August 1, 2014
By Lance Blankenship
Under 10 ½ Ohio State · Under 4 ½ West Virginia
My handicapping approach to college football “Win Total” predictions has often had me leaning to UNDER tickets because so many things can happen to a team over a three-month span. However, I believe I’ve found a great OVER selections and this is a very strong play for me.
Pittsburgh OVER 7 ½ (+115)
As of last July, this price can be found at 5Dimes.eu and if you look at when the prices were released in mid-June at the major offshore sportsbook, you can see that they opened the price at OVER 7 ½ (+155), which means I’m not the only individual buying the Panthers this fall.
Paul Chryst is building momentum in Western Pennsylvania and he’s already known as an excellent coach and recruiter. A lot of pundits aren’t buying Pittsburgh and the writers recently picked the school to finish in sixth place of the Coastal Division.
This is ridiculous!
It’s fair to say that the majority of college football teams revolve around their quarterback. If you have a talented player behind center, you’re ahead of the game. I am quite confident that Chad Voytik is going to excel at quarterback for Pittsburgh this season.
Talent wise, he’s undersized at six-foot-one but it’s fair to say that he has a 3rd or 4th round NFL draft pick arm. He is also very bright and is being mentored Chryst, who is an amazing quarterback coach. Before joining Pittsburgh, he was with Wisconsin and had played a big part in developing now Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. It’s not fair to compare Voytik to Wilson but they will both receive the same tutelage.
Another addition for Voytik is Pittsburgh’s mammoth and undervalued offensive line. This group gives them a chance to beat any team on their schedule. Pitt's offensive linemen average 6'5" and 315 pounds. I expect running back James Connor to put up huge rushing numbers while Voytik hits his downfield targets, primarily wide receiver Tyler Boyd.
Defensively, Pitt is will also be better than expected despite losing All-American tackle Aaron Donald on the defensive line. The Panthers will not allow easy scores, their secondary will be tough. Pitts and Howard, the CBs, are seasoned and talented. Pitts also adds value to the Panthers' special teams unit with his kick returning skills. Pitt also looks to be strong at both kicking positions, despite both players being young.
If you’re looking for a deep longshot to surprise the college football world, I believe Pittsburgh is a great look. Talent usually prevails but an easy schedule, overrated conferences foes, and a potential gem at QB should have the folks in Pittsburgh believing.
For this piece, OVER 7 ½ (+115) is too good to pass up.
Still not buying the Panthers? Let’s break down their regular season schedule.
Game 1 vs. Delaware: The Blue Hens have a good FCS program and occasionally crank out an NFL draft picks (Rich Gannon, Joe Flacco). Pittsburgh will be favored by more than three scores in this spot and I think the Panthers will explode on opening day a beat Delaware in grand fashion. Pitt easily goes to 1-0.
Game 2 at Boston College: Pitt will cruise to another easy win. BC has only eight returning starters and an unimpressive crop of newcomers. BC loses a 2,000 yard rusher as well. Look for Pitt to overpower BC from start to finish. This is a nationally televised game and Pitt will make a statement. Pitt goes to 2-0.
Game 3 at Florida International: FIU stepped up in class when it joined CUSA. FIU is stepping up even higher by scheduling Pitt. FIU was 1-11 last year and their coach, Ron Turner, has been a loser at every stop on his coaching tour. Paul Chryst will outcoach him and Pitt will clobber FIU. Here is a spot where Pitt's offensive line and James Conner will run wild. Pitt goes to 3-0 and I’d back them to cover any number as a road favorite too.
Game 4 vs. Iowa: Many publications are expecting Iowa to be a force in the Big Ten. I disagree. They have an awful back seven on defense and Pitt will score a bundle against them. Pitt will open huge holes for Conner while setting up Boyd for homeruns. Pitt's defense will keep the Hawkeyes in check. Pitt goes to 4-0.
Game 5 vs. Akron: Akron has improved under Terry Bowden, going 5-7 last year. The Zips are too small on defense to stay in this game for 60 minutes. Chryst will give Bowden a steady diet of Conner up the middle. The Zips' defenders are 50-70 pounds lighter per man than the Panthers' offensive players. Pitt will grind Akron like sausage. Pitt goes to 5-0.
Game 6 at Virginia: This could be Pitt's first loss. UVA was only 2-10 last year but they return 17 starters and plenty of talent. Pitt is better but the Cavaliers are certainly going to take this one seriously. UVA will enter this contest at 2-3. A win would get them to .500 halfway through the season and bring a minor bowl into play. Pitt goes to either 6-0 or 5-1.
Game 7 vs. Virginia Tech: After a bye week following the UVA contest, Pitt hosts Virginia Tech in a Thursday night matchup. Honestly, this game is a toss-up. VT lacks talent on offense but they have two shut-down NFL CBs. Frank Beamer and Chryst are both great coaches. Pitt may overpower Virginia Tech with their line and Conner but it won’t be easy against a VT squad coached by defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who is a genius. Pitt goes to 7-0 or 5-2.
Game 8 vs. Georgia Tech: Pitt will be motivated by revenge in this game as they lost 21-10 in Atlanta last year. Pitt will also benefit from rest due to playing on Thursday the previous week. GT will not have that luxury as they will be coming off a trip to UNC. Look for Pitt to win by daylight. Plus a late October day in Pittsburgh may feel very cold to the young men from Atlanta, making their day even longer. Pitt goes to 8-0 or 6-2.
Game 9 vs. Duke: Last year’s game was a shootout in Durham as Pitt won 58-55. This year's contest should be more ground oriented. Duke will be playing on the road and it could be in cold weather too. If that’s the case, this will slow them down as will the Panthers' defensive backfield. Pitt will run wild all day. Pitt goes to 9-0 or 7-2.
Game 10 at North Carolina: As of late July, UNC was listed as a 110/1 betting choice to win this year’s College Football Playoff. Pitt is 500/1. If Pitt shows up, and I expect them to, the Panthers could suddenly become last year's Auburn. UNC has one of the five best WR corps in the nation. Pitt's secondary can contain them as UNC does not have proven signal caller. Tar Heels QB Marquise Williams may scramble here and there but Voytik will be surgical and Pitt will pound away with Conner. Pitt wins and goes to 10-0 or 8-2. If the Panthers can avoid a loss to the squads from Virginia, they could be jockeying for a spot in the four-team playoff in mid-November, especially if they are 10-0.
Game 11 vs. Syracuse: Pitt gets a big edge at home against Syracuse. The Orangemen will play on a sloppy field in freezing weather instead of their cozy dome. SU does bring back 15 starters but Pitt will beat them. Pitt defeated Syracuse 17-16 last season at the Carrier Dome. I expect another close game but Pitt will beat Syracuse again. Pitt goes to either 11-0 or 9-2.
Game 12 at Miami, Florida: Things can certainly change over three months but as of writing this piece, Miami has no quarterback and no kicking game. Their entire season revolves around running back Duke Johnson, who is the best player in the ACC. While he’s great, he’s still not enough to beat Pitt. The Panthers have not won in Miami in slightly over 50 years, so the due factor is definitely overdue. It can still get muggy in South Florida in November so look for Pitt to potentially struggle with the heat. If Pittsburgh doesn’t have an inordinate amount of injuries at key positions, it will beat Miami. The Panthers go to 12-0 or 10-2.
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