Is there any doubt that the Big East Conference is the weakest of all the BCS conferences?
For one thing, there’s only one Big East team remaining without a loss and that is No. 16 South Florida as the Bulls' open conference play on Thursday night’s ESPN national TV game at Pittsburgh.
And secondly, USF is the only team in the conference with a win over a ranked team so far this year—coming in the season opener over Notre Dame, which isn’t ranked any longer.
This one could be the final meeting as conference foes for the Bulls and Panthers, with Pitt ACC-bound. The Big East says it will keep Pitt until the 2014 season as Pittsburgh and Syracuse are obligated to stay 27 months after notifying the conference it will leave. But most believe some sort of negotiated buyout will get those schools out sooner so they aren’t playing multiple lame-duck seasons.
South Florida at Pitt Betting Storylines
The Bulls were always going to go as far as QB B.J. Daniels took them. He has been wildly inconsistent in his career, with a completion percentage in the mid-50s and 25 touchdowns against 22 picks entering this year.
But the dual-threat junior seems to have figured things out in 2011, completing 66.1 percent of his passes for 1,071 yards, eight touchdowns and just one pick. And he has run 39 times for 201 yards and two scores. He’s in the argument with West Virginia’s Geno Smith as the conference’s best offensive player so far.
Daniels has led the Bulls to a whopping 122 points combined the past two weeks in wins over Florida A&M and UTEP. Daniels threw for 202 yards and rushed for 130 with three total touchdowns against the Miners. The Bulls are No. 10 in the nation in scoring at 45.5 points per game, but they haven’t played anyone other than the Irish. The offense has topped 500 yards in each of the past three games, the first time in program history that has been accomplished.
Pitt, by the way, is No. 115 in the nation in pass defense.
Pitt (2-2) was supposed to have a high-powered offense this year with the arrival of head coach Todd Graham and his up-tempo scheme from Tulsa. But that hasn’t been the case so far, with Pitt ranking just 73rd in the nation in scoring at 27.3 ppg. Last week Pitt lost, 15-12, to Notre Dame with QB Tino Sunseri managing just 165 yards in the air. The Panthers could well be 4-0 as they led Notre Dame, 12-7, midway through the fourth quarter and they blew a 21-point second-half lead the week before vs. Iowa.
The Panthers’ best offensive player is RB Ray Graham. He had eight catches against Notre Dame for 43 yards to go along with 21 rushes for 89 yards and is eighth in the nation in rushing.
These teams have met eight times all-time, with Pitt winning the past three to take a 5-3 series advantage. Last year it was a defensive struggle in Tampa, a 17-10 Pitt victory. Neither team managed 300 yards of offense.
South Florida at Pitt Betting Odds and Trends
Pittsburgh is a two-point favorite with the total at 52, according to college football odds. USF is getting nearly 75 percent of the early action.
Pitt is just 1-3 ATS this season, while USF is 3-1. Bulls are 5-0 ATS in their past five road games, but 0-6 ATS in their past six on Thursday. Pitt is 10-1 ATS in their past 11 following a loss. Panthers have covered just once in their past seven Thursday games. The favorite is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings between these two. The "under" is 5-2 in USF’s past seven Big East games. The "under" is 7-3 in Pitt’s past 10 as a dog.
College Football Picks: South Florida at Pitt Predictions
The first quarter should be quite interesting in this one. The Bulls have outscored their first four opponents 65-7 in the first quarter. The Panthers have not allowed a point in the first quarter this season, outscoring their opponents 29-0.
I always like the home team in these quick turnaround games when the clubs are even for the most part, because there’s less disruption for the home club. And, for example, USF couldn’t practice on Sunday because of weather and had to practice at nearly 10 p.m. on Monday night. So I have to say take Pitt here and give the points. I’d also go with the "over."