Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles Pick ATS
Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS)
When: Thursday, Dec. 26, 8 p.m.
Where: Ford Field, Detroit
Point Spread: PITT -11/EMU +11 (Bookmaker)
Total: O/U 49
Some matchups during the bowl season pit the unstoppable force against the immovable object. This matchup is not that. This is the stoppable force against the very movable object, as Eastern Michigan’s weak defense comes up against a Pittsburgh offense that’s failed to break 20 points in four of its past five games. The Panthers have shown the capability to perform against quality teams, as they were the ones who put an end to Central Florida’s long winning streak, but they have also put up some head-scratchers, including a 28-0 whitewash at Virginia Tech. The same can probably be said for Eastern Michigan, which managed a win at Illinois in September, but lost three of its final five and went 1-3 at home in the MAC. The Eagles managed to get into a bowl, but are they ready to play in this game after closing out the stretch with such a weak finish?
How the Public is Betting the Pittsburgh/Eastern Michigan Game
The line has increased a half-point from opening at Pitt -11, while the total has held tight at 49.
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Pittsburgh: Wide receiver Maurice Ffrench is questionable with a jaw injury, while wide receiver Taysir Mack is questionable with an ankle issue. Running back, Todd Sibley Jr. is questionable with an undefined issue.
Eastern Michigan: Eastern Michigan reports no injuries.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
For the Panthers, it’s all about Kenny Pickett at quarterback. Pittsburgh’s offense is relatively one-dimensional, as the Panthers don’t try to run the ball all that much. A.J. Davis was the only Panther to get more than 250 yards or 100 carries, and his 532 yards was nothing special. The Panthers managed just ten rushing touchdowns on the season, and things weren’t a lot better for the Panther passing offense. Pickett threw ten touchdown passes on the season, and only twice, against Syracuse and Duke, did he manage more than one touchdown in a game.
In short, this is not a good offense. The Panthers managed just 241 points on the season, which ranked 115th in the country and was second-worst in the ACC, ahead of only Georgia Tech (and the Yellow Jackets get a pass because they were transitioning away from the triple option and using players who were completely ill-suited for their new system). But they’re facing a woefully weak defense, as Eastern gave up 48 touchdowns this season, third-worst in the MAC. If ever Pittsburgh is going to break out, this is the game to do it.
When Eastern Michigan Has the Ball
Having such a weak defense means that Eastern Michigan has to move the ball, and they do it through the air with Mike Glass at quarterback. Glass’ scores dwarf Pickett’s, as he’s thrown for 22 touchdowns and rushed for another seven. The Eagles don’t like to run the ball much either, as Glass and Shaq Vann have combined for just over 1,000 rushing yards on the season. Instead, the Eagles will spread things out among four receivers, with Arthur Jackson serving as the primary weapon for deeper shots. Four different receivers topped 450 receiving yards for the Eagles, giving Glass plenty of options.
Detroit is right in the middle of MAC territory (in fact, Ford Field is the home of the MAC championship game), but that doesn’t mean that it’s friendly territory for the MAC in bowl season. In two appearances in the Quick Lane Bowl, the MAC hasn’t come away a winner yet, as Central Michigan lost to Minnesota in 2015, and Northern Illinois got drilled by Duke in 2017. The good news for Eastern is that it’s been pretty solid as an underdog, as the Eagles have covered in 21 of their past 28 when they’ve been getting points. That hasn’t held up well against the ACC, however, as the Eagles have covered just one of their past five against the conference.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has been a reliable bounce-back team. When the Panthers are coming off an ATS loss, they’re 4-1 ATS in the next game. They’ve also covered in four of their past five against the MAC. They haven’t been great in bowl games, however, covering the number in just two of their past seven. As for the total, something has to give here: the under is 7-1 when the Panthers have been the favorite, but when the Eagles are the underdog, the over has hit five of six.
There’s no weather to worry about under the roof of the Lions’ stadium.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
The line seems a little high with Pittsburgh’s inconsistency, but the Panthers have been beating much better teams than anyone that Eastern Michigan has played all season. The Eagles’ best win was Illinois, and that was before the Illini stepped up their play and became a much different team than they were in the first month of the season. Pittsburgh has played well against quality opposition at times, and the Panthers have a much better defense than the average MAC opponent.
The only defenses that Eastern has seen that are comparable to Pittsburgh’s are Kentucky and Buffalo, and the Eagles lost 38-17 to the Wildcats and 43-14 at home to the Bulls. That gives us a pretty good idea of how this one might go. It might help a little that Eastern gets to play 35 miles from its campus, but the Eagles got to play Buffalo at home, and that didn’t help any. Pittsburgh is the better team and should coast. Go with the Panthers.