Pittsburgh at Penn State
Saturday, 12:30 pm PT - ABC
CRIS Opener: Penn State -17 O/U 67
CRIS Current: Penn State -21.5 O/U 64
Last season, Pittsburgh was involved in exactly one "under" against FBS competition; a 31-24 bowl loss to Northwestern that had plenty of chances late to cash an "over" late. There were a number of reasons behind such a strong trend. For starters, the Panthers scored big both literally and figuratively with the hiring of offensive coordinator Matt Canada who is one of the brightest minds in the game. He took a below average offensive (82nd, 377.5 ypg) and helped produced one of the bigger spikes in production in the country (38th, 446.8 ypg). Pitt averaged more yards per play (6.71) than Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State and was one of only 11 teams to net more than 40 ppg. But that scoring output didn't necessarily equate to whom Pitt really was. Based on Pitt's total yardage, the offense "should" have averaged closer to 30 ppg but if you remember anything about the 2016 season you're well aware that craziness was the norm in Panther games. Non-offensive touchdowns, turnovers, defensive mishaps; pretty much every "pro offense" occurrence that could happen happened on a routine basis when Pitt played. The offense was no doubt good, and the defense, really bad, but with Canada (LSU), underrated starting quarterback Nathan Peterman (NFL), running back James Conner (NFL), and a big chunk of the offensive line gone, I expect Pitt games to average at many as 15 ppg less than last year's ridiculous 76.1 ppg. When caught a glimpse of much more "traditional" football in Week 1 as Pitt needed overtime to beat FCS Youngstown State, 28-21. Even with the extra frame, the Panthers gained only 348 yards on 4.5 yards per play.
The concern for this week is how does Pitt stop Penn State? The Panthers gave up a ton of big play/quick scores last season and the Nittany Lions are loaded with playmakers. Penn State could have easily scored 70+ in Week 1's 52-0 win over Akron and obviously won't hold back after losing at Pitt last season 42-39. But I look for PSU's defense to thrive in this matchup. Ravaged by injuries a season ago, the Nittany Lions are healthy and primed to be a top 25 unit. This total was sitting at 68/68.5 for much of the week and has steadily been played under the total. Still worth a bet at the current number of 64.