Miami Hurricanes (7-4 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (8-3 SU, 6-5 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Friday, November 27, 2015 at 12PM EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV: ESPN 2
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MIA +6/PITT -6
Over/Under Total: 56
The Miami Hurricanes face the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on Saturday in ACC action. This is both teams regular season finale, as both teams are bowl-eligible. The Hurricanes enter this game at 7-4, coming off a 38-21 win over Georgia Tech. Pittsburgh is 8-3, coming off a 45-34 win over the Louisville Cardinals. They look to enhance their bowl profile with a win at home this week, but they should get stiff resistance from a Miami team that has at least partially righted the ship with 3 wins in their last 4 games.
Prior to the recent mini-spurt by the Hurricanes, they had lost 58-0 to Clemson, causing the exit of head coach Al Golden. Under interim head coach Larry Scott, weve seen some better play in recent weeks and for Miami to notch their 8th win here would lend some credibility to what has been a tough season. But even with their 8-lateral final-play touchdown to beat the ranked Duke Blue Devils on the road, theres a little magic on this team. They cant be taken lightly.
Pittsburgh has enjoyed a pretty successful campaign. Five of their first seven games came on the road and they still went 6-1, with their only loss a 3-point defeat to still-unbeaten Iowa. A loss to a good North Carolina team slowed some of their progress and the following week saw them lose to Notre Dame. Theyve since rebounded with wins over Duke and Louisville. The only teams able to beat Pittsburgh this season have been really good teams. The three teams who beat the Panthers this season have a combined record of 31-2.
When a team has a midseason coaching change as Miami did, it can paint a dire image of that team. And while the Canes were certainly hurting when Golden was canned, on the heels of a demoralizing loss even it was to Clemson, theyre not a half-bad team. Quarterback Brad Kaaya hasnt been electric in his sophomore campaign, but hes been efficient, with just 4 picks on the season to go along with 2758 yards passing. Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton share the running responsibility. Aerially, the Hurricanes have a nice handful of talented ball-catchers and speedsters, with Stacy Coley, Herb Waters, Rashawn Scott, and David Njoku. Through the air, theyre not half bad, but the offense lacks balance with the absence of a substantive ground game. They average nearly 29 points per game.
The Hurricanes have given up more points than theyve scored this season. But at 7-4, that means a lot of those allowed points came in just a few games. In losses to some of the higher-caliber ACC teams, this D was decimated. And even in games like against Cincinnati, Nebraska, and Duke, the D wasnt great. They are ranked 112th against the run, giving up over 212 yards a game on the ground. They are pretty good against opposing passing attacks and can sometimes be surprisingly robust for stretches. But they will be put to the test against a Panthers offense that is pretty adept at establishing a ground game.
The Panthers are led by quarterback Nathan Peterman, who has 18 TD passes and just 4 interceptions. The pass game is more efficient than it is explosive, but is serves as a nice compliment to the offense, opening up the run-game, led by Qadree Ollison, who is over 1000 yards on the season with ten touchdown runs. Peterman works with talented receivers, with the group led by Tyler Boyd and bolstered by JP Holtz and Dontez Ford. Like Miami, they average nearly 29 points a game.
The difference this season between these two teams can be seen on defense. Pittsburgh is very balanced in this area, robust against both the run and the pass. Sure, theyve given up some points this season, but such is the nature of doing business in the ACC. They gave up a respectable 27 points to Iowa and 26 to high-flying North Carolina. They have the ability to apply a pretty strong pass-rush, with Ejuan Price leading the way with 11.5 sacks. As a team, they have registered 36 sacks, which is tops in the ACC. Its a clutch unit that can make plays at timely points in the game.
Pittsburgh has been a bit under-the-radar for those not following them or paying close attention to the ACC. But if not for a one-score defeat to North Carolina, theyd be in a position to play for the conference title. At 6-1 in conference play, they are unfortunate that UNC didnt lose a conference game all season, which would have given them a chance to win their way into the ACC conference game this week. It wasnt in the cards, but with a chance to win their 9th game this week, its been a pretty good season for the Panthers.
In winning three of four conference games, the Hurricanes have shown a nice fighting spirit in battling back. They won their first three games of the season, before dropping three of their next fourall in conference play. So this latest reversal in form throws a different light on this matchup. Miami would like to get into a better bowl game with their 8th win. At home this season, Pittsburgh is just 3-2, with all their wins being pretty close. A conclusive Panthers win in this spot is not out of the question, but I suspect a Hurricanes team that is in the rare position of perhaps being underrated will provide a gritty effort on Saturday and cover the spread.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Miami Hurricanes plus 6 points.
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