Virginia at Pittsburgh
Saturday, 9:30 am PT
CRIS Opener: Pittsburgh -3 O/U 51
CRIS Current: Pittsburgh -3 O/U 49.5
Surprising set of results last week where these teams are concerned as Virginia’s defense was steamrolled by the Boston College offense and Pittsburgh came out of a season long fog to win outright (+8) at Duke. After owning a season long -1.5 yards per carry margin, Pittsburgh destroyed the stout Duke defense at the line of scrimmage posting a +3.0 ypc margin (5.9-2.9). The 336 rushing yards piled up by the Panthers in Durham last week was 188 more than they had gained versus any of their six previous FBS opponents which makes it tough to tell if it marked a real change or was just a mirage. Considering the fact that 171 of the 336 rushing yards came on two plays, (79- and 92-yard TD runs by RB Darrin Hall) the latter is more believable. On the other 55 carries Pittsburgh had last Saturday, they gained 165 yards for an average of 3.0 per rush which is more in line with their season numbers. Virginia however, has suddenly allowed 200+ rushing yards in each of their last two games so the matchup does present Hall & the Panthers an opportunity for success.
The ambush that Boston College unleashed on Virginia included a +275 total yard advantage (512-247) which was accumulated both on the ground and through the air. UVA QB Kurt Benkert who has had a pair of subpar performances the past three weeks after opening the nation’s eyes in September, has an ideal matchup to bounce back here. Pittsburgh enters with the 115th ranked pass defense in the nation allowing 270.4 yards per game. Overall, Pitt has been torched for 434 total yards per game and 6.6 yards per play. Even in victory last week, they allowed Duke 6.0 ypp so Virginia should be able to get OC Robert Anai’s up-tempo offense going in this game. Conversely, the Cavaliers possess the country’s 24th ranked pass defense which figures to make Pittsburgh one dimensional and cause erratic QB Ben DiNucci problems.
It's time for teams with goals of making a bowl game to find their way to six wins and Virginia fits squarely in that “sense of urgency” category. In their second season under the direction of Bronco Mendenhall, the Cavs rebuilding project is ahead of schedule and could clinch their bowl berth with a victory. What makes this contest even more important for Virginia is the fact that their remaining schedule consists of a neutral field game against Georgia Tech, back-back road games versus Louisville and Miami (Fla) plus the season ending rivalry with Virginia Tech in Charlottesville. Not sure that Pitt will get the pair of explosive TD runs they had last week against what figures to be a motivated Virginia defense and just don’t feel like the passing game is solid enough to carry the Panthers. The road has been kind to Virginia backers recently as they’ve gone 8-3-2 against the spread in their last 13 away games. Expect them to run that number to 9-3-2 with a straight up win in this spot.