No. 25 Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2 SU, 4-3 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2 SU, 2-4-1 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date/Time: Thursday, October 27th, 7:00PM (EST)
Where: Heinz Field Pittsburgh, P.A.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: VT -4.5/PITT +4.5
Over/Under Total: TBA
Last Thursday the Virginia Tech Hokies shined in front of a nationally televised audience in a 37-16 victory over Miami in Blacksburg. The impressive victory moved the Hokies to 5-2 SU on the season and earned a spot in the Top 25 rankings. This week the Hokies will once again be on the Thursday night stage when they travel to Heinz Field for a showdown with the Pittsburgh Panthers who are also 5-2 SU on the year. The Panthers are riding a 3 game winning streak that includes back to back wins over ACC opponents. Interestingly, Pitt has won 6 of the last 7 meetings against Virginia Tech and they hope to extend that trend again on Thursday as small underdogs at home.
I went against the public last week that was favoring Miami in a bounce back scenario and cashed a winning ticket with Virginia Tech by laying the points. The Hokies have been playing really good defense and they have been equally balanced on offense which I felt would be too much for the Hurricanes. The ATS win was Virginia Tech’s 4th cash in their last 5 games and it is very obvious they are playing really well on both sides of the football. However, this week’s challenge will be a tougher matchup as they go on the road against a Panthers team that has averaged more than 40 points per game over their last 5 games and currently ranks 25th in the FBS in scoring.
The Panthers are doing things well. Quarterback Nathan Peterman has not put up any eye popping numbers but he has been solid completing 63.3% passing for 1,252 yards with 11 touchdowns and just 2 picks. Running back James Conner continues to produce decent numbers in the running game. Conner started off the season with big performances against Penn State and Oklahoma State but has faded a bit in recent weeks. Still, Conner has 7 touchdowns on the ground and is tallying more than 4 yards with each touch.
This Pitt offense has been a tad inconsistent at times this year but they find ways to move the football. WR Jester Weah has had a few big moments and is definitely big play material. However, his target and receptions have been pretty low thus far. The Panthers may need more of that big play threat this Thursday to offset Virginia Tech’s stingy defense. The Hokies rank 10th in the FBS giving up just 302 yards per game this year and they have held opponents to 17 points or less in their 5 wins this season.
This Thursday we will see if that same Virginia Tech defense can come up big on the road where they have struggled mostly this season. In the 3 games away from Blacksburg this season, the Hokies have given up point totals of 45, 3, and 31. The bigger totals come in losses to Tennessee and Syracuse. The Virginia Tech offense is not necessarily designed to strive while playing from behind. Therefore, it is very important that the defense holds their end of the bargain. On offense, the team is led by QB Jerod Evans who is a very effective dual threat quarterback. Evans has 417 rushing yards on the season with 3 scores and has thrown for 1,611 yards with 19 touchdowns and 2 picks. The Hokies are a run first team with Evans and Travon McMillian.
McMillian had a big outing in the win over Miami last Thursday where he ran for 131 yards on just 18 touches. When Virginia Tech can get their ground game going, it really opens up the rest of their offense which was evident last week. The Hokies ground attack opens opportunities for Evans in the passing game where he has been very effective with those opportunities. However, it will be interesting to see if Virginia Tech can establish the ground attack against a tough Pitt defense that ranks 7th in the FBS allowing just 96 yards per game. If the Panthers can stifle the Hokies on the ground, they will have a legitimate shot at the upset.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I backed the Hokies last week in their win against Miami but I have to fade them this week in a much tougher matchup. I like the home team and the points in this one. Take Pitt +4.5
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