December 28, 2016
Today's pick was released yesterday, a day in advance.
Take Northwestern +5 spread against Pittsburgh for 3% of the bankroll.
There is no question that the stock of the Pittsburgh Panthers is at an all-time high heading into this matchup with the team having won their final three games to end the season. Their wins were also extremely impressive, filled with explosive plays behind impressive offensive performances which included a 43-42 road win over then #2 ranked Clemson, a 56-14 home win over Duke and a 76-61 home win over Syracuse. Those scores are certainly impressive and there is no question that the betting public remembers the offensive display and momentum that Pitt ended their season with. That being said, a lot of time has elapsed between their season finale and this particular matchup; any momentum that this team had at the end of the season has likely halted ahead of this contest. The team will be starting from scratch and could find it difficult to get things going against this Northwestern defense.
Pittsburgh has been a team that has centered around a tough running game James Conner has been a great story this season and has been the focal point of the offensive backfield. The Panthers have used Conner and their duo of RBs to establish a ground game which has opened up their ability to strike in the passing game. Nate Peterman has been solid under center; however, it has been largely due to his team's ability to establish the run. The issue that they will run in to in this contest is that the Wildcats have been extremely solid against the rush this season, holding teams to an average of 136.7 yards per contest. While that may not seem like a stout run defense, given the fact that they have played a bulk of their game in the run-heavy Big 10 and have faced the likes of some of the more run-heavy based offenses in the country, those numbers start to look that much more impressive.
On offense, Northwestern has enough talent to hang with the Panthers and arguably has the more established offensive weapons. Sophomore QB Clayton Thorson threw 2968 yards and 21 scores on the season, 12 which went to dynamic receiver Austin Carr, who hauled in 84 passes on the season for almost 1,200 yards. Northwestern also has a good tailback in Justin Jackson, who piled up 1,300 yards on the season and was the clear leader in the backfield. Whether on the ground or through the air, Northwestern has shown their ability to move the ball downfield and if there has been glaring weakness with the Panther's this season, it has been on the defensive side of the ball. While they have been able to win in shootouts this season, their defense has also given up an average of 41 points per game on the road this season. Offense wins games, but defense wins bowl games (and championships) and that's what we believe will happen here. Even if Northwestern does not pull off the outright upset, they should be able to keep this close enough to where the points will come into play.
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