Big East College Football Picks: Pittsburgh Panthers at Syracuse Orange

Pittsburgh Panthers at Syracuse Orange
Friday, October 5, 2012,  7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Carrier Dome – Syracuse, New York
Opening Line: Pitt -3
Current Line: Syracuse -1
Opening Total: 55
Current Total: 58
Opening Money Line: Pitt -135 / Syracuse +115
Current Money Line: Syracuse -115 / Pitt +105

Syracuse is a slight favorite at home Friday night against Pittsburgh in Big East action. The two schools will move to the ACC in 2013.

The Pittsburgh Panthers and Syracuse Orange meet Friday night in Syracuse for the last time as Big East rivals. The two schools will join the ACC next year, so the rivalry will continue. This is the 68th meeting between the schools dating back to 1916. The Panthers lead the series 34-30-3, including a current 7 game winning streak. Pitt won 33-20 last year in Pittsburgh. The Orange are 17-14-3 at home in the series. The two schools have met every year since 1955.

Pittsburgh is 2-2 this season with a home loss to Youngstown St 31-17 and a road loss at Cincinnati 34-10 under first year coach Paul Chryst. The Panthers have rebounded with home wins over then #13 Virginia Tech 35-17 and two weeks ago against Gardner-Webb 55-10, as a 40 point favorite. The Panthers took a 27-10 halftime lead, but didn’t cover the number until a touchdown with 9 minutes to go. The Panthers had 627 total yards, including 397 passing yards. Quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns with no picks. Pitt held the Bulldogs to 127 total yards and 10 first downs. Each team had 9 penalties. Gardner-Webb had 3 turnovers, and Pittsburgh only had one. Although the Bulldogs did return a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown for their only touchdown of the game. For the season, Pitt is 2-2 ATS and the total is 1-1.

Pittsburgh is averaging 486.6 total yards per game on offense, including 299.2 passing yards and 187.5 rushing yards. The Panthers are 30/64 on third and fourth down conversions. The Panthers are 14/20 scoring in the red zone with 11 touchdowns. Pitt has a turnover margin of +1. Pitt is averaging 69.8 penalty yards per game, and has allowed 8 sacks.  On defense, the Panthers are allowing 324 total yards including 185.5 passing yards and 138.5 rushing yards. Pitt has forced 6 sacks. Panther opponents are 27/58 on third and fourth down conversions and 9 for 9 in the red zone with 5 touchdowns. Pitt is outscoring opponents 29.2-23 this season.

Sunseri has completed 80 of 119 passes (67.2%) for 1,144 yards with 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. After struggling in the first two games, there was talk of benching him, but Sunseri has thrown 3 touchdowns in each of his last two games against Virginia Tech and Gardner-Webb. Running back Ray Graham has 65 carries for 362 yards with 3 touchdowns, along with 9 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Rushel Shell has 44 carries, 229 yards and a touchdown, along with 2 catches for 15 yards. Isaac Bennett has 23 carries, 126 yards, and 3 touchdowns, along with 6 catches for 56 yards. Receiver Mike Shanahan has 21 catches, 368 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Devin Street has 18 catches, 273 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Three Panther defensive players are listed as questionable Friday night including linebacker Todd Thomas, and defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Jack Lippert.

Syracuse is 1-3 this season under coach Doug Marrone. The three losses have come by a total of 21 points. The Orange lost at home 42-41 to Northwestern, 42-29 to then #2 USC in New Jersey, and two weeks ago at Minnesota 17-10. The only win for the Orange came at home against Stony Brook 28-17. Both Syracuse and Pitt are coming off a bye week because they are playing on Friday night this week. In the Minnesota game, Syracuse came in as a 3 point underdog and the total was 55. The Golden Gophers took a 7-3 halftime lead, with neither team scoring in the second quarter. Minnesota expanded their lead to 17-3 late in the game. The Orange pulled to within 17-10 with 46 seconds left. Syracuse then tried the onside kick but Minnesota recovered and ran out the clock. The two teams were pretty much even yardage wise with the Orange gaining 350 total yards to Minnesota’s 337. However, Syracuse had 10 penalties for 79 yards, and 4 turnovers. Those miscues were the biggest difference in the game. Syracuse is 1-3 ATS and the total is 2-1 this season.

Syracuse is averaging 487.5 total yards on offense, including the nation’s 10th leading passing attack with 338.8 yards per game and 148.8 rushing yards. The Orange are being outscored 29.5-27 this season. The Orange need to protect the ball better as they have a -6 turnover margin. Syracuse has allowed 6 sacks and is averaging 67.8 penalty yards per game. The Orange are 36 for 72 on third and fourth down conversions, and 15/18 scoring in the red zone with 11 touchdowns. On defense, Syracuse is allowing 357.2 yards per game including 181.2 passing yards and 176 rushing yards. The Orange have forced 9 sacks this season. Syracuse opponents are 21/61 on third and fourth down conversions and 10/12 in the red zone with 9 touchdowns.

Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib is 118 for 178 passing (66.3%) for 1,367 yards with 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, along with 36 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown. Running back Jerome Smith has 53 carries for 227 yards, along with 5 catches for 63 yards. He has yet to score a touchdown this season. Prince Tyson-Gulley has 37 carries, 187 yards, and 2 touchdowns, along with 16 catches, 130 yards and a touchdown. Ashton Broyld  has 20 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown, along with 7 catches for 53 yards. Receiver Marcus Sales has 27 catches, 382 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Jarrod West, Alec Lemon, and Beckett Wales also get significant targets. Jeremiah Kobena has only 5 catches, but two of them went for touchdowns. Kobena is out indefinitely with an upper body injury. Nine other Orange players are listed as questionable or out Friday night, including 5 skill position players, 2 offensive linemen, and 2 defensive players.

Pittsburgh is 8-1-1 ATS against teams with losing records, 5-1-1 after scoring 40 points or more, 5-1 after a cover,  14-3 after passing for 280 yards or more, 4-1 after allowing 170 passing yards or less, 19-6-1 in October, 6-2 in Friday games, 19-7 in conference games, 7-3 overall, 15-7-2 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards, and 1-3-1 after a straight up win of 20 points or more. The favorite is 7-2 ATS in the last 9 in this series, and the Panthers are 5-2 recently against Syracuse.

Syracuse is 6-1 ATS after a bye week, 1-6 after a straight up loss, and on fieldturf, 1-5 after failing to cover and after allowing 20 points or less, 1-4 in Friday games and at home, 1-8 overall, 0-5 in Big East games, and 0-4 after scoring 20 points or less. Four of the last five games played in Syracuse in the Pitt-Syracuse series have gone over the total. Dating back to last year, Syracuse has lost 8 straight games to FBS teams.

After two weeks, Pitt looked dead in the water with blowout losses to Yaoungstown St and Cincinnati. However, after gaining almost 1,200 combined yards in their last two wins, the Panthers look like they could compete for the Big East title with Louisville and Cincinnati. For Syracuse, it has been just the opposite. They started off 0-2 but were competive against ranked teams Northwestern and USC. They didn’t play well against mediocre teams Stony Brook and Minnesota. This line started off with Pitt as a 3 point favorite on the road, but has moved to Syracuse      -1. Bettors apparently don’t know what to make of these two teams either. I like Pittsburgh to win a close game and continue their recent dominance in the series. I could see a lot of points as both defenses have their flaws.

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