Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1 SU, 6-2 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (6-2 SU, 4-4 ATS)
College Football Week 10
Date/Time: Saturday, November 7, 12:00 PM EST
Where: Heinz Field
By Mike M., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ND -8.5 / PITT +8.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5
Notre Dame travels to the state of Pennsylvania for the second straight week, this time to battle the University of Pittsburgh in a noontime showdown to start off what should be a great Saturday of college football.
Pittsburgh will be looking to rebound after a 26-19 loss to 7-1 North Carolina last week. That loss ended the teams four game winning streak that had catapulted them to a top 25 ranking for the first time since 2010. The defeat versus the Tar Heels dropped Pitt to a 6-2 record, with their only other loss coming against undefeated Iowa back in September when the Hawkeyes hit a 57 yard field goal as time expired for a 27-24 win (which means that Pittsburgh’s two losses have come against teams with a combined 15-1 overall record). The Panthers have had a plenty of experience in close games this year, with their last six matchups being decided by a touchdown or less and by an average of just 4.5 points per game.
Junior wide receiver and future NFL first round pick Tyler Boyd is the clear focal point of the Pittsburgh offense, which is unmistakable by the fact his 63 catches on the year account for nearly 50% of the teams receptions on the year so far.. After missing week one due to a DUI related suspension, Boyd has averaged grabs per game despite being double or at times triple covered as opposing defenses continue to dare the Panthers 91st rated offense to try and beat them in any other way, as while freshman running back Qadree Ollison has done well since being unexpectedly thrown into the starting role, the offense sorely misses star running back and 2014 ACC Offensive Player of the Year James Conner, who was lost for the season in week one to injury while rushing for 77 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter to and looked to be on his way to another great season and possible Heisman contention.
Boyds quarterback, fellow junior Nathan Peterman, has done well in his first year as starter managing the game, completing over 67% of his passes for ten touchdowns while throwing just three interceptions. Peterman and company has been exceptional at limiting turnovers in recent games as he currently has a streak of 23 straight quarters without throwing a pick. He will need to his to continue this carefulness against Notre Dame on Saturday, much like Irish starting quarterback DeShone Kizer whose turnover trouble nearly cost his team a victory against Temple last week.
Kizer struggled mightily inside the redzone against the Owls, throwing two interceptions inside the 15 yard line that took points off the board and more importantly gave Temple a giant momentum boost at a point in the game when Notre Dame was very close to taking over and solidifying a cover for those Fighting Irish wagering faithful. Thankfully for Kizer he was able to offset a poor passing performance by taking advantage of his scrambling ability, rushing seventeen times for 143 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79 yard TD run in the second quarter that gave Notre Dame the lead back after Temple had scored as a result of one of Kizers ill-timed interceptions.
Most importantly for Notre Dame they were able to escape Philly with a 24-20 victory after senior cornerback KeiVarae Russell laid out for a game clinching interception with just over a minute left. The Irish were losing 20-17 with under four minutes left but were able to drive 75 yards for the game clinching score, a 17 yard touchdown catch by mid-season All American wide receiver Will Fuller. Temple did a great job containing Fuller, who was limited to just five catches on the game and especially with C.J Prosise, who was held to a season low 25 yards on 14 carries by the daunting Owl defense. Prosise will again have his work cut out for him this week against a stout Pittsburgh defense that ranks 26th in the NCAA, and will need to play better to keep some pressure off of the recently error prone DeShone Kizer.
Notre Dame has won three of the last four years against Pittsburgh but didnt cover in any of them, going 0-3-1 against the spread. The road team and underdog have done well exceptionally well versus the number in the last nine between the teams, with the visitors going 6-2-1 and the underdog 8-0-1. The point spread for this weeks game opened at 7.5 but quickly climbed to 8.5 as bettors jumped on the Irish, so ND backers aren’t getting the best of the line now. That said, I still believe that there’s value left in the 8.5 point spread. The Irish could have a let down here after two 4th quarter comebacks. However, I dont foresee coach Brian Kelly allowing that to happen though, as the Irish cant afford any sort of washout as they already have one loss on the season and another would certainly knock them out of any sort of discussion in this years battle for the four BCS playoff spots. Kizer and Prosise bounce back from their worst games of the season and get the Irish a win and cover on the road in Pittsburgh.
Mikes Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -8.5
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