No. 15 Pittsburgh Panthers (0-0, 0-0 ATS) at Utah Utes (0-0, 0-0 ATS) Week 1 NCAA Football, Thursday September 2nd, 8:30PM Eastern Rice-Eccles Stadium Salt Lake City, Utah
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Pitt +3/Utes -3
Bet this game and all NCAA football games at -105 reduced juice instead of the standard spendier -110 at 5Dimes. This also goes for NFL games as well!
The No. 15 Pittsburgh Panthers take the center stage when they travel to take on the Utah Utes in the opening night of college football when the two collide at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Panthers reached 10 wins mark last year for the first time since the Dan Marino era back in 1981. Despite losing a few players on both sides of the ball, the Panthers return some talented playmakers that currently have them at the highest pre-season ranking in over 2 decades. However, the Panthers will actually be slight underdogs when they take on the high powered offense from Utah.
The Utes capped off a 10-3 season in 2009 with a 37-27 win over California and look to battle TCU yet again this year for the Mountain West crown. QB Jordan Wynn will take over responsibilities behind center as he split time last year with QB Terrance Cain. Wynn still managed 1,329 yards with 8 touchdowns and 4 picks in just a few starts. However, the Utes may oddly enough be a big force on the ground this season. Running back Matt Asiata is a big powerful back that entered the 2009 season as a starter before having a season ending knee injury sidelined him at the beginning of the year. However, backup Eddie Wide strived in Asiata’s absence rushing for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns. Expect both backs to share time this year running the football and it would not be surprising if Utah has a lot of success this year on the ground.
However, Utah still has some concerns on the defensive side of the ball after losing 7 starters from the 2009 season that allowed just 20.6 points per game. The Utes will have to replace two safeties from a secondary that allowed only 176 passing yards per game. Another big concern is in the heart of the defense where the Utes will have to replace all starting linebackers from the 2009 campaign. However, the defensive front should be strong again this year and should be able to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. However, it remains to be seen if the inexperience factor on defense holds Utah back from having a great season.
On the other side of the field, most would expect the betting public to be all over a top 15 team that is an underdog against an unranked opponent. However, the Panthers are only holding a slight edge as 55% of the betting public is siding with Pittsburgh. The Panthers main strength is the weapons they possess on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Dion Lewis is a flashy runner with extreme quickness. Lewis posted lucrative numbers as a freshman racking up 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Lewis is already listed on the Heisman Trophy watch list and he tends to average around 30 carries per game. With those kinds of touches, it is hard not to expect another big year on the ground. Also, WR Jon Baldwin is an extremely talented wide out that will give defenses plenty of concern in the air ways. Baldwin recorded 57 catches for 1,111 yards and 8 touchdowns last season which was nearly half of the Panthers total passing yards on the season.
However, the problem may lie in the guy getting Baldwin the ball. QB Bill Stull was a veteran 5th year senior after departing in 2009 and the Panthers will now turn to an inexperienced sophomore in Tino Sunseri. Sunseri has only attempted 17 passes during his brief tenure in Pittsburgh but will now be the guy in charge of leading a highly potent offense. Of course the main concern for any inexperience quarterback is ball control and that will be something to watch against Utah. If the game is close as expected, turnovers could play a huge factor in the outcome.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers had to replace both starting corners in the secondary from last season so the big play ball may be a bit of a concern. However with the type of talent up front, it would be surprising if any opposing quarterback has enough time to throw the football. The Panthers defensive front is led by DE Greg Romeus who won the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2009. Romeus had compiled 40 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 interception last season. However, Romeus’ supporting cast is extremely talented as well. In fact, the Panthers led the nation last year with 48 sacks and they could have an eerie similar season again in 2010.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Spread: I believe Pittsburgh will run the ball at least 30 times and the defenses will keep scoring held to a minimum. The total is not close here. Take the under 49.5.