Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5 SU, 6-3 ATS) vs. Connecticut Huskies (3-6 SU, 2-5-2 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date/Time: Friday November 9th, 2012. 8:00PM Eastern
Where: Rentschler Field East Hartford, C.T.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Pitt -3.5/UConn +3.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The Pittsburgh Panthers just narrowly missed out on the first monumental win in the Paul Chryst era last week losing to no. 3 Notre Dame in a triple overtime thriller 29-26. The Panthers actually led 20-6 in the 4th quarter but could not hold off late rallies by the Irish to force overtime. Now it’s back to the drawing board for the 4-5 SU Panthers as the team is still in search for that first signature win. This week the Panthers will get another shot to show their talents to a national audience when they travel into East Hartford to challenge the Connecticut Huskies on Friday night.
The Huskies are in desperate search of fortitude having lost 4 straight games including a 13-6 defeat last week against South Florida. Connecticut’s problems have resided mostly on the offensive side of the football where the team has averaged a measly 317 yards per game on the season (110th in FBS). The Huskies 16.56 points per game ranks among the worse in all of college football. In fact, Connecticut has failed to score more than 14 points in each of their last 4 games. Needless to say, the Huskies are not going to win many football games putting up those types of offensive numbers.
Huskies QB Chandler Whitmer may hold the most potential for the offense. Whitmer has completed 58% passing for 2,115 yards this season. However, the risk has out-weighed the reward for Whitmer as the young quarterback has thrown 7 touchdowns and 13 picks. Whitmer’s 13 picks lead the Big East in interceptions and is an on-going concern for the offense. Still, Connecticut has been unable to run the ball averaging just 82 yards per game on the ground (116th in FBS). Therefore if the offense is going to pick it up, Whitmer may be the guy that has to step up.
Luckily for the Huskies, they have a defense that can contend despite the offensive woes. The Connecticut defense currently ranks 9th in the FBS holding opponents to just 290 yards per game. Senior defensive end Trevardo Williams is a guy to watch on the edge of that Huskies defensive front. Williams’ has tallied 8.5 sacks already this season and is a guy that can make some momentum changing plays. If the Connecticut offense continues to struggle, it will be interesting to see if the Huskies can keep them in the ball game.
For the Panthers, they have a much more balanced offense that can be effective in the passing and running game. Running back Ray Graham had an excellent outing last week carrying the ball 24 times to rack up 172 yards and a touchdown against one of the better run defenses in the country. It was the 2nd straight game Graham eclipsed the century mark as he closes in on the 1,000 yard barrier on the season.
If Graham can continue to run the ball effectively, I expect Pittsburgh to keep the ball on the ground. Panthers QB Tino Sunseri has put together excellent numbers on paper this year completing 68.8% passing for 2,363 yards with 14 scores and 2 picks. However, Sunseri disappointed in the late stages of the game against Notre Dame last week after a solid start. When the game was on the line, Sunseri could not come through and appeared a bit timid in the pocket. It was apparent by the overtime stages the coaching staff had lost faith in their senior quarterback. When that happened last week, everything went downhill for the Panthers’ offense. Therefore it will be interesting to see how both offense and quarterback respond this Friday.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I am a bit shy to back the Panthers here off a big emotional loss against the Irish in fear that the team may come out a bit flat. UConn isn’t a good team, but my money has to back them in this spot with Pitt having the huge letdown and on a short week. I’ve seen better teams in this situation collapse so I believe Pitt is vulnerable here. Furthermore, the line opened at -3.5 and held steady despite NOBODY betting on Connecticut. This goes down as one of those fishy lines that doesn’t make sense but is likely to payoff the stinker. This pick becomes even stronger if thee line drops even a smidgeon. I’m betting UConn +3.5.
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