NCAAF Betting: Pitt moving right along

By: Adam Markowitz | Saturday, July 17, 2010
dion lewis

Dion Lewis carried the ball a whopping 325 times for 1,799 yards.

Many bettors tend to forget that head coach Dave Wannstedt has a fantastic program running at the University of Pittsburgh. His Panthers picked up 10 victories last NCAAF college season and went to their second straight bowl game after a few dismal seasons in the mid-2000s.

A 19-17 victory in the Meineke Car Care Bowl over North Carolina was a fantastic result for a program that had not recorded a victory in a bowl game since the 2001 Tangerine Bowl.

No one was really expecting Pittsburgh's offense to be fantastic last season, but it surprisingly was able to keep up with some of the best units in America. Quarterback Bill Stull was projected to be one of the poorer signal-callers in the Big East, but he persevered with 2,633 yards and 21 TDs.

However, Stull has graduated, replaced by sophomore QB Tino Sunseri. Though there aren't many expectations for Sunseri this season, U-Pitt fans know that he is the quarterback of the future. He showed the ability to create in open space last year in his limited snaps during mop-up duty. Sunseri also completed 10-of-17 passes for 114 yards and two scores without tossing an interception.

Running back Dion Lewis is the man to thank most for last season's averages of 391.6 YPG and 32.1 PPG. Was there anything that Lewis didn't do for Wannstedt last season? As a true freshman, he carried the ball a whopping 325 times for 1,799 yards and 17 TDs. He also caught 25 passes - third on the team - for 189 yards and a score. Lewis' 1,799 rushing yards was good for third in the nation. Many feel as though this sophomore could be the next in a string of three straight super sophs to win the Heisman Trophy.

However, if Lewis is going to breakthrough this season, he is going to need to do so with a relatively new NCAAF college offensive line. Only two of the five starters are back, and that could cause some issues for both Sunseri and Lewis.

Wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin' junior season should be a good one because he had 57 catches for 1,111 yards and eight scores last year. He led the NCAAF college team in receptions, yards, and yards per catch (19.5) and proved that he could be a tremendous down-field threat.

Defensively, only six starters return. The unit led the nation in sacks last season, and it did so without really implementing a tremendous blitz. Both defensive linemen, Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard, are back after combining for 13 sacks last year. But their other two line mates are now gone.

The other huge void is going to be at quarterback, where two new starters will be in the mix. Two of the three linebackers are also gone, but sophomore Dan Mason is definitely capable of stepping in and being a huge playmaker as a starter.

Unlike last season when the Panthers' non-conference schedule included Youngstown State, Buffalo, Navy, NC State, and Notre Dame, they filled their slate with some tough opponents this year. Duplicating last season's 4-1 SU and 3-1 ATS records is going to be tough against Utah, New Hampshire, Miami, Florida International, and Notre Dame. The opening game of the year at the Utes should be a fantastic gauge as to how strong this team really is for 2010.

The extra Big East game this year is on the road. The first trip of the conference slate to Syracuse shouldn't be all that difficult, but the other three games at Connecticut, South Florida, and Cincinnati are going to be barnburners.

Pitt covered four of its first five spreads in Big East play, but it limped to just a 1-2 ATS finish in its lat three. The Panthers finished at a very profitable 8-4 ATS.

Despite Pittsburgh's very tough conference schedule, it is a co-favorite to win the Big East at plus 250. Pitt is plus 8000 at 5Dimes to capture the BCS crown
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