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Pick - Analysis
This isn't your regular opening weekend, college football Monday night Labor Day game, this is Pittsburgh's initiation into the ACC. The hope for the Panthers is that the excitement and adrenalin for this game will be enough for them to overcome the perennial ACC favorites. While Florida State is losing a lot from last year -- three first-round NFL draft picks -- this is still Florida State we're talking about and they are -10.5 point favorites at GTBets Sportsbook for a reason.
The Seminoles will be starting redshirt freshman Jameis Winston at quarterback if that says anything about the kind of talent they bring in. The good news for Winston is that he actually has a decent amount of help coming back. Devonta Freeman and James Wilder both had more than 100 carries last season in the backfield so they aren't inexperienced. And then you have Rashad Greene at wide receiver, who led the team in receptions, yards and TDs. Not to mention four of the starting offensive linemen are returning. As long as Winston doesn't turn the ball over on every possession, it wouldn't be surprising to see FSU come close to last year's 39.3 points per game.
Pittsburgh relies on their defense so this is going to be a monumental task in their first game. With nine returning starters from a unit that held opponents to 21.1 points per game last year, they'll need to step up. But can they against one of the best in the ACC?
It's going to be very difficult for the Panthers to do much on offense, even against a young defensive core for the Seminoles. Tom Savage comes in at quarterback where he hasn't played a live down in three years. That doesn't bode well for Pitt because even with three-year starter Tino Sunseri at QB last year, the offense had trouble scoring, only reaching 26.6 points per game. Their running back situation is even worse. After Rushel Shell left, injuries began to decimate almost every back. The planned starter for the season, Isaac Bennett, and his backup both may have to miss this game. Malcolm Crockett could end up starting and he only rushed for 50 yards last season.
The Florida State secondary is already one of the best in the nation so don't expect much from Savage. Then you combine that with the depleted backfield for Pitt and the problem is evident. The one thing the Panthers have going for them is that this is a home game in their ACC opener. That has to mean something, right?
The Seminoles are a surprising 0-6 ATS on the road in their last six so don't give this game to them yet. The Panthers, on the other hand, are a solid 4-2 ATS at home in their last six. The over/under is sitting just under 50 points and considering Pittsburgh's offense, it could easily hit the under. The hope is that Pitt's defense comes to play and gives the redshirt Winston some problems.
Just how good are the No. 11-ranked Seminoles and will the Panthers make a positive dent in their first ACC season? Those are the main talking points come Monday night.
If we use our Score Prediction Model using LAST YEARS full season stats, it has Florida State on top by 10. However, if we use stats from only the last 3rd of the season, that margin shrinks to 5, showing us the improvement on the Pitt side. What we have to decide when handicapping this game is whether that improvement will carry over to this season and what impact the losses in personnel will have on both sides.
The added motivation of playing their 1st ACC game, at home, before a Monday Night National TV audience can only help the underdog Panthers here. Our best guess on this one says Pitt finds a way to stay within the 10 point spot. Not a Key Release but........ Pittsburgh +10.5
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