay (+264) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.