Pitt Panthers (7-5 SU, 6-4-2 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS), BBVA Compass Bowl, 12:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, January 8, 2010, Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Pittsburgh -3/Kentucky +3
Over/Under Total: 52.5
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The Pittsburgh Panthers finished tied for first place
in the Big East standings. Pitt missed out on a BCS berth by a tiebreaker.
Instead, they find themselves going up against the Kentucky Wildcats
in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Pitt and Kentucky are sort of on opposite ends of the spectrum. Pitt finished tied for first place in the Big East with a 5-2 conference record, but the Panthers were shaky in non-conference play at 2-3. Kentucky struggled in SEC play with a 2-6 conference record but was 4-0 in non-conference play.
Kentucky’s four non-conference wins came over Louisville, Western Kentucky, Akron and Charleston Southern. The Wildcats’ only two conference wins came over South Carolina and Vanderbilt, both at home. After starting off 3-0, the ‘Cats lost five of their next six games. They bounced back with two straight wins over Charleston Southern and Vanderbilt, but they ended the regular season with a 24-14 loss at Tennessee. The Wildcats have just one road this season and that came in their first game of the season at Louisville.
Mike Hartline is (was) a very solid quarterback for Kentucky. He had 3,178 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season with a 66.2 completion percentage. He is OUT for this game (suspended) so Morgan Newton will get the nod at QB. Newton hasn’t had much time on the field this year, but does have experience, as he started 8 games in 2009 when Hartline was hurt. He went 5-3 in those starts. Derrick Locke leads the team in rushing with 784 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Wildcats have 1,765 rushing yards as a team. Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews form a strong pair of receivers. Cobb has 79 receptions for 955 yards and seven touchdowns. Matthews has 57 receptions for 897 yards and nine touchdowns.
Pitt had high hopes coming into the season but the Panthers started off 2-3 with those two wins coming over New Hampshire and Florida International. But they then got it going with three wins in a row over Syracuse, Rutgers and Louisville. And all three of those wins were convincing, by at least 17 points. After a 30-28 loss at UConn, the Panthers bounced back with a 17-10 win at South Florida. The Panthers lost the next week 35-10 to West Virginia, but they ended the regular season on a good note with a 28-10 win at Cincinnati.
Pitt running back Dion Lewis was a Heisman contender coming into the season. He didn’t quite live up to expectations but he still had a solid season with 930 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Ray Graham gets some carries as well. He has 797 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Pitt QB Tito Sunseri has 2,476 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a 65.4 completion percentage. Jon Baldwin leads the team in receiving with 52 receptions for 810 yards and five touchdowns.
Pitt is 17th in the country in pass defense, allowing 182.9 passing yards per game. They’ve allowed 15 passing touchdowns and intercepted 13 passes. Kentucky is just a shade behind Pitt in pass defense at 20th in the country with 183.8 passing yards allowed per game. They’ve allowed 13 passing touchdowns with eight interceptions. Pitt is 18th in the country in run defense, allowing 121.3 rushing yards per game. Kentucky is allowing 170.1 rushing yards per game and has allowed 28 rushing touchdowns.
Pitt has a solid all-around defense. But Kentucky can certainly score points. And Kentucky plays tougher competition in the SEC than Pitt does in the Big East. The Panthers need Lewis and Graham to run the ball well. Kentucky’s defense isn’t all that great so Pitt will have an opportunity to control the ball on offense. If Kentucky can really stop the run, the ‘Cats will have a good chance to win the game with their dynamic offense. But Pitt will have to rely on its defense to keep the Panthers in the game.
Kentucky is 12-3-1 ATS in its last 16 games against non-conference games and 1-4 ATS in its last five games overall. Pitt is 1-4 ATS in its last five bowl games. The over is 9-2 in Kentucky’s last 11 games overall. The under is 4-0 in Pitt’s last four bowl games.
Ryno’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Nobody is really giving Kentucky a chance here, but I believe they’re the better team therefore will be betting them not only to cover the spread, but to win the game straight with a little moneyline action as well!