Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 12:30 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
DUKE +13 over Clemson
Wallace-Wade Stadium – Durham, NC
8:00 PM EST. Though the Tigers may have taken a step back in recent years and failed to qualify for the College Football Playoff since 2020, make no mistake that the Tigers are still very much the gold standard when it comes to ACC football. With the quarterback controversy now settled on Cade Klubnik as the starter and a slew of NFL prospects on their defense, the Tigers are primed once again to make a run for the CFP and there is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding that notion. Furthermore, Dabo Swinney added Garrett Riley to his staff and that, too, is getting a lot of media hype. Riley comes over from TCU, after guiding the Horned Frogs offense to the national title game last season. Clemson's offense sputtered last season, but with Riley's play calling and influence, expectations have been raised in Death Valley. Cade Klubnik doesn't have to look over his shoulder for DJ Uiagalelei either. The offense belongs to him, and after what Riley did with TCU last season, speculation is that he can raise Klubnik's game to the next level. Maybe he can. For Dabo Swinney to take the spotlight off himself, things had to be pretty bad because Dabo, like Urban Meyer when he was coaching OSU, or Nick Saban, Brian Kelly, or PJ Fleck for instance, Dabo thinks he’s a god and one is privileged to even be in the same room as him.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils have things pointed in the right direction under second year head coach Mike Elko. Duke went 9-4 last season, and Elko returns the majority of his offense, including signal caller Riley Leonard who threw for almost 3,000 yards last season. However, the market and media is not buying Duke’s success because it faced such a weak schedule with only four bowl teams on it. Thing is, Leonard is a nightmare to defend and he comes back along with 16 other starters, including a duo of running backs in Jordan Waters and Jaquez Moore who compiled over a thousand rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, Wide receiver Jalon Calhoun who nearly finished with a 1,000 receiving yards on the year, and an experienced and physical front-seven on the defensive end which includes Captain D-lineman DeWayne Carter and ball-hawk linebacker Cam Dillon. Essentially, the same team that went 9-4 last year is coming back this year with another full off-season under Elko to reinforce his system and promote the transformative culture.
Clemson has not visited Durham since 2012 and now an opportunity is presented for the Blue Devils to make a statement against a perennial power in a prime-time game, under the lights, on their turf, on Labor Day weekend.
If you are a new reader, you’ll often see us discussing many of the cardinal sins of wagering. Over this past weekend, we discussed the “being late to the party” sin and playing a bad number and now we’re going to discuss another one, which is paying attention to trends, which is about the most useless information that handicappers use to justify their pick. The useless “trends” in this game are plentiful.
Clemson has won 10 of the last 11 contests between both parties, though they haven’t met in five years. The last time they met in 2018, Clemson won 35-6. We didn’t have to look that up because it was pointed out in every single preview we read about this game. The Tigers have also covered three of their last four against the Blue Devils. Clemson is also getting praised for its ability to cover a high percentage of their conference games, as it went 7-2 against the number against ACC opponents in 2022 (this includes the ACC Championship game against North Carolina).
To use these useless trends to influence your decision is about the worst thing you can do when trying to choose a side but handicappers need something. A game from five years ago or four or 10 years ago has no impact on this one. None. Over time and with thousands of games played every year, trends will develop and some will stick out more than others. They mean jack and actually influence the public into playing the wrong side usually. If you bet Clemson here, you may indeed win but in doing so, you would be buying high to an exponential degree. While Clemson gets all the press and hype leading up to this game, Duke is sitting quietly on the side with nothing to lose and everything to gain. If they happen to score the first TD, a distinct possibility, we’d be looking at a 20-point handicap. The Blue Devils are not an easy out and actually have a shot to win this one outright.
Duke +13 -107 (Risking 2.14 units - To Win: 2.00)