Welcome to Between the Lines, The Common Room’s weekly breakdown of the top college football games of the weekend. This weekend, the ACC begins conference play, highlighted by Notre Dame’s first ever game as a member of any conference, as the Irish take on Duke. The Big 12 is also in action with a slate of non-conference games before beginning conference play on September 26th.
UAB at Miami
- When: Thursday, 8pm ET
- Line: Miami -14
- Over/Under: 54.5
- Analysis: UAB visits Miami for the beginning of the D’Eriq King era as one of the few teams to have already played a game in 2020. Last week, the Blazers took down Central Arkansas 45-35. UAB is a strong team, having won the Conference USA West division the past two years and enters 2020 as the favorite again. Miami is one of The Common Room’s most underrated teams in 2020, but in a season where the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the normal summer practice schedule, the fact that UAB has already played a game and now has had a normal week of practice helps them. Still, Miami has more talent and will win this game – don’t forget how good D’Eriq King was in 2018 at Houston – but it may take a couple drives for the Canes offense to settle in, and thus the 14 point line seems spot on. If this line moves toward UAB, give the points with the Hurricanes, and conversely, take the points with UAB if the line moves to Miami. The best bet right now is the over, with the line set at 54.5, as the Canes offense figures to be dangerous with King at QB and the Blazers are coming off of a week they put up 45 points.
- Prediction: Miami 41 UAB 27
Syracuse at #18 North Carolina
- When: Saturday, 12pm ET
- Line: North Carolina -23
- Over/Under: 65
- Analysis: North Carolina is a darkhorse pick to challenge Clemson and Notre Dame for the ACC title, and Mack Brown’s team boasts a strong returning cast, led by QB Sam Howell and LB Chazz Surratt. Syracuse returns QB Tommy DeVito, but he struggled for much of last season due to a revolving door at offensive line, as according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the Orange allowed a pressure on 23% of all snaps, while also ranking 107th of 130 FBS teams in run blocking. 23 points is a big number, but the Tar Heels will come out flying given the expectations this year. Give the points.
- Prediction: North Carolina 45 Syracuse 17
Louisiana-Lafayette at #23 Iowa State (-11.5)
- When: Saturday, 12pm ET
- Line: Iowa State -11.5
- Over/Under: 56.5
- Analysis: Iowa State also made The Commont Room’s list of most underrated programs and is picked to win the Big 12 regular season title, but they face a tough non-conference test in a Louisiana-Lafayette team that won 11 games last year, returns QB Levi Lewis and the top two running backs to an offense that averaged 37.9 points per game, and brings back 7 starters on a defense that held opponents under 20 points per game. This will be a fun matchup of two experienced teams with conference title aspirations, and though the advantage goes to the Cyclones, the Rajun’ Cajuns won’t be intimidated by a Big 12 team, because they’re used to facing SEC opponents on the road each year. Take the points with Lafayette and the under.
- Prediction: Iowa State 24 Louisiana-Lafayette 20
Duke at #10 Notre Dame (-20)
- When: Saturday, 2:30pm ET
- Line: Notre Dame -20
- Over/Under: 54.5
- Analysis: Notre Dame will make history on Saturday when they play their first ever game as a member of a conference, and only time will tell whether the Irish fully commit to football life in the ACC in the future. In 2020 though, the Irish can chase the prize of an ACC title, and Duke is the first obstacle in the way. These two teams met last year in Durham where the Irish won 38-10. Expect another blowout in South Bend, as Notre Dame should come out firing behind QB Ian Book and one of the most highly regarded offensive lines in the country, which should neutralize a strong Duke pass rush, much like last year. Duke’s offense will also struggle to move the ball against LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and the Irish defense, as grad transfer QB Chase Brice was only named the starter this week and has had limited first team reps throughout camp. Give the points with the Irish, as Notre Dame has historically been very good in home openers under Brian Kelly, especially recently.
- Prediction: Notre Dame 37 Duke 13
#1 Clemson at Wake Forest
- When: Saturday, 7:30pm ET
- Line: Clemson -33
- Over/Under: 60
- Analysis: Clemson begins the 2020 season ranked #1 and on a quest to avenge last season’s title game loss to LSU. The Tigers are loaded again on both sides of the ball, headlined by QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne. Clemson will win big on the road in Winston-Salem, but 33 points on the road is a giant number, especially against a conference opponent. Wake Forest lost QB Jamie Newman to transfer and star WR Sage Surratt decided to opt out of the 2020 season, but Sam Hartman, who started much of 2018, is back at quarterback. Hartman and the Demon Deacon offense will score at least three touchdowns and preseason second-team All-American defensive end Carlos Basham Jr. and the Wake Forest defense will do enough to keep the deficit under 5 touchdowns. Take the points, and if you’re greedy, the over.
- Prediction: Clemson 48 Wake Forest 21
Western Kentucky at Louisville (-11.5)
- When: Saturday, 8pm ET
- Line: Louisville -11.5
- Over/Under: 57.5
- Analysis: Louisville is the third member of The Common Room’s most underrated teams of 2020 to be on this list, and like Iowa State and Miami, they face a tough test from an in-state school in Western Kentucky, who is one of the favorites to contend for a Conference USA title. WKU returns some talent at the skill positions, a strong offensive line, and brings in Tyrell Pigrome from Maryland at QB. That being said, I don’t see WKU being able to stop the Louisville offense behind the explosive trio of QB Micale Cunningham, RB Javion Hawkins, and WR Tutu Atwell. The Cardinals will just have too many playmakers and will wear down the Hilltopper defense. Also, from what Tyrell Pigrome showed at Maryland, he is not an accurate enough passer to take advantage of an at-times suspect Louisville secondary. This game will be close at halftime, but Louisville pulls away late at home. Take the points and the over.
- Prediction: Louisville 38 Western Kentucky 24