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Navy Midshipmen vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Preview and Pick

Navy Midshipmen (1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS)   vs.  Pittsburgh Panthers (2-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) 6 p.m. EST, September 19th, 2009, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA, TV: ESPN360
By Oracle of

Point Spread: Navy +8/ Pittsburgh -8
Over/Under: 55.5

Bet this game at one of the oldest and most safe online sportsbooks in the industry: Intertops.

Normally by the third week of the season, college football teams usually show some sort of identity and know what kind of team they are. That, however, may not be the case with the Pittsburgh Panthers.

After Saturday’s showdown against Navy, a lot of those questions should be answered, as the Midshipmen will be the first real test for Pitt.

The Panthers will have the luxury of playing at home in the comforts of Heinz Field, but Navy knows what it’s like playing in a hostile environment this season. They traveled to Ohio State and nearly pulled off a major upset in week one, but fell, 31-27.

Although Navy played the Buckeyes tough, they’re a dog on the road to open up, as many online sportsbooks put the spread in favor of Pitt -8. However, that has tightened a bit already to -7 at some books.

The over/under also opened at 55.5.

Sure, Pittsburgh has opened the season 2-0, but those wins are over Youngstown State and Buffalo. So really this is their first real test of the young season. They’ve put up a total of 92 points in those wins, using a combination of run and pass to get it done.

A big part of their offense comes from running back Dion Lewis, who has the tough job of replacing first round draft pick LeSean McCoy. Lewis has done a great job so far by rushing for 319 yards – a 7.3 yard per carry average - and 4 scores.

Bill Stull returns as the starting quarterback for Pitt in his senior year. Stull threw for 2,360 yards a season ago, but had nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

He’s off to a solid 2009 campaign by going 32-for-46 with five touchdowns and one pick.

Again, their offensive firepower and overall statistics gleam on paper, but can they be this dominant against Navy?

After a near upset against Ohio St., Navy looked as though the hangover would take effect against Louisiana Tech, as they were down 14-0 in the first quarter. But the defense strapped up, shutting Tech down the rest of the way while the offense put the game on ice with 14 fourth quarter points. They also covered a -7 spread in that contest.

Navy runs one of the most exciting offenses around – the triple option.

With the triple options comes, well, a lot of options. Ricky Dobbs who is easily Navy's best QB in quite some time, leads the team in carries as their starting quarterback with 43. Otherwise, Alex Tiech has had 22 carries and Marcus Curry has 19 for 138 yards. Most of the time, triple option offenses don’t throw a lot, and when they do, it’s not pretty. Well, Dobbs has been legit this season, giving Navy another threat. He’s 14-for-21 for 259 yards and two scores.

This will be the third meeting the last three years for the two squads, so head-to-head match ups are important for bettors. Pitt covered on the road last year in a 42-21 win (-3 spread). However, in that game McCoy was huge, running for 156 yards and three scores. His absence will be key in this contest.

Stull didn’t have a bad game throwing for 255 yards and a touchdown, but did throw 2 picks.

An X-factor here for Pittsburgh if Navy loads the box is wideout Jonathan Baldwin. Baldwin has 114 yards so far this season. He had a big game with 101 yards and a score a year ago in the win.

Navy’s offense is predicated on the running game, so Pitt’s 17th ranked rush defense will be tested.

It’s worth noting that two years ago, Navy won a shootout, 48-45

Navy’s covered both games this year and are 4-1 ATS in their last five overall. Pitt doesn’t have any glaring trends to focus on ATS other than being 5-0 in their last five on a grass playing surface.

They tend to struggle covering as home favorites as well, as they’re 1-7 in their last 8 at Heinz Field when favored.

The over/under is a tricky play this week, but there are some trends. The over is 4-1 for Navy as road dogs in their last five. And coincidentally, the over is 4-1 when Pitt is home favorites.

If the Midshipmen beat a quality non-conference opponent from a BCS conference, look for them to grab some attention and maybe even crack the Top 25. But Pitt is looking for a little respect and a nice 3-0 start.

Oracle’s Pick: Navy has all the momentum with the way they’ve been playing. Even though Pitt is undefeated and Navy is on the road as dogs, we think the Midshipmen can play with the Panthers. Take Navy plus the 8!

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