College football bettors have a couple of interesting matchups to consider on Friday night when the Pittsburgh Panthers visit the Syracuse Orange and the Brigham Young Cougars host the Utah State Aggies.
Both contests will be carried nationally by ESPN, beginning with the 7:00 p.m. (ET) Big East clash at the Carrier Dome. Pittsburgh opened as a 3-point favorite before the spread but has moved to Syracuse -1½. The total began at 55 before being pushed up to 58½.
Pitt facing Syracuse generally conjures up visions of a hardwood battle, and this gridiron clash isn't going to do much to change that between the 1-3 Orange and 2-2 Panthers, those straight-up records also identical to their marks against the spread. Still, it's at least interesting from the standpoint that the next time they meet on a football field, it will be as members of the ACC, not to mention there's money to be won on the outcome of this meeting.
Syracuse's lone win was a 28-17 decision at home over Stony Brook, the Orange favored by 21½ and needing two second-half TDs to overcome a 17-14 halftime deficit. Doug Marrone's boys then followed that up last week with a 17-10 loss at Minnesota where they were giving up three to the Golden Gophers.
The Orange were at least able to move the ball in the first three games of the season, that win over Stony Brook preceded by 42-41 and 42-29 losses to Northwestern and Southern Cal respectively. Syracuse is in the top 30 nationally averaging over 487 yards per game offensively, but dropped off considerably in the Minnesota setback. Four turnovers, two of each type, after six combined the first three games played a big part.
Pittsburgh could present another defensive challenge this week with a unit that is 28th in the country allowing under 325 yards per game. Head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable got off to a rough start in an upset loss to Youngstown State and follow-up embarrassment at Cincinnati. But the Panthers 'D' stepped up in an upset win over Virginia Tech and an easy shutout of Gardner-Webb two weeks ago.
The Panthers have won seven straight in this series, covering five of those. The 'over' is 3-1 the last four, and 4-1 the last five in the Carrier Dome.
Pitt and 'Cuse will be followed at 10:15 p.m. (ET) when the Aggies and Cougars kick it off at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. College football oddsmakers sent BYU out at -9 with the line immediately tumbling to -7. A little movement on the total has also taken place, inching up to 45 after opening a point lower.
The contest will feature two of the top defenses in the nation, with BYU fifth in total 'D' (226.6 ypg) and Utah State 11th (280.8 ypg). The Cougs are also fourth in fewest points allowed (10.0 ppg) while the Aggies are 18th (14.2).
We followed BYU (3-2 SU & ATS) last week in a matchup against Hawaii, and wondered if Bronco Mendenhall's squad could break out offensively after a couple of tough road losses at Utah and Boise State. The Cougars did get indeed move the ball well, rolling up 540 yards of 'O' with an easy 47-0 win and cover against the Warriors.
How much of that was BYU's own execution and how much credit goes to a weak Hawaii team is open for debate. But freshman Taysom Hill did have a good showing in relief of injured QB Riley Nelson, and fellow frosh Jamaal Williams stepped in at tailback for Michael Alisa with a big game (15 carries, 155 yards, 2 TDs).
Nelson (back) is currently listed as doubtful for Friday's tussle with the Utags, while Alisa (broken arm) will remain sidelined well into November.
Utah State (4-1 SU, 4-0-1 ATS) can complete a Beehive State sweep with a win over BYU after beating the Utah Utes earlier this season with a 27-20 triumph as a 7-point home 'dog. The Aggies are coming off a 35-13 decision against UNLV last week, the final margin 'pushing' the 22-point spread.
The game against UNLV marked Utah State's fourth 'under' of the season, and that segues well into the recent trend in this series with four of the last five battles between the Aggies and Cougars failing to reach the total. The lone game in that span that didn't cash for 'under' bettors was last year when BYU's 27-24 win landed smack-dab on the 51-point total.
Brigham Young has won 10 of the last 11 vs. Utah State to take a 44-34-3 lead in the all-time series. However, the Aggies have covered the last four and eight of the last 10.