Pitt Panthers Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
The Pittsburgh Panthers wound up with an 8-5 record last year in a season that ended with a loss to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl. On the surface that would seem to be a season that was at best a modest success. Yet people are much more enthusiastic about the season than that. And for good reason - the squad beat both National Champion Clemson (on the road, no less) and Big Ten champ Penn State. Either one of those wins would be enough to erase a lot of unfortunate losses or missteps. To have both is just golden. The issue, now, though is trying to build on those wins and keep moving forward in the third year of the Pat Narduzzi era. That's not going to be easy, because there has been a whole lot of change - and not the positive kind.
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2016 in a Nutshell
After opening with a win over Villanova, in Week 2 they beat Penn State - albeit before the Nittany Lions woke up and realized that they were good. They celebrated that victory by losing at Oklahoma State and North Carolina. They bounced back to beat Marshall to finish out the nonconference schedule and then won against Georgia Tech and at Virginia. They then lost to Virginia Tech in a close one and at Miami in a game that wasn't close at all. That sent them into the Clemson game as a road underdog of more than three touchdowns, and there was no real reason to think that they could be competitive. But win they did. Then they beat Duke and finished the regular season by beating Syracuse 76-61 in one of the most insanely-played, defensively-inept games of all time. They couldn't carry that zany momentum into the postseason, though, and had a particularly underwhelming fourth quarter to come from ahead to lose to a Northwestern team that was far from dominant. So, it was an up-and-down season, but man were the highs ever high.
Key Additions and Departures
Matt Canada did a heck of a job last year in his one year as offensive coordinator at Pitt. Unfortunately for the program, though, he rode that success to the same job at LSU - a massive step up the ladder. His loss will be felt. He was smart to go, though, because all of the personnel losses were going to make it tougher to look as smart as he did after last year when the team's production outpaced their talent. Star running back James Conner is gone, and so is much of the offense with him - two linemen, including an All-American, the quarterback, and the starting tight end. That's a lot of holes to fill. At QB they will hope that Max Browne, who was replaced as starter at USC last year by current media darling Sam Darnold, can finally live up to his high school reputation as a grad transfer. There is a muddled mess at running back, but a decent group of existing players and two four-star freshmen will try to step up and fill the massive shoes Conner left behind. And they have some big guys and nice depth up front, so it's just a matter of finding a combination that works.
The defense was hit even harder by departures. Four of the five regular rotation linemen are gone. So are three of the four linebackers and three guys from the backfield. This was a largely underwhelming defense with all of that experience, so it's hard to be too optimistic this year. They got a nice transfer on the line when former four-star Dewayne Hendrix joined them from Tennessee, and redshirt freshman Keyshon Camp is getting all sorts of hype at tackle, but there are still more questions than answers up front. Linebacker and the defensive backs are both a bit scary, too. One drama to watch involves stud four-star freshman safety Paris Ford. He has the talent to contribute right away, but as I write this at the end of July he still isn't academically qualified, and it isn't clear that he will be. His absence would be a big loss.
Pitt Panthers Schedule Analysis
The early schedule is just brutal. After a gimme against Youngstown State to start, the team plays at Penn state, hosts Oklahoma State, and then travels to Georgia Tech. Given all the changes and questions, it would be very easy - perhaps even fairly likely - for the squad to be 1-3 after four games. Rice is another win to stop the bleeding, but then games at Syracuse, NC State and at Duke are all likely coin flips. They should beat Virginia, and then North Carolina faces many of the same issues as Pitt so the game is very tough to call. And then things get ugly again as they close out at Virginia Tech and at home to Miami. Both games are more likely to be losses than wins.
So, with a floor of just three wins, as many as five games that are going to be very tough, and coin tosses for the rest, it feels like bowl eligibility is the goal - and far from a certainty.
2017-18 Pitt Panthers Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline has posted national title odds for more than 30 teams at this point. Pitt is not one of them. That is both telling and appropriate. They sit at +5000 to win the ACC, which makes them the ninth choice - and obviously light years behind strong favorites Florida State at -110.
Despite the decent record last year, this was a remarkably lousy team to bet on. They were a dismal 5-8 ATS on the season and were only 3-5 ATS in the games they won. They were, however, brilliant as a totals play. They went "under" the total in their season opener and their bowl game, but that was it. In between they reeled off 11 straight "overs".
2017-18 Pitt Panthers Predictions and College Football Picks
It's a building year. They have to hope that it is a rebuilding opportunity as opposed to just their new reality. Bowl eligibility is an uncertainty, and if I had to take a side I would go under the six-win threshold.
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