NCAAF Odds: Miami at Pitt on ESPN

By: Jimmy Sirody | Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tino Sunseri

Tino Sunseri is the key to a possible Pitt upset Thursday versus Miami.

Pittsburgh’s Dave Wannstedt and Miami’s Randy Shannon have been friends for more than two decades. Wannstedt was Shannon’s defensive coordinator as a player at Miami and in the National Football League.

That friendship will be put on hold for about three hours on Thursday night when their teams clash at Heinz Field in a key non-conference showdown. Both teams have already lost once, the Hurricanes to Ohio State two weeks ago and the Panthers to Utah in their season opener. The loser Thursday falls off the college football map.

Most offshore books opened the Hurricanes as three-point college football betting favorites, with the ‘total’ set at 51.

Pitt and Miami used to be Big East brothers before the Canes’ bolted for the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Panthers only beat Miami once during their Big East days, also on a Thursday in 1997. This will be the first meeting since 2003.

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The ground game has been the difference in the Hurricanes’ current six-game winning streak over Pittsburgh. Miami has rushed for 4.6 yards per carry and 17 touchdowns during the streak, while the Panthers have run for 2.9 per attempt and three scores.

Ohio State dominated against the Canes’ two weeks ago in Columbus, 36-24. But Miami was able to move the ball against the Buckeyes—the Canes’ only punted twice—though they weren’t able to capitalize in the red zone and made too many mistakes.

Miami dropped nine passes, including one in the end zone, another on the two-yard line, and another on the three-yard line.

Shannon zeroed in on tackling during practice this week after allowing the Buckeyes 414 yards of total offense, and 181 yards rushing.

Despite having a pair of talented backs, the Panthers have averaged only 125 rushing yards per game. They must find running room for Dion Lewis, last year’s Big East MVP and Rookie of the Year, who is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh has a new quarterback and youthful offensive line, which allows defenses to focus more on Lewis. Jonathan Baldwin is one of the nation’s most talented receivers, but Panthers signal-caller Tino Sunseri hasn’t been asked to throw much.

If Pitt is going to upset Miami, Sunseri has to get the ball to Baldwin, who has a six-inch height advantage on Miami cornerback Brandon Harris.

The Panthers led the nation in sacks last season, but they could struggle to maintain that kind of pass rush without injured defensive end Greg Romeus.

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Both teams have struggled after taking a week off. The Hurricanes have come up short in 13 of 16 following a bye and Pittsburgh has dropped seven of 10 ATS.

Miami has thrived on Thursday, winning 13 of 14, but it has only cashed eight of 13 during that run.

The Hurricanes are a dismal 2-21 as favorites of less than 24 points off a SU loss as well.

Pitt is 1-10 SU against ranked non-conference opponents since 1996.

The Panthers have ‘covered’ five of six as dogs versus an opponent off a SU loss and seven of their last 10 at Heinz Field. The home team is 6-3 ATS in the last nine meetings.

Five of the last six encounters have ended on the low side.

Pittsburgh has ducked ‘under’ in 10 of its last 14 home games and in 11 of 16 after a bye. Miami has strayed below the limit in seven straight against Big East foes and in 10 of 14 when toiling on Thursday.

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