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Florida State at Pittsburgh

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Brian Edwards has been the best college football handicapper on the past two years in the first quarter of the season. His documented records (47-21, 69%) prove that fact and he’s already locked and loaded for Week 1 in 2013. Click to win!

Matchup: Florida State Seminoles at Pittsburgh Panthers
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (grass)
Date: Monday, Sept. 2 , 2013
Time/TV: 8:00 p.m. ET - ESPN
Line: Florida State -10.5, Over/Under 49

Florida State hasn’t had an elite quarterback since Chris Weinke won the Heisman Trophy and led the 2000 team to the BCS Championship Game. Chris Rix and E.J. Manuel may rank second and third, respectively, in career passing yards at FSU, but they failed to lead the Seminoles to any accomplishments of merit compared to teams of the 1980s and ‘90s.

That’s right, this space isn’t passing out any love notes to Manuel for leading FSU to an ACC title last season. And why would we? The ‘Noles may have won 12 games last year, but they only faced two ranked teams, beating one (Clemson at home) and losing to another (at home to arch-rival Florida by double digits), and barely knocked off a seven-loss Ga. Tech team (21-15) to win the conference.

But for the first time in more than a decade, FSU may have found its man in redshirt freshman QB ‘Famous’ Jameis Winston. He hasn’t even taken his first collegiate snap yet has already been compared to Charlie Ward.

There’s zero doubt that Winston has a strong arm, which was on full display while throwing heaters from the mound for the FSU baseball team this past spring. There’s no question about his speed, either, which dazzled MLB scouts while running the bases for the ‘Noles.

Can Winston live up to the hype? We’ll start to get an idea Monday night when Pittsburgh plays host to FSU at Heinz Field. ESPN will have the telecast at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

As of early Sunday night, most betting shops had FSU installed as a 10-point favorite with a total of 49. Gamblers can take Pitt to win outright for a +320 payout (risk $100 to win $320). For first-half wagers, the ‘Noles are favored by six with a total of 24.5.

Jimbo Fisher’s team finished 2012 with a 12-2 straight-up record, but it limped to a 5-8 against-the-spread mark. FSU returns seven starters on offense and four on defense.

FSU was expected to have one of the nation’s best and deepest group of wide receivers. However, that depth has taken a major hit over the last month. Greg Dent (27 catches, 355 yards & 2 TDs in 2012) has been suspended indefinitely, while Jarred Haggins and Willie Haulstead have been lost to season-ending injuries.

Junior Rashad Greene remains healthy, though, and appears poised for a monster campaign. As a sophomore, Greene hauled in a team-high 57 receptions for 741 yards and six touchdowns. He is probably the ACC’s third-best WR behind only Sammy Watkins and Maryland’s Stefon Diggs.

FSU had a salty defense last season that gave up only 14.7 points per game, but seven starters are gone and, perhaps most important, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops left to become the head coach at Kentucky. The new DC is former Alabama defensive backs coach Mark Pruitt, who is just the third man to hold this post at FSU in the last 28 years.

Pittsburgh will be making its ACC debut after going 6-7 SU and 8-5 ATS in its farewell season in the Big East. The Panthers bring back five starters on offense and eight on defense for Paul Chryst’s second year in the Steel City.

Pitt suffered a pair of costly losses with the departures of two of the school’s all-time best in QB Tino Sunseri and RB Ray Graham. Sunseri had a banner senior season, completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 3,288 yards with an outstanding 21/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Sunseri finished his career ranked third in school history with 8,590 passing yards.

Graham had 11 rushing TDs in 2012 and completed his career behind only Tony Dorsett in career rushing yards with 3,271.

Tom Savage will take over under center for Sunseri after sitting out the last two seasons. Savage was considered one of the biggest recruits in Rutgers history when he signed with the school in 2009. As a true freshman, he had a 14/7 TD-INT ratio for the Scarlet Knights.

But Savage lost his starting job as a sophomore and decided to transfer to Arizona. Then he didn’t like it in Tucson and elected to come to Pitt where he has only one year of eligibility.

Savage’s favorite target will be WR Devin Street, who garnered second-team All Big East honors after making 73 catches for 975 yards and five TDs in 2012. RB Isaac Bennett will replace Graham and he has been upgraded to ‘probable’ after missing some practice time with a knee injury. Since 2008, Pitt owns a 6-2 spread record in eight games as a home underdog. During Fisher’s tenure in Tallahassee, FSU has compiled a 5-7 spread record as a road favorite. The ‘Noles went 0-5 ATS in road ‘chalk’ situations last season.

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