Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh College Football Expert Picks
Online college football picks take center stage as the new-look Virginia Tech Hokies look to pull off the road upset over the rebuilding Pittsburgh Panthers when they square off in an intriguing Week 9 showdown. The Hokies will have a new head coach in 2016 as they rebuild their gridiron program under now popular former Memphis head coach Justin Fuente following the retirement of longtime head coach Frank Beamer.
The Panthers will look to improve on their solid first season under head coach Pat Narduzzi after recording eight wins in 2015. With both teams having big-time bowl games hopes heading into 2016, let’s get started.
A Closer Look At The Virginia Tech Hokies at Pittsburgh Panthers College Football Expert Picks
When: Thursday, October, 27 2016 at 6:00 PM ET
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
NCAAF Odds: Pittsburgh -3.5
Bet The Virginia Tech Hokies at +3.5 Because…
While new Virginia Tech Hokies (7-6 SU, 6-7 ATS) coach Justin Fuente is replacing a legend in beloved former head coach Frank Beamer, there is good reason to believe the Hokies will at least cover the spread as double digit road dogs in this contest. First and foremost, Fuente has proven to be a very good head coach by leading Memphis to a stellar 19-6 record over the last two seasons while ranking 22nd in scoring in 2014 (36.2 ppg) and an even more impressive 11th in scoring last season (40.2 ppg) while reaching an AP ranking of 15th.
Fuente will now employ his up-tempo, spread offense to take Virginia Tech to new heights and he already has some players in place. Running back Travon McMillian rushed for 1,000 yards last season and versatile fullback Sam Rogers looks like he could end up playing at the next level.
Starting wide receivers Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips and tight end Bucky Hodges all return from last season’s squad and the offensive line has four returning starters. The bad news is that Fuente has question marks at quarterback, where dual-threat signal-caller Jerod Evans and fifth-year senior Brenden Motley are still battling for the job. Ironically, Fuente recruited Evans to succeed Paxton Lynch at Memphis.
Fuente will also have his work cut out on the defensive side of the ball after the Hokies gave up 26.3 points per game last season. Virginia Tech’s modest 26 sacks and 10 interceptions were the team’s lowest since 1995. Defensive end Ken Ekanem and tackle Woody Baron could turn into All-American type players, but there are questions at linebacker and in the secondary. Still, things are definitely looking up at Virginia Tech.
Bet The Pittsburgh Panthers at -3.5 Because…
The Panthers are playing at home and are clearly heading in the right direction under Pat Narduzzi. Pittsburgh (8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS) may be heading in the right direction, but they have some huge question marks they need to answer before the start of the 2016 season.
First and foremost, will gifted junior running back James Conner, bounce back and play the same as he did in 2014 when he racked up a stellar1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns en route to 2014 ACC Player for the Year award? Conner underwent MCL surgery and offseason chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma so these are some pretty big questions surrounding Pittsburgh’s most talented player.
“I know this, James is an inspiration to all of us; he makes us better every day,” said Narduzzi.
If Conner isn’t fully healthy, sophomore Qadree Ollison will be the likely starter after rushing for 1,121 yards last season. The good news is that Pittsburgh returns four starters on the offensive line and appear to be set at quarterback with Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman finishing second in the ACC in completion percentage (61.5) and third in touchdown passes (20) after taking over as the starter in Week 3 a year ago. Again however, there is reason for caution with the Panthers having a relatively young and inexperienced receiving unit.
Defensively, the Panthers were solid a year ago in finishing 37th overall, but they still need to improve after allowing 26.0 points per game (57th). The good news is that Pittsburgh has a stellar defensive line that ranked 16th nationally in sacks last season at 2.85 per game. Explosive senior defensive end Ejuan Price looks like a next level player, not to mention depth that most teams outside of mighty Alabama can’t match up front.
The Panthers also have a star in the making in sophomore strong safety Jordan Whitehead, the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 and a solid linebacker unit that is led by junior Matt Galambos (five sacks).
Expert Pick & Final Score Prediction
The Panthers have won two straight and six of the last seven meetings against Virginia Tech and they’re my pick to win and cash in again, although I believe Justin Fuente will no doubt put the Hokies back on the map as a legitimate national title contender at some point in the near future.
Right now however, I’m going with the Panthers to get the win because of their underrated defense and the fact that they’ll likely have the two best players on the field in James Conner and Nathan Peterman. Pittsburgh is 3-1 ATS over the last four meetings and an insane 8-1 ATS over the last nine meetings dating back to 1999. The Panthers win and narrowly cover the college football betting line.