The last time I organized these lines, I told a quaint little tale about my favorite Syracuse memory. All was well for roughly 24 hours, until the Virginia Tech football team reminded me why I only had the one positive thing to look back on in their entire series against the Orange.
Well, at least I had one. Because now it's time for another former Big East foe, only this one leaves me much more dead inside. I actually have story I'll always remember about the Hokies' history with Pittsburgh as well, but it's not quite the same tone.
The first time I met one of my friends from college was during the 2012 version of this game in Heinz Field. If for whatever reason you don't remember, 2012 was the year the Hokies traveled up to Pitt and got steamrolled by a Panthers team which had just lost back-to-back games against Cincinnati and Youngstown State.
The game eventually lead to this meme, and at some point me taking a butter knife and throwing it so hard at the wall of my old apartment that it stuck in it like a dart. He says that to this day it's one of the most terrifying and rage-induced things he's ever seen.
I like to make great first impressions.
On to the (fake) lines!
Over/Under: 0.5 quarters before the trauma of the last decade catches up to you and you ask if we can really demolish Heinz Field like Bane in The Dark Knight Rises
Brian: Too late. Just writing this question made me want to see that godforsaken place blown to smithereens, with the ghosts of Rod Rutherford, Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Bryant, and Tino f-ing Sunseri buried with it.
Side note: this scene ruined the entire movie for me. You know why? There's no way on God's green earth that old ass Hines Ward would ever:
- Return a kickoff at that age.
- Return said kickoff for a touchdown.
- Be the only damn player fast enough to not get caught in the explosion.
By the end of good old Hines' career, he was basically a fullback running slants. The only thing about him that looked like a receiver was his paycheck.
Pierson: Under. I already feel that way and the game hasn't even kicked off. Since coming down from the Miami win, I've had trouble shaking
thoughts nightmares of Walt Harris, Rod Rutherford, Rushel Shell and Chad Freakin' Voytik. Everyone hates playing Pitt. My roommates at Tech were all from Pittsburgh and they hate playing Pitt. Half empty stadiums shouldn't be intimidating, yet Heinz Field has somehow become a House of Horrors for Virginia Tech. If the Hokies can escape the Big Ketchup Bottle with a win, it might be the highlight of my season.
Over/Under: 20,000 empty seats on Thursday night
Brian: The easy answer is the under. The Panthers are 5-2, beat Penn State, and are in the middle of the program's largest upswing since Walt Harris' departure. But the last time these two teams played in Pittsburgh it was also on a Thursday, and had an "announced capacity" of just over 43,000 (a number which indicates a lot of Pitt fans apparently looked like yellow plastic stadium seats that night).
I say over. The combination of the weather (it may be wet), and the mid-week game (a normal game day Saturday is easier for working people to get to) keeps the attendance down.
Pierson: Under. Heinz Field's official capacity is 65,050, though September's home game against Penn State had an announced attendance of 69,983 (which I guess we can attribute to standing room, et al). Pitt has topped 45,050 attendance in every game this season, including their homer against Marshall.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the box office pull some ticket sales magic and release an announced attendance far higher than reality. Miami and UVa have been pulling that stuff forever. A Thursday night game will surely limit the number of Hokies in attendance. Despite that, I think that the setting and matchup of 5-2 teams vying for the Coastal Division crown will drive enough physical human beings to the game.
Over/Under: 3.5 total touchdowns for Jerod Evans
Brian: Pittsburgh's pass defense is rough. Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph threw for over 500 yards against the team in early September. Mitch Trubisky tossed five scores on them, and even Virginia's Kurt Benkert had an above average showing (for UVA standards, that is.)
But the reason this line is so high, is Evans' extra responsibility in the run game. After Travon McMillian's big week against Miami, Pitt's aggressive run defense could heavily key on the running back near the goal line and help Jerod hit the over on this one.
Pierson: Evans hasn't accounted for more than 3 touchdowns in his past three contests, but he will be going up against one of the more touchdown-friendly defenses in the ACC this week. Only Syracuse has given up more touchdowns to opposing offenses (too bad we haven't played them this season lalalalalalalalalalalala).
The Panthers have surrendered 31 or more points to all five Power 5 teams they have played this season. They were carved up by Mitch Trubisky in late September, surrendering 453 yards passing and 5 touchdowns. Evans is easily the most dynamic quarterback Pitt has faced all year. Does Pat Narduzzi's evil genius make me nervous? Sure. But no more so than the spectre of playing at Heinz Field. Give me the over, because eff Pitt.
Yes/No: Nathan Peterman throws his first interception in over a month
Brian: I say yes. One of the best things about Tech's defense this year is the way the entire unit has contributed to the turnovers. The line's pressure causes early throws. The dramatically improved linebackers disrupt things in both the run and pass game, and the secondary is ready and able to gamble on errant passes. It reminds me of a Bud defense we'd see in the mid-2000s. Adibi and Hall ran sideline-to-sideline, Chris Ellis and company provided the pressure up front, and the combination of Brandon Flowers, Macho Harris, and D.J. Parker took advantage of it all.
They've simply been playing too well of late to not think they bait the Panther QB into a bad throw, especially if he's playing from behind.
Pierson: No. The Hokies have averaged more than an interception per game and have more picks than any other team the Panthers have faced this season. But given the way that Pitt has tortured the Hokies on the ground in recent years, I expect more of the same tonight. Unless the Hokies can seriously disrupt the Pitt o-line and put them behind the sticks, I suspect that most of Pitt's pass plays will be high-percentage throws.
Over/Under: 0.5 Hokies other than Jerod Evans who attempt a pass
Brian: Smart coaches have something up their sleeve every matchup, and it's up to the flow of the game whether or not they bust it out of the playbook. If I had to guess, I think we see one other person at least attempt to throw. It may end up like the blown up play designed for Isaiah Ford last week, but I bet Brad Cornelsen will have something tricky ready to go.
Pierson: Under. I love the trick plays and all, but I'm good.
Who gets more "this coach is intense!" TV shots: Pat Narduzzi or Bud Foster?
Brian: People love both of these coaches. Narduzzi has the old school Italian passion built for a place like Pitt, and Bud Foster has made running onto the field like a crazy person his brand since 1995. I'm guessing Narduzzi gets more camera time since he's the head coach of the home team, and by shear opportunity gets one more "LOOK HOW INTENSE THIS GUY IS, FOLKS!" from Jesse Palmer.
Pierson: From a literal perspective, I would consider Bud to be the more intense character of the two. Viewers will get peppered with multiple shots of him fist pumping and skipping down the sideline intermingled with key third down pre-snap cuts to him with his hands on his knees staring intently at the line of scrimmage.
Nards, on the other hand, is either screaming bloody murder or standing on the sideline trying to burn holes through his players. That's not intensity. That's just crazy. Go have some Eat'n Park cookies and calm the heck down, sport.
Matchup Over/Under: 59.5 total points
Brian: This seems like such an easy over, I feel like it's a trap. Odds are things will be damp, but we've seen how the Hokies have handled the weather before. Add to the fact that both sides average over 35 points a game and have their share of explosive playmakers, they'll hit this easily.
Pierson: Over. This will be one of those games where you'll want to have a Costco-sized container of Tums handy. As I mentioned earlier, all five Power 5 opponents have scored 31 or more points against the Panthers. Even though the Hokies are the toughest defense Pitt has faced this season, their running game is strong enough to progressively chip away at Bud Foster's group. Considering that Pitt has scored 36 or more against all FBS opponents, the over seems like the smart bet.
Spread: Virginia Tech (-3.5)
Brian: I'll continue to pick Virginia Tech to lose in Pittsburgh until proven otherwise. It's a tough matchup for the Hokies, and the Panthers are coming in off a bye, which means rested legs on defense.
I also think you learn a lot about a team in how they handle success, particularly when they're not used to it. The Hokies blew their first game after a big win (falling to Syracuse post-UNC), will it happen again?
Pierson: Last time the Hokies hit the road, I picked them to win YUGE. That loss rattled me. Faced with a trip to Hokie Nation's least favorite haunted house, I'm left with no choice but to take Pitt plus the points. This is in no way meant to be a reverse jinx because if I said as much, I would be jinxing my reverse jinx. We don't want that. Definitely not a reverse jinx. Nope...
Disclaimer: Some of these are real betting lines, but many of them are fake and none of this is real advice that should be taken seriously.