Week Eleven Big East College Football: Pittsburgh Panthers at Connecticut Huskies

Pittsburgh Panthers at Connecticut Huskies
Friday, November 9, 2012, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Rentschler Field – East Hartford, Connecticut
Opening Line: Pitt -4 1/2
Current Line: Pitt -3
Opening Total: 43 1/2
Current Total: 44
Opening Money Line: Pitt -165 / UConn +145
Current Money Line: Pitt -160 / UConn +140

Pitt takes on UConn Friday night in East Hartford. Both teams are battling to become bowl eligible and need a win desperately.

The 4-5 Pittsburgh Panthers and 3-6 Connecticut Huskies are out of the Big East race, but both teams are still trying to become bowl eligible. The Panthers must win 2 of the their 3 remaining games and the Huskies must win out in their 3 remaining games.

This is the 9th meeting between the schools and the series is tied 4-4. UConn leads the series 3-1 in East Hartford. Pitt won last year 35-20 at home. This will be the last meeting between the schools as Big East rivals as Pitt joins the ACC next year. There are rumors that UConn could join them in the future.

Pittsburgh is 1-3 in the Big East under first year coach Paul Chryst. The Panthers have home losses to Youngstown St 31-17 and Louisville 45-35, along with road losses at Cincinnati 34-10, Syracuse 14-13, and last week 29-26 in triple overtime against undefeated Notre Dame. The Panthers were up by 14 in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame and also missed a field goal in double overtime that would have won the game. The Panthers have home wins over Virginia Tech 35-17, Gardner-Webb 55-10, and Temple 47-17 along with a road win at Buffalo 20-6. So far this season the Panthers have been somewhat inconsistent, losing their first two games, winning two in a row, losing another 2 straight, and winning two in a row before the Notre Dame loss. Pitt is 5-3-1 ATS and the total is 4-3 this season. The Panthers were 16.5 point underdogs against Notre Dame and the total was 47.5.

Pittsburgh is averaging 418.1 total yards per game on offense, including 268.4 passing yards and 149.7 rushing yards. The Panthers are 60/139 on third and fourth down conversions and 34/42 scoring in the red zone with 25 touchdowns. Pitt has a turnover margin of +7 with 7 giveaways. Pitt is averaging 61 penalty yards per game, and has allowed 25 sacks.  On defense, the Panthers are allowing 360.1 total yards including 209.1 passing yards and 51 rushing yards. Pitt has forced 17 sacks and 14 turnovers. Panther opponents are 71/149 on third and fourth down conversions and 23 for 29 in the red zone with 15 touchdowns. Pitt is outscoring opponents 29-23 this season.

Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri has completed 181 of 263 passes (68.8%) for 2,363 yards with 14 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He has been sacked 25 times, but does have a rushing touchdown. Running back Ray Graham has 158 carries for 794 yards with 8 touchdowns, along with 28 catches for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rushel Shell has 88 carries, 443 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 8 catches for 90 yards. Isaac Bennett has 27 carries, 126 yards, and 3 touchdowns, along with 8 catches for 78 yards. Receiver Devin Street has 53 catches, 730 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Mike Shanahan has 41 catches, 669 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Cameron Saddler has 14 catches, 186 yards and a touchdown. J.P. Holtz has only 6 catches, but 2 of them went for touchdowns. No other Panther receiver has more than 8 catches. Three Panther defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed as questionable or out Friday night.

Connecticut is 0-4 in the Big East this season under coach Paul Pasqualoni. The Huskies have wins at home over Massachusetts 37-0 and Buffalo 24-17, along with a 24-21 win at Maryland. UConn has home losses to North Carolina St 10-7 and against Temple 17-14 in overtime, along with road losses at Western Michigan 30-24, Rutgers 19-3, Syracuse 40-10 and last week at South Florida 13-6. UConn has lost 4 straight games. The Huskies are 2-5-2 ATS and the total is 3-6 this season. UConn was a 7 point underdog against South Florida and the total was 47.

UConn is averaging 317.9 yards per game on offense, including 235.9 passing yards and 82 rushing yards. The Huskies are 113th in total offense nationally and 120th in rushing out of 124 FBS teams. UConn is being outscored 19-17 this season. They are #120 in scoring offense. UConn is -11 in turnovers this season, having given up 21. The Huskies have allowed 26 sacks this season and average 35 penalty yards per game. UConn is 49/136 on third and fourth down conversions and 18/22 scoring in the red zone with 10 touchdowns. While the offense is inept at best for UConn, the Husky defense is one of the elite units in the country. The Huskies allow just 290.2 yards per game including 176 passing yards and 114.2 rushing yards. UConn is #9 in total defense, #14 against the pass, #22 in rush defense, and #21 in scoring defense. The Huskies have not allowed more than 30 points in any game except against Syracuse. UConn has forced 24 sacks and 10 turnovers this season. Husky opponents are 52/153 on third and fourth down conversions and 18/19 scoring in the red zone with 12 touchdowns. UConn has 3 defensive/special teams touchdowns.

UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer is 166/84 passing (58.5%) for 2,115 yards with 7 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has been sacked 26 times this year. Pasqualoni has not indicated that he would bench Whitmer if he continues to struggle. He has last year’s starter Johnny McEntee on the roster and Scott McCummings who is a better runner than a passer. McCummings has 34 carries for 109 yards with 2 touchdowns. Running back Lyle McCombs has 164 carries, 547 yards with 4 touchdowns, along with 19 catches for 180 yards. Seven Husky receivers have at least 14 catches, but no one has more than 36. Geremy Davis has 36 catches, 541 yards and a touchdown. Michael Smith has 26 catches, 320 yards, and a touchdown. Ryan Griffin has 20 catches, 314 yards and 4 touchdowns. Nick Williams, Shakim Phillips, and John Delahunt will also get a lot of targets.

Pittsburgh is 4-0 ATS in November, 3-0-1 after a cover, 9-1-2 against teams with losing records, 5-1-1 overall, 4-1-1 in road games, 4-1 on grass and after passing for less than 170 yards, 17-5 after a straight up loss, 6-2-1 in Friday games, 3-1-1 after allowing 450 total yards or more, 19-7-1 in Big East games, 8-3 after allowing more than 280 passing yards, and 0-2-2 in road games against teams with losing home records.

Connecticut is 8-1-1 ATS in November, 13-4 at home against teams with losing road records, 19-6-1 after scoring less than 20 points, 38-18-1 after a straight up loss, 31-15-1 at home, 1-4-1 after allowing less than 100 yards rushing, 1-7-1 after allowing less than 20 points, 0-4-1 in Big East games,  0-4-2 against teams with losing records, 0-3-1 after rushing for less than 100 yards and passing for more than 280 yards, and 0-5-1 overall. The underdog is 5-1 ATS in this series recently.

Neither of these teams are very good, but Pitt is  slightly better. After a gutsy near upset at Notre Dame, the Panthers could be in for a letdown in a short week on the road. Still, if Pitt scores more than 30 points there is no way UConn can keep up with their shaky offense. I think Pitt wins a close defensive struggle.

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