Back Battle-Tested Pittsburgh to Cover vs Georgia Tech in ACC Opener

Pitt Panthers

Rainman M.

Thursday, September 21, 2017 7:25 PM UTC

Thursday, Sep. 21, 2017 7:25 PM UTC

Pittsburgh (1-2) travel to Georgia Tech (1-1) for both teams' first ACC match-up on Saturday at 12:20 PM ET. Georgia Tech opened as 6.5 point favorites, but that number has been bet up to 8. The game total opened at 61 but has plummeted to 55.

Pittsburgh Panthers vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech has played one game fewer than Pittsburgh, meaning that their seven first-time starters could not gain more playing time. Last season, Georgia Tech pummeled their first opponent, before needing time to develop experience and chemistry. Georgia Tech's talent on paper will need time this season to blossom.

Georgia Tech's offense boasts the option game. Their run-first attack features a recruited running back at quarterback. They like to rely on their fullback for half of their carries and will therefore miss Dedrick Mills, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season. For the Yellow Jackets, experience in their unique scheme is just as important as talent. Their two leading rushers in the season opener, TaQuon Marshall and KirVonte Benson, combined for a total of seven rushes last season. The offensive line loses its third-team All-Conference Center and features three sophomores. The Yellow Jackets boast talent but little experience.

Pittsburgh comes into the conference opener extremely battle-tested. They allowed Youngstown State to make a late comeback and take them into overtime. Then, they got walloped at Penn State and against Oklahoma State. Pittsburgh, with its abysmal secondary, will be glad to transition to playing a team that is run-first. 

The Panthers also benefit from the return of Jordan Whitehead from suspension, whose absence is largely responsible for the Pittsburgh's absence of run defense. Whitehead is incessant in his pursuit. His speed and hard-hitting ability allow him to be a run-stuffer. He uses his physicality to be a playmaker and will have no problem wrapping up the undersized TaQuon Marshall or his teammates minus Dedrick Mills.

Even though the Panthers lose seven starters on defense, Pat Narduzzi's squad is capable of containing Georgia Tech's option attack. Besides Whitehead, the Panthers can rely on Avonte Maddox to provide run-support from the secondary by utilizing his superior speed and ability to wrap-up the ball carrier. The Panthers also return linebacker Olowaseun Idowu, who is stepping up as the Panthers' leader on defense as measured by tackles and tackles for loss. 

Pittsburgh's defense, like Georgia tech's offense, is filled with upside but significant inexperience. Different players have shown promise for both teams, but Pittsburgh's one game of extra experience plus their strength of schedule until now gives them a slight edge.

The Panthers also have an edge in match-up. They struggle against the pass, but enjoy the coaching experience and defensive ability to contain a run-first attack. Georgia Tech's offensive style is extremely repetitive and, after a few drives, often lulls the defense into mechanical lapses and errors of concentration. A Pittsburgh squad facing its first rush-first attack in its conference opener should stay disciplined on defense.

Offensively, Pittsburgh matches up well against a Georgia Tech team whose strength is in its secondary. Pitt can utilize the versatility of its different playmakers to outmatch Georgia Tech's 4-2-5 defense. The last defense that Pitt played which favors the 4-2-5 so heavily is Penn State, who they actually out-gained in yardage. 

Turnovers cost Pitt against Penn State, but, despite their uncertainty at quarterback, will not cost them against a team that achieved only 9 takeaways in their first 8 games last season. This season, the Yellow Jackets still lack a pass rush and have achieved zero takeaways in two games. Georgia Tech is 5-18 SU under their current head coach when their opponent does not turn the ball over.

Pittsburgh, with their uncertainty at quarterback and their match-up against a team that prefers to have 5 defensive backs on the field, will achieve most of its productivity on the ground. Qadree Ollison led Pittsburgh with over 1100 rushing yards in 2015 and shredded Penn State for 6.4 yards per carry. They boast two playmakers at wide receiver in the well-sized Jester Weah and the speedy Quadree Henderson. Their offensive line has the size to make up for last season's departures and offer adequate protection.


The Verdict

Pittsburgh is steeled by the experience of a more difficult strength of schedule and an extra game. Georgia Tech's rawness in quality is evident in its lack of consistency on offense, its vulnerability to turnovers, and its inability to achieve takeaways--all three of these factors resemble their start to last year and form a contrast with their progress late last season. 

Pittsburgh has the ability to contain Georgia Tech's option attack with their speed and tackling ability on defense while they possess the playmakers to produce long and productive drives against a Tech defense that was 125th last season in opponent rush yards per attempt. Expect a competitive ACC opener on our NCAAF Picks.


Free NCAAF Pick: Pittsburgh +8Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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