College Football Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Betting Picks: Pittsburgh Panthers vs Bowling Green Falcons

2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Pittsburgh Panthers vs Bowling Green Falcons

Ford Field – Detroit, Michigan
Thursday, December 26, 2013, 6:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Bowling Green -5 1/2
Current Line: Bowling Green -4
Opening Total: 50 1/2
Current Total: 50
Opening Money Line: Bowling Green -220 / Pitt +185
Current Money Line: Bowling green -210 / Pitt +175 

Bowling green is a 4 point favorite over Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Thursday in Detroit.

Bowling green is a 4 point favorite over Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Thursday in Detroit.

The 10-3 Bowling Green Falcons upset previously undefeated Northern Illinois 47-27 in the MAC Championship game, costing NIU a spot in a  BCS bowl. The Falcons return to the site of that game as they face 6-6 Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit Thursday. Despite being roughly 242 miles from each other, Bowling Green and Pittsburgh have only met 3 times previously. The Panthers lead the series 2-1, but the Falcons won the last meeting 27-17 in 2008 in Pittsburgh.

Pitt went 3-5 in their first year in the ACC Coastal Division after years in the Big East. Although being in Detroit on the day after Christmas isn’t the most glamorous of destinations, the Panthers are just happy not to be playing in Mobile, Alabama. The Panthers have gone to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Mobile for 3 straight years, including a 38-17 blowout loss to Ole Miss last season.  Overall, Pittsburgh is 12-17 in bowl games. The Panthers have gone to 5 straight bowl games. The Panthers have never played in a bowl game in Detroit or against a MAC team.

Bowling Green went 7-1 and won the MAC East Division. The Falcons claimed their 11th MAC title and first since 1992 with the win over Northern Illinois. Bowling Green is 4-6 all-time in bowl games. The Falcons have lost 3 straight bowl games including 29-20 to San Jose State in the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C. last season. Bowling Green beat Northwestern 28-24 in the 2003 Motor City Bowl in their only previous trip to Detroit for the post-season. The Falcons have never faced an ACC team in a bowl game.

Pittsburgh is coached by Paul Chryst. The Panthers have home losses to Florida State 41-13, North Carolina 34-27, and Miami-(FL) 41-31 to close out the regular season. Pitt has road losses to Virginia Tech 19-9, Navy 24-21 and Georgia Tech 21-10. The Panthers have home wins over New Mexico 49-27, Virginia 14-3, Old Dominion 35-24, and Notre Dame 28-21, along with road wins at Duke 58-55, and Syracuse 17-16. Pittsburgh is 5-7 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season. The Panthers were 1.5 point home underdogs to Miami and the total was 56.

Pitt is being outscored 27-26 this season. The Panthers are #85 in scoring and #71 in points allowed nationally out of 125 FBS teams. Pittsburgh is averaging 351.8 yards per game including 238.8 passing and 114.9 rushing yards. The Panthers are #104 in total offense and #113 rushing. On defense, Pitt is allowing 374.1 total yards including 213.5 passing and 160.6 rushing yards. The Panthers are #42 in total defense and #31 in pass defense nationally. Pitt is -1 in turnovers with 17 giveaways. The Panthers average 46 penalty yards per game and opponents average 51. Pittsburgh is 67/170 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 71/185. The Panthers have forced 18 sacks and allowed 41 this season. Pittsburgh is 34/40 scoring in the red zone with 27 touchdowns and opponents are 35/38 with 23 touchdowns. The Panthers have forced  one pick six this season and have allowed 3 punt returns for touchdowns.

 

Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage has completed 61.2% of his passes for 2,834 yards with 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, along with 3 rushing touchdowns. He has taken all but 4 snaps this season, despite being sacked 41 times.

Running back Isaac Bennett has 166 carries for 795 yards and 7 touchdowns, along with 9 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. James Connor has 120 carries for 570 yards and 7 touchdowns, plus 3 catches for 33 yards. Rachid Ibrahim has 27 carries for 136 yards, plus 9 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Receiver Tyler Boyd has 77 catches for 1,001 yards and 7 touchdowns, along with 11 carries for 108 rushing yards and a touchdown. Devin Street has 51 catches for 854 yards and 7 touchdowns. He is questionable with an elbow injury after missing the Miami game. Tight end Manasseh Garner has 32 catches for 371 yards and 3 touchdowns. J.P. Holtz and Kevin Weatherspoon will also get some targets. Tight end Scott Orndoff has two touchdown catches, but is questionable with a leg injury. Five defensive players are listed as questionable to out for the Panthers.

Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson left to become the coach at Wake Forest. Special teams coordinator Adam Scheier will serve as the interim coach. The Falcons hired Eastern Illinois coach Dino Babers to replace Clawson for next season.

The Falcons have losses at Indiana 42-10, at Mississippi State 21-20 and at home against Toledo 28-25. Bowling Green has won five straight games after a 2 game losing streak. The Falcons have home wins over Tulsa 34-7, Murray State 48-7, Akron 31-14,  Massachusetts 28-7 and Ohio 49-0, along with road wins at Kent State 41-22, Miami-(OH) 45-3, Eastern Michigan 58-7, and  at Buffalo 24-7. Bowling Green is 10-3 ATS and the total is 4-9 this season. Bowling Green was a 3 point underdog  against Northern Illinois and the total was 58.

Bowling Green is outscoring teams 35-15 this season. The Falcons are #5 nationally in points allowed and #28 in scoring out of 125 FBS teams. Bowling Green is averaging 472.5 yards per game including 265.1 passing and 207.5 rushing yards. The Falcons are #35 or better in all three categories nationally. On defense, Bowling Green is allowing 308.7 total yards including 166.2 passing and 142.5 rushing yards. The Falcons are #8 in total defense, including the #4 pass defense and #35 rush defense in the country. Bowling Green is +10 in turnovers with 21 takeaways. The Falcons average 46 penalty yards per game and opponents average 36. Bowling Green is 85/183 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 71/200. The Falcons have forced 28 sacks and allowed 34 this season. Bowling Green is 50/59 scoring in the red zone with 38 touchdowns and opponents are 18/29 with 18 touchdowns. Falcon opponents have converted only three field goals in 10 attempts this season. Bowling Green has 2 punt returns and 2 fumble returns for touchdowns this season and has allowed one pick six.

Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson has completed 64.4% for 3,195 yards with 23 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, along with 105 carries for 268 yards and 5 touchdowns. Matt Schilz sometimes takes a few snaps and James Knapke threw a touchdown pass in garbage time of the blowout over Murray State. Each has thrown a touchdown pass this season.

Running back Travis Greene has 261 carries for 1,555 yards with 11 touchdowns, along with 16 catches for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns. Andre Givens has 45 carries for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns. Fred Coppet has 41 carries for 212 yards. He is questionable with a concussion. William Houston has 49 carries for 211 yards with 11 touchdowns. Little used running back Jamel Martin is questionable for undisclosed reasons.

Receiver Shaun Joplin has 48 catches for 822 yards and 3 touchdowns. Alex Bayer has 34 catches for 536 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ronnie Moore has 26 catches for 535 yards and 7 touchdowns. Ryan Burbrink has 27 catches for 433 yards and a touchdown, plus a punt return for a touchdown.  Chris Gallon has 24 catches for 232 yards and 2 touchdowns, but is out for the season with a knee injury. Paul Senn has a punt return for a touchdown.Two other little used receivers Jared Cohen and Jermal Hosley are both out for the season. Two defensive players DB Justin Ford and LB Gabe Martin are questionable or out Thursday.

Pittsburgh is 7-0 ATS after allowing 40 points or more, 5-0 in December, 21-6 after a straight up loss, 7-2 after failing to cover, 37-16-1 after passing for 280 yards or more, 3-7 after allowing more than 450 total yards, 2-5 in bowl games and in neutral site games, 2-5-1 after rushing for 200 yards or more,  and 2-6-1 in Thursday games.

Bowling Green is 5-0 ATS after a straight up win, 4-0 after scoring 40 points or more, after a cover, and on fieldturf, 4-1 in Thursday games and after allowing 200 rushing yards or more, 16-5 after allowing 450 total yards or more, 6-2 after gaining more than 450 total yards, 3-1-1 in neutral site games, 20-8 overall, and 1-3-1 in bowl games.

The champion of a strong mid-major conference like the MAC should be able to beat a mediocre ACC team on a neutral field. Pitt struggles to score and move the ball, and that will be a problem against Bowling Green’s top ten defense. On defense, Pitt is led by All-American defensive tackle Aaron Donald who won the Bednarik (best defensive player), Outland (best interior lineman,) Lombardi (top lineman/linebacker) and Nagurski (outstanding defensive player) awards. He must be accounted for, but I still like Bowling Green in a close shootout.

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