Friday Night Lights: Pitt at UConn

Published on Nov. 9, 2012, at 10:50 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

This week’s edition of Friday Night Lights takes us to Storrs, where Connecticut will take on Pittsburgh in a Big East showdown.

As of early this morning, most betting shops had Pittsburgh (4-5 straight up, 5-3-1 against the spread) installed as a 3 ½-point favorite with a total of 43 ½. Gamblers can take UConn on the money line for a plus-150 return (risk $100 to win $155).

Paul Chryst’s team allowed a 14-point fourth-quarter lead to get away last weekend at Notre Dame, dropping a 29-26 decision in overtime. The Panthers easily took the cash as 16 ½-point underdogs, while the 55 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 47 ½-point number thanks to the extra sessions.

Pitt took its first lead on a 16-yard touchdown run by Ray Graham late in the second quarter. The Panthers would take that 10-6 lead to intermission, and then they took a double-digit advantage when Tino Sunseri found J.P. Holtz on a nine-yard scoring strike. With 58 ticks left in the third quarter, Pitt extended its lead to 20-6 thanks to a 21-yard field goal from Kevin Harper.

The Fighting Irish answered with a touchdown drive but the PAT was blocked, leaving Pitt with a 20-12 advantage. With 2:11 remaining, Notre Dame pulled even on a second TD pass from Everett Golson, who ran it in for the two-point conversion.

In the first overtime, both teams matched field goals after going three and out. This ensured ‘over’ backers of a fortunate winner since the game was tied at 23-23 with the total closing at 47 ½.

In double OT, Pitt scored first on a 44-yard boot from Harper. But on Notre Dame’s ensuing possession, it got a one-yard touchdown run from Golson to garner the victory and keep its national-title hopes alive.

Graham finished with 172 rushing yards on 24 carries against one of the country’s elite defenses. With another spread cover, Pitt improved to 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven games.

Graham has returned from an ACL tear to rush for 794 yards and eight TDs. The senior RB is averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

Pitt senior quarterback Tino Sunseri is playing the best football of his career. Sunseri has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 2,363 yards with a stellar 14/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Connecticut (3-6 SU, 2-5-2 ATS) has lost four in a row and even worse, it is in the midst of a 0-5-1 ATS slide. The Huskies are coming off a 13-6 loss at South Florida. Chandler Whitmer connected on 28-of-42 passes for 284 yards, but he was intercepted twice and failed to get his team into the end zone.

Turnovers have been the story for Whitmer, who has an abysmal 7/13 TD-INT ratio. He has completed 58.5 percent of his throws for 2,115 yards.

UConn is led in rushing by Lyle McCombs, who has 547 yards on 164 carries. He has four rushing TDs but is averaging a pedestrian 3.3 YPC.

UConn’s offensive woes are indicated in the stats. The Huskies are dead last among FBS teams in rushing and scoring offense, as they average just 16.6 points per game.

UConn has won two of its four home games, going 1-2-1 ATS. As a home underdog during Paul Pasqualoni’s two-year tenure, the Huskies are 2-0-1 ATS. In fact, going back to 2005, UConn has a dynamite 13-2-1 spread record in home ‘dog situations.

Pitt has lost three of its four road assignments, but it has produced a profitable 2-1-1 ATS ledger.

When these schools met at Heinz Field last season, Pitt won by a 35-20 count as a 10-point home favorite. The 55 combined points soared ‘over’ the 41 ½-point total.

Sunseri torched the Huskies by completing 29-of-42 throws for 419 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He also rushed for 40 yards and one score.

The ‘under’ is 6-3 overall for UConn, 4-0 in its home games. The ‘over’ is 4-3 overall for Pitt, but the ‘under’ is 3-1 in its four road assignments.

ESPN2 will have the telecast at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–The ‘over’ has hit in four of the last six head-to-head meetings between UConn and Pitt.

–I cashed another easy winner Thursday by backing Arkansas St. in its 45-23 win over ULM as a seven-point home favorite. The Red Wolves have now won five in a row, going 4-1 ATS in the process.

–Va. Tech nearly salvaged its season last night, only to give up a last-minute touchdown pass from E.J. Manuel as FSU escaped Blacksburg with a 28-22 win. However, the Hokies hooked up their backers as 13 ½-point underdogs. The big loser was Clemson, which would’ve taken control of the ACC’s Atlantic division if the Seminoles had lost.

– has KSU’s Klein as the minus-250 favorite to win the Heisman.

–Missouri quarterback James Franklin’s confidence is shot and he clearly isn’t 100-percent healthy yet. He’s taken his lumps in his first season in the SEC, but he’s got the talent to have a big bounce-back year in 2013. The thinking here is that if he can get healthy and stay that way, Franklin will enjoy a redemption season in 2013.

–Washington St. senior WR Marquess Wilson has been suspended for this week’s game vs. UCLA. Wilson has a team-high 52 receptions for 813 yards and five touchdowns

–With its 40-0 win at Kentucky, Vanderbilt posted a shutout against an FBS team for the first time since 1982. The Commodores covered the spread as road favorites against an SEC squad for the first time since 1995.

–Current Iron Bowl line per Sportsbook: Alabama -34.5 vs. Auburn.

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