Pittsburgh Panthers (5-1 SU, 3-2 ATS) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-1 SU, 1-2 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Friday, October 16, 2009, Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Pittsburgh -3/Rutgers +3
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Pittsburgh is off to a 2-0 start in the Big East in its quest to win a conference title, while Rutgers will be looking for its first Big East win when it hosts the Panthers for a Friday night battle on ESPN.
Since a disappointing loss to North Carolina State, Pittsburgh has won two Big East games in a row with victories over Louisville and Connecticut. The win over Connecticut on Saturday was a nail-biter, as the Panthers won with a last second field goal, 24-21. Dion Lewis dominated on the ground for the Panthers with 158 rushing yards on 24 carries. In all, Pitt ran for 221 yards. Quarterback Bill Stull threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions. With the Panthers down 21-6 late in the third quarter, Stull threw touchdown passes to Jonathan Baldwin and Dorin Dickerson to tie the game at 21.
Lewis has been the key for Pitt this season. The freshman running back has 738 yards and seven touchdowns. Stull has been very good as well, with 1,256 yards, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Rutgers has a nice 4-1 record, but the Scarlet Knights haven’t really played any competition since their 47-15 loss to Cincinnati to open the season. A win at Maryland is their only win over a BCS school. Their other three wins came over Howard, Florida International and Texas Southern. The Scarlet Knights haven’t been too impressive thus far. They barely got by Florida International, 23-15.
Rutgers has been led by freshman quarterback Tom Savage. He took over in the second half of the Cincinnati game. He was pulled during the FIU game and missed the Maryland game with a concussion, but he came back against Texas Southern to throw for 150 yards and a touchdown. Running back De’Antwan Williams ran for 132 yards and a touchdown in that game. The Scarlet Knights totaled 253 rushing yards while holding Texas Southern to -7 rushing yards.
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In the win over Maryland, it was Joe Martinek leading the way for Rutgers with 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. The Terrapins ran for just 28 yards, while Rutgers had 207. Martinek is the team’s leading rusher for the season with 411 yards and five touchdowns. Savage has thrown for 693 yards in four games with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
The key for Rutgers will be to establish its running game and keep the Pitt offense off the field. If Martinek can have his way and run over the Pitt defense, it will make it easier for Savage to complete some passes. The Scarlet Knights then must play solid defense and shut down Lewis. They rank sixth in the nation in run defense, giving up 65.2 rushing yards per game and a 2.3 yards-per-carry average. But most of that has come against lackluster competition.
Pitt’s run defense isn’t bad, either. The Panthers are allowing just 2.9 yards-per-carry and 109.5 rushing yards per game. And that has come against much better competition than Rutgers.
Rutgers is 9-1 SU in its last 10 home games, with the only loss being the opener against Cincinnati. In fact, that’s the Scarlet Knights’ only loss in their last 12 games. The Scarlet Knights have won four of the last five games between these teams and they are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games against Pitt. The Panthers are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 road games and 8-3 SU in their last 11 road games.
Ryno’s Pick: This game will likely come down to the quarterbacks. Against Cincinnati, Rutgers gave up 362 and three touchdowns to Cincy QB Tony Pike. Stull certainly has the advantage against Savage. Pitt’s rush defense has been almost as good as the Rutgers run defense, but Pitt actually had to play teams like UConn and NC State, while Rutgers had not had very good competition. If Lewis is able to run through the Rutgers defense, Pitt should be able to control the game. But even if the run isn’t there, Stull has been very effective this season. Rutgers is at home, but Pitt is clearly the better team. If it weren’t for the Scarlet Knights’ 4-1 record, this line would be much higher. But those wins aren’t very impressive, while Pitt does have some impressive wins. Take Pittsburgh -3.