Capper Picks Pittsburg Panthers To Handle Villanova Wildcats In Unlined Affair

Pitt Panthers

Friday, September 2, 2016 3:13 PM GMT

Not every game on the Week 1 NCAAF betting card is a marquee matchup. Villanova and Pittsburgh aren't even big enough to entice sportsbooks to post any *early* odds, however, our capper provides his NCAAF pick before the lines drop.

Yeah, sure, I understand that everyone is in full giddy-up mode about the start of the college football season. But for me, college football is just something to occupy time and space until college basketball season arrives, so you might understand why I'd much rather see the Villanova Wildcats and Pittsburgh Panthers go at each other on the hardwood.

Alas, college hoops is still nearly 11 weeks away, so a Wildcats-Panthers football matchup it is. Indeed, the former Big East foes aren't even scheduled against one another in the coming season, leaving me yearning for a potential clash in March Madness.

A collision under the nets would certainly be more competitive than what's expected this Saturday at Heinz Field, the 1:30 PM (ET) kickoff available through ESPN3's streaming subscription. None of the best sportsbooks rated by SBR have bothered to even put out a line for this contest that pits the Div-I Panthers of the Atlantic Coast Conference against the I-AA Wildcats of the Colonial Athletic Association.

That gap between the level of football programs being operated is obviously the big reason why Saturday's meeting is just the third between the two schools. Even when they were Big East basketball rivals, Villanova didn't field a BCS-level football program. The first time Pitt and 'Nova laced 'em up on a gridiron was 1911, and the last was in '98, a game that also failed to spark any NCAA football odds. Suffice to say, the Wildcats proved to be far better than most people expected as Pittsburgh held on for a 48-41 victory 18 years ago.

 

'Nova Begins Final Season Under HC Talley
Getting back to basketball, we're all aware of how good the Wildcats are there. Villanova is coming off the 2016 Final Four Championship, and Jay Wright's guys will once again be among the favorites to return to the Big Dance next year.

If there's one thing the Wildcats have going for them, it's consistency at the top of the program where Andy Talley, a true rarity in college sports these days begins his 32nd -- and final -- season as head coach. Villanova is just two years removed from a trip to the FCS Playoffs and won it all in 2009.

Talley has shown in the past he can get his undermanned roster up and ready when playing a Div-I level school. Villanova was actually a favorite on the road last year at UConn, only to fall by a 20-15 count. The Wildcats went to double overtime the year before that at Syracuse, losing 27-26 as 14½ point underdogs

 

How Much Can Conner Contribute To Offense?
The defense has long been Villanova's strongpoint, and going against a Panthers side that wasn't very strong on offense a year ago. Improving on that side of the ball should be priority No. 1 for Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi and his offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, in 2016. Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman is back under center for the Panthers, and coming off a solid, if unspectacular, showing last year.

Peterman and the offense will also see Qadree Ollison in the backfield after running for more than 1,100 yards in 2015. But it's the return of tailback James Conner that could provide not only a boost to the offense but the entire team. Conner was the 2014 ACC Player of the Year when he ran for more than 1,700 yards and 26 touchdowns. He suffered a knee injury in Week 1 a year ago, then battled through cancer while rehabbing his knee.

The early forecast for Iron City on Saturday is mostly sunny skies and the thermometer climbing into the 80s during the game. With no line out, it's tough to make it an official free college football pick, but I do like 'Nova to keep it within three touchdowns.

 

Free NCAAF Pick: Pitt to win 30-10
Best Line Offered: N/A at the time of publication
Season: 0-0

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