Connecticut Huskies (3-1 SU, 3-0 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-1 SU, 3-1 ATS), 3:30 p.m. EST, Saturday, October 10, 2009, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa. TV: ABC Regional
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Connecticut +8/Pittsburgh -8
The Big East has two nationally ranked teams right now – Cincinnati and South Florida – but Pittsburgh could be there soon enough. If it weren’t for a poor fourth quarter at North Carolina State, they might be there now. But instead, they still have to prove themselves, and this week they have a tough matchup with Connecticut.
Pittsburgh started off 3-0 with dominating wins over Youngstown State, Buffalo and Navy. At NC State, the Panthers had a 31-17 lead in the third quarter before allowing three straight touchdowns, as NC State came from behind for a 38-31 victory. Last Friday, Pitt looked hung over from that loss, trailing 10-7 at halftime to Louisville. But the Panthers woke up big time in the second half and outscored Louisville 28-0 for a 35-10 victory.
Now, Pitt will try to improve to 2-0 in the Big East, while UConn plays its first conference game. The Huskies have not been dominant this season. They barely got by Ohio in their first game, 23-16. Then, they lost a defensive battle at North Carolina, 12-10. After that, they pulled out a 30-22 win at Baylor. And on September 26, they got an easy win over Rhode Island, 52-10. The Huskies have had two weeks to prepare for this game.
Against North Carolina, the Huskies played stellar defense and held a 10-0 lead after three quarters. But UNC quarterback T.J. Yates was able to pass the ball well in the fourth quarter and lead his team down the field for a game-tying touchdown. Then, with their offense backed up near the goal line with less than two minutes remaining, the Huskies were called for a holding in their end zone for a safety. That was the difference, as UNC won the game in rare fashion, 12-10.
The UConn defense put great pressure on Yates throughout the game, sacking him six times and intercepting two of his passes. But Yates was still able to move the ball, finishing 23-for-32 for 233 yards. UConn held the Tar Heels to 41 rushing yards, and the Huskies only had 208 total yards of offense themselves.
Against Baylor, UConn won the game on the ground. Andre Dixon had 31 carries for 149 and three touchdowns. Todman had 22 carries for 103 yards. The Huskies totaled 252 rushing yards. But the Huskies also allowed 147 rushing yards, including 121 on eight carries by Baylor running back Jay Finley.
The Huskies haven’t yet faced a running back as good as Pitt running back Dion Lewis. The true freshman has 580 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
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Lewis has been the focal point of the Pitt offense, but quarterback Bill Stull has been very effective as well. Stull is off to a phenomenal start with 988 yards, 11 touchdowns, one interception and a 66.4 completion percentage. Against Louisville, Lewis only had 87 rushing yards, but Stull threw was 16-for-23 for 242 yards and three touchdowns.
In the Panthers’ worst defensive performance of the season, when they gave up 38 points to NC State, the Wolfpack ran the ball 44 times for 231 yards. And NC State quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns.
Both of these teams have been very good against the spread this season. Pitt is 3-1 ATS, while UConn is 3-0. The Panthers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games. The Huskies are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games. The total has gone under in six of their last nine road games.
Ryno’s Pick: Both of these teams have been very good against the spread this season, so this game isn’t about trends. It’s about who is the better team. Pitt has proven that it is a contender in the Big East. If it weren’t for a poor defensive fourth quarter at NC State, the Panthers would be 5-0 right now. They struggled in the first half against Louisville last week, but they dominated the second half and ran away with a 25-point victory. UConn has been inconsistent at stopping the run this season, so Lewis should be able to at least have a decent game. Stull has proven to be an efficient quarterback, and the Huskies haven’t faced as good of a QB as Stull yet this season. The Huskies have only been able to win games on the ground, and the Panthers are aware of that and should be able to contain UConn’s running game. Take Pittsburgh -8.