Penn State – Pittsburgh
Time: NOON ET
Spread: PIT -4.5
M/L: PIT -200, PSU +170
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
Trace McSorley will be the starting QB for the Penn State Nittany Lions, who finished the Christian Hackenberg era 7-6 last season. McSorley completed 23 of 27 passes in the Blue-White game in April, for 281 yards and four TDs playing with the first team offense. McSorley is good throwing in the pocket and on the move, and new OC Joe Moorhead will utilize a no-huddle offense with him this season.
McSorley completed 16 of 31 passes for 209 yards with two TDs and no INTs in Week 1, while posting a quarterback rating of just 37.1. He rushed for an additional 47 yards on 14 carries (3.4 yards per attempt).
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At RB, PSU has Saquon Barkley, who set a Penn State freshman record with 1,076 yards last season. WR Chris Godwin caught 69 passes for 1,101 yards, which was No. 2 all-time in school history. Barkley rushed for 105 yards on 22 carries with a TD and long run of 28 yards in Week 1. The Nittany Lions gained 145 rushing yards but surrendered 150 rushing yards to its opponent, Kent State.
The Nittany Lions won 33-13 and scored all 17 second half points. Chris Godwin caught seven passes for 67 yards and Mike Gesicki had three catches for 49 yards and a TD. PSU had 16 receptions in the game. The Nittany Lions defense did force two INTs as well with Amani Oruwariye and Brandon Bell both securing picks. Nick Scott returned two kicks for 52 yards total. John Reid was less adept with punts, averaging 5.5 per return on four attempts.
Nate Peterman took over the starting QB job in Week 3 and after that defeat to Iowa, the Pittsburgh Panthers proceeded to reel off four consecutive victories. Peterman is a strong drop back passer capable of thriving in OC Matt Canada’s power-based offense. Peterman threw for 2,287 yards last season at a 61.7 percent completion clip, and he had 20 TDs with just eight INTs. Unfortunately for Peterman, his top two passing targets from a season ago are gone.
Peterman threw 19 of 32 for completion in Week 1 for 175 yards and two TDs with no INTs. He rushed three times for a loss of eight yards total, and the Panthers generated just 86 rushing yards on 34 attempts, good for only 2.5 yards per attempt. Scott Orndoff caught five passes for 68 yards and Jester Weah had four catches for 38 yards and a TD. The Panthers led 14-0 at the half before allowing Villanova’s lone score in the third quarter en route to the 28-7 victory.
Pitt will likely much more heavily utilize its backfield this season, and junior James Conner will be the biggest beneficiary of that.
Conner had 17 attempts for 53 yards in Week 1, with a TD.
There is also a great deal of depth behind him, with sophomore Qudree Ollison having rushed for 1,121 yards and 11 TDs en route to being the ACC offensive rookie of the year.
Even with that standout freshman season, he may be No. 3 on the depth chart. Conner was the 2014 ACC Player of the Year. And 6’0” 240 pound fullback George Aston will see his fair share of touches too.
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This is the year Pitt really puts it on the ground, which was something they did a good bit last year too while rushing for 148.5 yards a game (No. 40 in nation). Expect that figure to rise considerably, while the 214.7 yards of passing may fall off equally as precipitously.
The OL returns four starters and Adam Bisnowaty is one of the best LTs in the ACC. Pitt returns enough depth at all skill positions that this should be a good offensive season for the Panthers. If Conner can return to the form he had prior to his cancer, the Panthers could be the surprise winners of the Coastal Division. UNC is a better team, but stranger things have happened.
Quadre Henderson returned two kicks for 118 yards including a 96-yard TD return. He could be a game-changer in the special teams units this year for Pitt. It is a bit early to say that after one breakout return, but his prospects give the Panthers hopes of having something of a secret weapon this season.
Henderson also returned four punts for 58 yards including a 31 yard return, so he will be heavily counted upon in the Panthers’ special teams attacks this season.