Pittsburgh Panthers (9-1 SU, 6-3 ATS) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (7-3 SU, 3-6 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Friday, November 27, 2009, Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.V. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Pittsburgh -1/West Virginia +1
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For the Pittsburgh Panthers, next week’s game against Cincinnati will be the Big East championship game. First, they have a warm-up game against a tough West Virginia team on the road. The game doesn’t really matter much for the Panthers, as even with a loss they would still win the Big East and earn a BCS berth with a win over Cincinnati next week.
Pitt is coming off a 27-22 win over Notre Dame in a game that the Panthers didn’t need to win either. They held a 27-9 lead in the fourth quarter before two late touchdowns by Notre Dame. In the win, Pitt did a terrific job on offense, totaling 429 yards of offense and committing no turnovers. Quarterback Bill Stull was 15-for-27 for 236 yards and a touchdown. Running back Dion Lewis had 21 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown. Ray Graham had three carries for 57 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin had five receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown. The Pitt defense did allow 16 receptions for 220 yards and a touchdown to Notre Dame’s top two receivers, Golden Tate and Malcolm Floyd, but they are two of the better receivers in the country and Notre Dame does have a solid offense.
The 22 points allowed to Notre Dame was the most points Pitt has given up in a game since September 26 when the Panthers lost their only game, 38-31, to North Carolina State.
The key to the Pitt offense is Lewis. If the Panthers can run the ball well, it’s tough to beat them. They want to control the clock, not commit any turnovers, and use the run to set up the pass. The more they run the ball, the longer they have the ball, the less time their defense has to be on the field.
Lewis has 1,291 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns and a 5.8 yards-per-carry average. Stull has 2,115 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. Baldwin and Dorin Dickerson are the top receivers for the Panthers. Baldwin has 40 receptions for 840 yards and five touchdowns. Dickerson has 43 receptions for 496 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Last season, Pitt won 19-15 at home over West Virginia. Both quarterbacks threw a pair of interceptions, but the difference in the game was Pitt’s running. LeSean McCoy, now a rookie on the Philadelphia Eagles, ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns. If Pitt can run like that again on Friday, the Panthers will most certainly win the game.
West Virginia is coming off a 24-21 loss to undefeated Cincinnati. The Mountaineers did a nice job running the ball with 202 yards on the ground, including 88 by Noel Devine. Cincinnati is a strong pass-first team, but the Bearcats won the game with their running attack, as Isaiah Pead had 175 rushing yards and quarterback Zach Collaros ran for 44 yards. If West Virginia allows Pitt to run the ball like Cincinnati was able to run the ball against the Mountaineers, it will be a long game for the West Virginia defense.
Like Lewis is with Pitt’s offense, Devine is the key for the West Virginia offense. The running back has 1,098 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and a 5.7 yards-per-carry average. Quarterback Jarrett Brown has 1,849 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Wide receiver Jock Sanders has 62 receptions for 597 yards and three touchdowns.
West Virginia scored at least 30 points in each of its first five games, but has scored less than 30 points in every game since then. Pitt is 10-4 ATS in its last 14 road games. The total has gone under in five of Pitt’s last six games. West Virginia is 1-4 ATS in its last five games and 1-4 ATS in its last five home games.
Ryno’s Pick: The running game will be the key for both teams. Whoever has more production - Devine or Lewis - that running back’s team will win the game. West Virginia has not been scoring as many points as it had been earlier this season. The Mountaineers defense gave up a lot of rushing yards to Cincinnati last week and a lot of rushing yards to Pitt last season, so expect Lewis to have a big game on Friday. A big game from Lewis is all Pitt needs to win this game. Take Pittsburgh -1.