Pinstripe Bowl Pick

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Pinstripe Bowl Pick

Northwestern

vs.

Pittsburgh

12/28/16

This Game should be fun and if it’s anything like the last two Pinstripe Bowl’s at Yankee Stadium, then Pittsburgh and Northwestern will go to overtime. With how Pitt has played this season, that isn’t a stretch. That said, the Panthers were pushed to -5.5 point favorites two weeks before the Game at  5 Dimes Sportsbook.

The over/under for this Game is at 65 points and that was actually pushed down. Whether that’s because of the cold or not, that shouldn’t matter. The over has hit a ridiculous 11-straight times for Pittsburgh, which is all that needs to be said. In their last Game, the over/under was similarly at 66 points yet the Game finished 76-61 for the most points ever in an FBS Game. The thing is that Pitt can Scoreon most teams, but also gives up a ton of points. Their 8-4 season was highlighted by huge wins over Penn State and Clemson with all Four of their losses against bowl teams. In his second season at the helm, only good things can be said about Pat Narduzzi, granted he was supposed to be a defensive coach.

As for Northwestern, a lot of bad things can be said about them. They fell to Illinois State early in the season, and while all six of their other losses came to bowl teams, their class of wins is arguably worse. Northwestern’s best win of the year came at Iowa and against Indiana, the only two bowl teams the Wildcats beat.

In like opponents, Northwestern beat Duke 24-13 early in the year, while Pitt dominated Duke 56-14 about a month ago. Then there’s that win over Penn State for Pitt, the team that won the Big Ten.

Northwestern’s defense will be the key in this matchup as their strength is against the run. Earlier in the year, they gave up loads of points to Iowa and Michigan State, but more recently held teams like Ohio State to just 24 points. If that defense shows up here, an upset could be in the cards.

The Panthers are built off the ground Game and it starts with the incredible story of James Conner, who finished with 1,060 yards and 16 touchdowns. Conner has averaged at least 6 yards per carry in Four of the last five Games. But if that doesn’t happen, quarterback Nathan Peterman will be asked to do more. Fortunately, that’s not a huge problem as he’s done that plenty of times this season, most notably his 308-yard, 5-TD performance at Clemson.

But even if Pitt does score, Northwestern should be able to keep up on the scoreboard against a defense that just allowed 61 points to Syracuse. Pitt has the second-worst pass defense in the country if that says anything.

That means most of the pressure will fall to quarterback Clayton Thorson, who has improved immensely in his second season, completing 8% more of his passes to go with 21 TDs and 8 INTs. He’s been great for this offense to say the least and has eaten up mediocre defenses all season. His numbers aren’t better mainly because of the quality of defenses in the Big Ten. In addition to Thorson, Justin Jackson is solid at running back and finished with 1,000-plus yards for the third-straight season.

against bowl teams this season, Pittsburgh has either lost or won by three points or less. That’s the exact route for anyone backing Northwestern. As for Pitt backers, Narduzzi’s experience (from his time with Michigan State) against Northwestern is a good starting point.

The Panthers are 1-4 ATS in their last five vs. the Big Ten and 0-6 ATS in their last six non-Conference Games. The Wildcats are 5-0 ATS in their last five vs. the ACC and 1-4 ATS in their last five non-Conference Games.

Our Pick – This is a fascinating match up. Our readers know we like to rank offenses and defenses using yards per point. In this Game, Pitt comes in as the #1 ranked offense in the land when using that method while the Northwestern offense ranks 94th.

On the defensive side of the ball, Northwestern ranks 15th while Pitt ranks 109th.

Pitt is going to put some points on the board in this one. The question is, will Northwestern be able to keep up?

Nothing strong here, but we’l side with the Pitt offense to ultimately be too much for the Wildcats. Pitt -4.5

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