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Pitt - WVU Preview
by ASA - 11/27/2009
West Virginia opened as a small home underdog. The line has shifted in the Mountaineers favor throughout the week and WVU is now a pick’em or even a small favorite at -1 at some places. The O/U opened at 49 and that’s where it currently stands.
The 102nd edition of the “Backyard Brawl” is WVU’s chance to get some payback vs. the Panthers. Pitt came into Morgantown in 2007 and pulled a shocking 13-9 upset to knock then #2 WVU out of the 2007 national championship game. Now, it’s West Virginia with an opportunity for payback.
WVU lost their last game to Cincinnati, 21-24. It was their third loss of the season and 2nd loss in their last three games. All of their losses have come on the road, however, and they are 6-0 at home. Their six home victories have been less-than-convincing. They are just 1-4 ATS and outscore opponents by an average of just 11 PPG (against opponents with a combined record of 25-29 - not counting FCS-Liberty).
Pittsburgh got a big home victory against Notre Dame in their last game. It was their sixth consecutive victory after losing to NC State back in late September. This will be their first road game since October 16th and their toughest road game of the season. Pitt is 3-1 ATS and out-score their opponents 36-23 on the road this season.
The Panthers have a de-facto Big East Championship game when they face undefeated Cincinnati next week regardless of the outcome of this game. Will they get caught looking ahead against this dangerous Mountaineer squad?
For WVU, their week off was time to get their most important players healthy. QB Jarrett Brown and RB Noel Devine, most notably, were both battling injuries. Devine has rushed 56 times for just 183 yards and no touchdowns in the past three games (WVU was 1-2 in those games). In WVU’s previous 7 games, Devine ran 137 times for 912 yards and 10 touchdowns. When he’s healthy he has the “home-run” factor whenever the ball gets in his hands.
Pitt RB Dion Lewis is finally starting to get the national recognition he deserves this season. Lewis is leading the Big East with 129.1 rush YPG (5.5 YPC) this season with 13 touchdowns. He is the perfect complement to QB Stull and he seems to be getting stronger as the year progresses which is impressive for a freshman. In the last four games, he’s rushed for 553 yards on a 5.9 YPC average with 6 touchdowns.
West Virginia has struggled to stop the run in its past three games. They have given up an average of 202 yards against South Florida, Louisville and Cincinnati after allowing just 86.2 rush YPG in their first 7 games.
Pitt’s defense has been the exact opposite of WVU. They are allowing just 92.5 YPG on 3.3 YPC against their last 4 opponents. For the year, they are 16th in the nation, allowing just 102.7 rush YPG.
Bill Stull has been the epitome of consistency this season, leading the Panthers to a 9-1 record when Pitt was a Big East afterthought at the beginning of the season. He’s completing 66% of his passes this season for 211 YPG with 18 touchdowns and just 4 picks.
Jarrett Brown had the difficult task of replacing a legend at West Virginia. Pat White set numerous records and was a four year starter for the Mountaineers. Brown has been slowed by an ankle injury this season but he’s completing 65% of his passes for 11 touchdowns and also has 5 rushing touchdowns.
A lot of times the stats and records can be thrown out the window when two rivals meet. And that has been the case the past few seasons. West Virginia has won 11 of the past 17 meetings but the Panthers have won the two most recent meetings.
Pitt is 5-0 ATS in their last 5 Friday games and 10-4 ATS in their last 14 road games. West Virginia is just 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following a bye week and 0-4 ATS in their last 4 home games.
Pitt has stayed ‘under’ in 6 of the last 7 conference games and the Mountaineers have stayed ‘under’ 5 of the last 7 conference games.
Morgantown is supposed to get a mix of rain and snow all day Friday and conditions could be ugly for the game. Temperatures will be in the upper 30’s/lower 40’s.