Pittsburgh at Rutgers (12:00 ET)
THE LINE: Pittsburgh -13
THE PLOT: Pittsburgh’ s win over Syracuse last weekend–a game in which thePanthers were underdogs–had a similar result to Rutgers win over Connecticut a week prior.Both teams won its Big East opener after bad losses and unimpressive starts.
Rutgers’ net margin of victory this year–bar the Scarlet Knights’ opener against Norfolk State–is +4 points. Margin of victory does not necessarily mean anything, unless your competitionincludes Florida International, Tulane and Army. That being said, freshman quarterbackChas Dodd‘ s performance this season filling in for an injured Tom Savage hasbeen great. Rutgers has won two consecutive games, but this week’ s visitation to Pittsburgh willbe the Greg Schiano-led group’ s first away game since going to Miami to take on FIUon September 11th.
The Panthers carry more momentum heading into its second Big East game of the year. Afterdisappointing losses to start the year at Utah and home against Miami (FL), Pittsburgh roundedout its first five games with just two wins home against New Hampshire and home againstaforementioned Florida International. The Panthers’ away game last weekend in Syracusewas a statement game. The Panthers put up 45 points on the Orange. Head coach DaveWannstedt had to be pleased to get a win, and have his team settle down after startingconference play with such a good game.
THE PICK: The only opponent that ties these two teams together is FloridaInternational. On September 11th, Rutgers traveled to Miami and needed a fourth quartertouchdown run by Mohamed Sanu to overcome the Golden Panthers. As for thePanthers of Pittsburgh, FIU gave up 277 rushing yards and three scores to Ray Graham.The Golden Panthers trailed just 16-10 heading into the fourth quarter. This game was played inPittsburgh.
Both teams have looked good–Pittsburgh’ s win over Syracuse, Rutgers’ loss to North Carolinaas well as its win over Connecticut. If you pit these teams together though, I feel Pittsburgh willcome away with a convincing win. Rutgers does not play well on the road under Schiano–19-27record outside of New Brunswick. The Panthers, however, are great at home under Wannstedt–22-11 record.
I think the Panthers move to 2-0 in conference play and get over .500 for the first time this year.
THE SCORE: Pittsburgh 30, Rutgers 16
Syracuse at No. 20 West Virginia (12:00 ET)
THE LINE: West Virginia -14
THE PLOT: I am in some uncharted water here writing about a ranked Big East team. IfI stray off course, please warn me.
No. 20 West Virginia has really only played LSU so far this year. And to be honest, weare all still waiting to see if the Les Miles-led squad is any good. The Mountaineershave blown out the two teams it was supposed to blow out in Coastal Carolina and UNLV.An interesting Friends of Coal Bowl with Marshall earlier in the year is onlyhurting them. Two 14-point home wins over middle-tier teams in Maryland and SouthFlorida are certainly not helping West Virginia either. How can the Mountaineers trick thecomputers and human pollsters this weekend to remain ranked? They can beat the crap out of avisiting Syracuse team that was embarrassed last weekend by Pittsburgh.
Speaking of Syracuse, the Orange are looking to ” right” its ways after the crushing loss toPittsburgh last weekend on its homecoming. The Orange have won just two Big East roadgames since 2007–a 38-35 win over Louisville in 2007 and a 13-9 victory at South Floridatwo weeks ago. The Orange will need two to three more wins to become bowl eligible; playingWest Virginia this weekend will not help that cause for multiple reasons. The Mountaineers arefavored and playing at home, and if the Orange lose then team chemistry will likely crumblefollowing consecutive defeats. The remaining schedule for Syracuse likely contains maybe onegame in which the Orange will be favored.
THE PICK: When this game is done, the Big East will have a team ranked within theTop 20 for the first time since Pittsburgh began the season at No. 15. Mountaineer quarterbackGeno Smith looked his best all year last Thursday in West Virginia’ s 20-6 win overthe Bulls of South Florida. He will continue that and pick apart a Syracuse defense that gave up266 passing yards and four scores to Panther quarterback Tino Sunseri, his bestgame of the year by far.
THE SCORE: West Virginia 38, Syracuse 6
North Carolina at Miami (FL) (7:30 ET)
THE LINE: Miami (FL) -6.5
THE PLOT: Off the top of your head, guess who has owned this small rivalry as of late?If you guess Miami, you would be
correct dead wrong. The Tar Heels have won thepast three games and four of the past six since 2004.
Looking at the head coaches, it is incredible how similar Randy Shannon andButch Davis have been since arriving at their respective schools in 2007. Straight up,Shannon is 21-17 while Davis is 20-18. Against ACC teams both coaches possess an 11-13record. Both coaches have winning records at home and losing records on the road. Oh, and bothteams are 4-2 this year with a 2-1 conference record.
THE PICK: That being said, I think it’ s safe to say that the winner of this gamewill come about as a result of intangibles; occurrences that cannot be affected by coaching.
The ‘ Canes obviously possess one of the best special teams units in the nation with speedyreturners, but North Carolina will compensate for that with a tough, grind-it-out style of football.The Tar Heels have winning close games down to a science. I would typically give the edge to ateam that can cause seven turnovers in a game, but against Duke? I will take North Carolinahere.
THE SCORE: North Carolina 24, Miami 20
LAST WEEK Straight up: 2-1 Vs. spread: 2-1
OVERALL Straight up: 20-5 Vs. spread: 10-14-1
(I failed to predict scores before Week One, but if you would like to count my predictions onWeek One from an outside source, you can add the following: Straight up 2-1, Vs. spread 0-3.)
(Odds courtesy of SportsBook.com by way of our friends at NBCSports.com.)