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Miami vs. Pitt

Betting Line: Miami -3 o/u 51

9/23/10

The Pittsburgh Panthers and Miami Hurricanes both hoped for a better start to their year, but they enter their Thursday night showdown with records of 1-1. The Panthers headed out west to start the year and played tough against Utah, but their sophomore QB came up short as the Utes won 27-24 in OT. Miami was looking for revenge against Ohio State, but Jacory Harris fell apart and they were defeated 36-24. This will be a huge win for either team. The Panthers will host this game at Heinz Field.

The Panthers were 1-0 as home dogs ATS last year and 10-6 in the last 10 years in that category. They were 6-1 overall at home in 2009 with their only loss being a shocking last minute defeat at the hands of Cincinnati. They are 1-14 against Miami since 1987, but haven't played them since 2003. The Hurricanes were 0-2 as road favorites in 2009. They were 1-4 on the road overall in 2009.

The Miami Hurricanes are led by junior QB Jacory Harris. He passed for 3,352 yards and 24 TDs in 2009. He has a bad habit of throwing INTs, which he threw 17 of in 2009. He went crazy against Ohio State giving up 4 INTs. Needless to say, he MUST be better against the Panthers for his team to have a chance to win. WR Leonard Hankerson is the best weapon for Harris. So far in 2010 he has caught 2 TD passes for 205 yards. Senior RB Damien Berry had 94 yards against the Buckeyes. He will be aided by freshmen Storm Johnson and Eduardo Clements.

The Hurricanes defense is led by senior DE Allen Bailey. The 1st Team All-ACC member had 7 sacks in 2009, and 4 tackles for a loss. You can expect him to keep pressure on Pittsburgh's sophomore QB. He will be playing DT a little bit this week as Miami is thin at that position due to injuries. The LBs are led by 2nd Team All-ACC member Colin Mccarthy. The senior had 95 tackles, and 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2009. CB Brandon Harris broke up 15 passes last year and had 2 INTs. He was third leading tackler on the team at 58 and earned 1st Team All-ACC honors. This defense is rock solid, but could be thin this week on the line. That won't help them as they try to stop Dion Lewis.

Sophomore QB Tino Sunseri has showed flashes of brilliance, but like any new QB he has some learning to do. He passed for 184 yards, a TD, and an INT against Utah. Against New Hampshire he put up 275 yards, 2 TDs, and an INT. This will be his first big home game. He doesn't have to win it for the Panthers, but he must minimize mistakes. The heart and soul of this offense is sophomore RB Dion Lewis. He rushed for 1,862 yards and 17 TDs in 2009. It will be up to him to rush behind a strong offensive line and get points on the board. But he hasn't been able to get things moving this year. Last week was the worst performance of his career. New Hampshire held him to just 27 yards on 10 carries. 

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DE Greg Romeus, Pitts best defender, is out. He underwent surgery to replace a herniated disc in his back and his return is uncertain and 3 Pitt players have been suspended or demoted for disciplinary reasons. But Pitt will also have a boost from the past. The Panthers are bringing back over 300 former players for this game with a reunion dinner the night before. Expected are Tony Dorsett, Jimbo Covert and former coach Johnny Majors to name a few.
 

Normally we'd look to back the home dog here. Anytime you have two quality opponents going at it on Thursday Night football under the National spotlight,  you'll find some added value with the home team. The problem for us is that we just don't trust the Panthers. For starters, they have faltered anytime they have stepped up in class. They are 1-10 against ranked non conference opponents. Throw in the suspensions and the injury to Romeus, and it's not exactly a situation you'd want to invest in.

Lastly, teams have been keying in on running back Dion Lewis, shutting down the Pitt running game and putting the pressure on QB Tino Sunseri to find open receivers. If Lewis can't break free Thursday, it could be a very long night for Pitt with Sunseri going up against the Miami secondary.

The feeling here is that at full strength, Miami has more talent. Add in the Pitt problems with suspensions and injury and the gap becomes even wider. Not the strongest of calls here but we have to side with the Hurricanes in this one. Miami -3

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