College Football Picks Week 5: South Florida Bulls at Pittsburgh Panthers Big East Preview

No. 16 South Florida Bulls at Pittsburgh Panthers
Thursday, 9/29/11, 8:00 PM EST, TV:  ESPN
Opening Point Spread:  South Florida PK
Current Betting Line:  South Florida -2.5
Opening Total:  N/A
Current Total:  N/A
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

South Florida's B.J. Daniels leads his team into battle Thursday night against Pittsburgh

South Florida heads out on the road for the first time since handing Notre Dame a 23-20 defeat as 9.5-point road underdogs on Sept. 3.  The Bulls will enter with a perfect 4-0 record, which includes a 52-24 win over UTEP as 30-point home favorites.  The team has out-gained its last three opponents by an incredible 1,124 yards combined.  “Never take one for granted,” commented Bulls head coach Skip Holtz of the latest victory.  “I mean you’re excited about the win, you’re excited about a lot of positive things.”  South Florida is 13-14 ATS over the last two-plus seasons, but has not been a road favorite of a field goal or less over that span.

The Bulls have tallied consecutive 50-plus offensive performances for the first time in school history, outscoring opponent by an incredible 65-7 in the first quarter.  That will certainly be challenged in this prime-time even due to Pittsburgh blanking its first four opponents in the opening 15 minutes this season.  South Florida’s running game was truly dominant in gaining 373 yards last week, while quarterback B.J. Daniels can’t be forgotten in throwing for 1,071 passing yards this season.

Pittsburgh opened the 2011 campaign with two victories, but has since been handed two losses by Iowa (31-27) and Notre Dame (15-12).  The Panthers were three and seven-point underdogs respectively in those contest, being out-gained by 183 yards combined.  “We have to learn to finish, and we’re going to,” commented quarterback Tino Sunseri.  “That’s the thing that ‘s so frustrating right now.”  The program will be making its 17th Thursday night ESPN appearance, dropping four of its last five such appearances.  Pittsburgh has tallied a 7-1 ATS mark in Weeks 5 through 9 the past two years.

The Panthers will be facing the Bulls for the ninth time, leading the series 5-3, with three consecutive wins.  Pitt handed South Florida a 17-10 loss last year, while coming away with a 41-14 home win during the 2009 meeting.  The team is likely to hand the ball off to running back Ray Graham quite often in this contest, as he leads the Big East Conference and ranks eighth nationally in gaining 127 yards per game.  Since the 2000 campaign, the team is 40-12 when it has a 100-yard rusher.  On the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh ranks 34th against the run, surrendering just 105.5 yards per game.

Bettors will likely back the Panthers due to their 10-1 ATS mark following a straight-up loss, while the Bulls are 0-6 ATS on Thursday.

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