This isn’t a matchup anyone will seek out, but as the lone night game on the day after Christmas, it’ll be the only thing college football diehards can watch. Pittsburgh was an early -11 point favorite with an over/under of 49 for the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.
The last time Pittsburgh was a double-digit favorite was September against Delaware. That kind of explains its 7-5 season, which was mostly uneventful.
The Panthers challenged Penn State and beat UCF early, but they couldn’t separate in the ACC Coastal division and had back-to-back losses against Virginia Tech and Boston College. Maybe most relevant for this spread is that they didn’t beat anyone by more than 10 points (Delaware included).
Eastern Michigan is less than an hour from the stadium, but it’s not like that makes them easier to bet on. The Eagles were 6-6 and beat bowl teams like Illinois and Western Michigan, but they were 3-5 in the MAC and that’s not a great look for any matchup.
Pittsburgh’s games were often close because its offense couldn’t run up the score, but that could change against Eastern, who allowed points to everyone, Central Connecticut State included. The Eagles gave up 30.3 points per game and were terrible against the run, allowing 202.4 rushing yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry.
The Panthers don’t exactly do one thing well, averaging 21.9 points per game, but they’ll try and run the ball in this matchup. Running back A.J. Davis leads the team with 532 yards on 4.2 yards per carry, but freshman Vincent Davis could get more touches after getting more time late in the season.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett has been mostly bad and hasn’t improved from last year, completing 60.9% of his passes on 6.4 yards per attempt for 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Receivers Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench have had some big games, but neither of them are averaging more than 11.5 yards per reception and both come in with minor injuries.
Of course, Pitt’s defense could be an issue for EMU on the other side of the ball. The Panthers allowed 302.5 yards and 21.8 points per game along with a stout 2.9 yards per carry. They didn’t completely shut down opponents, but the defense is the main reason they’re in a bowl.
This is a big test for what has been a solid EMU offense. The Eagles averaged close to 30 points per game, but they also struggled against better defenses in the conference.
That said, Mike Glass III is the best quarterback in this matchup, averaging 8.1 yards per pass for 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while also adding a rushing element with 345 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
While running back Shaq Vann will get his carries, Glass is the guy who can keep this game competitive with a balanced receiving corps.
Eastern doesn’t have a good defense, but Pittsburgh has failed to capitalize against every weak defense it’s faced this season. The problem is that Eastern finished last in their MAC division and it wouldn’t be surprising if Pitt’s defense was too much.
The under is 7-1 in Pittsburgh’s last eight games as a favorite and Pitt is 3-0-1 ATS in its last four on field turf. The over is 5-1 in Eastern Michigan’s last six games as an underdog and 4-1-1 in its last six overall.
Our Pick – The Pitt Panthers had an offensive yards per point number of 18.3 in road games. To refresh your memory, an offensive yards per point number of around 15 is an average team. A number of 13 would be an efficient offense. Anything higher than 15 is below average and 18.3 is simply terrible.
The point being, a team with those kind of numbers is NOT the kind of team you want to back when having to lay 11 points or more. Pitt has not proven they can cover a number like that all season, so why start believing now?
Our model has this game right on the number, but what the model can’t factor in, is motivation, which likely favors Eastern Michigan here.
Eastern Michigan +11.5