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Pick with Analysis
The Pitt Panthers and Cincinnati Bearcats kick off their Big East schedule with a Thursday night special. The game can be seen on ESPN at 8 pm est. Pittsburgh is currently a -4.5 point favorite at 5 dimes. This write up is being done on Monday September 3rd, so we're not dealing with a large sample size here, but the early action on this game has been all Cinci to the tune of 90%.
Football handicapping 101. Don't place too much emphasis on how a team looked last week. The betting public has a short term memory. Their motto is, "what have you done for me lately". They'll look at a game like this one and see that Pitt opened up their season with a loss to Youngstown State, and they'll bet with both hands on Cinci this week based on that result alone. In some cases, they may be right, but not the majority of the time. Will they be right on this game?
Youngstown State isn't exactly a pushover. They opened last season at Michigan State and lost 28-6. Hey, 28-6 isn't 62-3. You also have to consider that Pitt head coach Paul Chryst, just hours before that game, suspended 6 players, including starting nose tackle Tyrone Ezell and freshman running back Rushel Shell. Ezell and Shell could have had an impact on the game, but the rest of the suspensions were insignificant. They still had all of their other starters and this is a Pitt team with 9 starters returning to the offense. But you have to wonder what role the suspensions played with the mental state of this team and you also have to consider that perhaps Pitt felt they had this game won before they ever took the field. Perhaps they overlooked Youngstown State.
Not sure what we have with Cincinnati. We do know they were a lot better than we anticipated last year, finishing up with a 10-3 record capped by a Liberty Bowl win over Vanderbilt. They lost 7 starters from their offense and just 4 from their defense, but they don't have a game under their belts as the Panthers do, so this week will be our first look at the Bearcats.
Pitt is 5-2 against the number in this series recently, including covers in the last two games, a 26-23 loss last year and a 28-10 win the year prior. 4 of the last 5 in this series have been decided by a touchdown or less, which shows us that these two teams are on a level playing field when it comes to recruiting talent.
No reason to expect anything but a close game here. There's two question marks going in. One, the suspensions and the impact they had, and will have, on the mental state of Pitt. The other, is new head coach Paul Chryst. He's not just Pitt's new coach. He's a first time starter. A new coach, in general. But he comes with plenty of experience. He was the offensive coordinator at Oregon State in 2003 and had the Beavers offense ranked 10th in the nation with an average of 463 yards of total offense per game and he was most recently the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, from 2005 through last season, and we know what a potent offense the Badgers had during his stint. Obviously the Panthers are hoping for similar results.
We'd expect the Pitt offense to improve each and every week of this season. There's going to be growing pains with any new coach and that may have been partially responsible for last weeks effort. But we think having that game under their belts is a plus in more ways than one, despite the loss. We expect a much more focused Pitt team this week and see no reason not to grab any points available in a game that should be close. Our biggest concern isn't the suspensions, but rather the potential growing pains associated with a new coach. That alone is what would keep this play from being an official Key Release. Pitt +4.5
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