Heinz Field is scary. Trips to Pittsburgh haven't been kind to the Hokies in years past, and often lead to more negativity than anything else.
But this week, we here at Halfwits and Wagers (trademark, patent pending, please respect our intellectual property), promise to only look on the positive side of things. After a week full of Twitter offensive coordinators and sinking feelings about the bowl streak, we want to bring some optimistic thinking into the column today.
(To be honest, I'm writing this before reading what Joey has to say. And before I put any sort of professional reputation on the line for the hot take specialist of our group, I'll just say that things probably won't get any darker than last week.)
Brian's Record this Year (+Last Week Only) 30-37-1 (5-4)
Joey's Record this Year (+Last Week Only) 36-32 (5-4)
On to the lines!
Over/Under: 37,100 announced attendance
Brian: This is the largest crowd the Panthers have seen in any non-Penn State game this season. In case you were wondering, Heinz Field has a max capacity of 68,400, leaving a less-than-desirable plague of empty yellow seats at every game.
This, of course, we know. We make fun of it. It's the only thing we could hold on to when the Beamer teams would travel north and lose.
But we've also never seen the Panthers in contention for anything important, at least not during their time in the ACC. If a Saturday afternoon game against a team you have a history with while your squad's in the hunt for a division title can't draw a crowd, what can?
And I ask in a non-accusatory fashion. I've met a lot of Pitt fans, and they're as die hard about their football team as Virginia Tech fans are about theirs. I always loved hanging out with them at TOTS when they made the trip to Blacksburg. Pitt has a history of success in college football that predates anything worthwhile Tech has ever accomplished.
They don't deserve to be known as the team who has no shot to fill their stadium. It's really a shame. I'll take a slight over (the last three times Tech's traveled there, the average attendance hovers near 40 thousand). But it still might be sleepy, which isn't ideal for such a young team.
Joey: The logical play would be the over here. But to me, betting on Pitt football attendance is like the "The Price is Right".
I can almost picture it now. You have 200 borderline crazy people who took time off of work and/or unemployment to fly across the country and attend a live taping with Bob Barker, four of whom were lucky enough to get selected to embarrass their entire families on national television. They're asked to estimate the price of a BRAND NEW CAR, and three of them proceed to treat a gray Honda Civic like a juiced-up Ferrari. The fourth, finally coming to his senses, plainly states that his guess is $1.
What a jackass, right? Well, guess what?
I'm that jackass.
Attendance at Heinz Field will officially be 1 fan.
Over/Under: 8.5 snaps for Quincy Patterson
Brian: In my eyes this has to be decision day for the QP experiment this season. He very obviously adds something to the rushing attack. In French's review of the offense, he focuses much of his time on missed reads in the run game, highlighting a few specific plays in the patented Cornelsen inverted veer.
I don't know if Patterson has made any true reads when he's on the field, or if it has all been predetermined. I don't know how much trust the coaches have in his arm (both times he tried to throw against BC could have gone very poorly).
But here are a few things I do know: he's hard to bring down. He can punish a defense when they leave two safeties high. He seems comfortable running a Jerod Evans-lite package of QB runs and play action off of it. And he's the only guy I trust on the whole roster to pick up a third and two.
If the coaches still want to redshirt him, do they skip this game and save him for the final stretch of Miami and Virginia? If Josh Jackson can come back, would Patterson even play at all? Sitting at 4-4 means there's no more room for hesitation. You have to get the best players on the field as much as possible. Quincy has to play.
But he won't. Leading to more angst from the fanbase. Under.
Joey: I like Quincy Patterson and think he has a bright future, but it's clear the coaching staff doesn't trust him with the whole playbook quite yet. I mean, a typically tight-lipped Fuente was unusually candid on the topic this week:
Fuente on QB Quincy Patterson: "You never got the feeling that he was anything other than ready." Said he's not responsible for the entire offensive package. Still a niche role. Could see more of him going forward, though. #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) November 5, 2018
Until Patterson works himself out of that "niche" on Saturdays, I'll take the under.
Over/Under: 175 combined rushing yards for Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison
Brian: It was so fun watching Rico Kearney, Dax Hollifield, and Divine Deablo run around in a three linebacker package like it was 2006 again. Deablo's turn as a James Anderson-like whip really made me yearn for the good old days of Anderson, Hall, and Adibi. He was great.
This all depends on whether or not Bud has another wrinkle lined up in his back pocket for Pitt. Remember against Duke, the Hokies often dropped a defensive end in coverage, and really stymied what the Blue Devils wanted to do. They did it again against Notre Dame and it, let's just say it didn't work as well.
Does Bud stick with Deablo close to the line of scrimmage? What does he do with Khalil Ladler, who was suspended for the first half of the BC game but never saw the field after halftime? If he uses Jovonn Quillen to replace Bryce Watts, will Kenny Pickett throw more than the 22 times he's averaged in 2018?
Hall and Ollison are both great. And they each get a ton of burn. But I'd wager that Bud sells out to stop the run with a scheme similar to what he used against the Eagles, and Pitt finds more success through the air.
Joey: OK, the positivity streak is coming to a screeching halt on this one.
Tech's rush defense was admittedly impressive against BC. Some of that was assuredly the standout play of Kearney, Hollifield and Deablo, but I also think AJ Dillon's injury and Scot Loeffler's impatience took the Eagles away from the run for long (enough) stretches.
That won't happen against Pitt. The combination of a stubborn Pat Narduzzi, an ultra-talented backfield, and a mediocre-at-best quarterback in Kenny Pickett will have this over hit in the 3rd quarter.
Over/Under: 10 second half points for Virginia Tech
Brian: Here's a list of the Hokies' second half scoring outputs this season:
@ FSU: 7
vs W&M: 24
@ ODU: 21
vs ND: 7
@ UNC: 15
vs GT: 7
vs BC: 7
That's...a whole lot of sevens.
I won't throw more coal into the anti-Cornelsen furnace, but there seems to be a legitimate problem in the second half. Pitt's defense isn't good. They're tied for 85th in the country allowing 30.4 points a game. That seems promising, until you see that they're tied with Florida State, a team who held the Hokies to a single second half touchdown way back when we thought both teams were good.
I think they'll figure something out this week (either out of scheme or desperation) to hit the over. Maybe they'll throw 80 fades like they did in 2016, I don't know. But it doesn't feel particularly promising.
Joey: Deserved or not, Cornelsen has to be feeling the heat this week. And while it's likely coming from Fuente himself as opposed to Twitter eggs foaming at the mouth, I'd expect an elevated focus to be placed on 3rd quarter scheme and execution against Pitt. Maybe the answer is to (gasps) throw on first down. Maybe the answer is to let Quincy Patterson establish the running game early and often. Maybe Bucky Hodges and Isaiah Ford are coming back to see their old friend Pat.
Either way, I certainly don't like it, but I'll take the over.
Clemson -20 @ Boston College
Brian: The BC disrespect is real! They're 7-2, ranked 17th by the selection committee, and coming off three straight conference wins. They're playing at home, in the cold (have not done any research on this, just assume that Massachusetts in November is cold), in prime time. And Vegas expects them to lose in an embarrassing fashion?
(Looks over at Clemson.)
(Sees them chewing on the carcass of what used to be Bobby Petrino.)
(Notices that their quarterback looks like a Weasley brother crossed with an Avatar, but plays like a Predator.
Oh. Right. I get it. Clemson by four scores.
(But I am so excited to watch Scot Loeffler pull out his entire playbook to try to win this thing. I'm writing this around midnight central time, and I know old Scotty's drawing up nine different ways to roll out and throw back to the tight end.)
Joey: I'm shocked by how high this line is. I get that BC being ranked 17th is likely more an indication of the media setting up a watchable College GameDay than actual respect for Steve Addazio, but spotting any ranked team 20 points at home almost never happens.
But guess what? It's not nearly enough.
I had Clemson -24.5 1H last week (first half bets, what a thrill) and it was quite literally never in doubt. Since Dabo's crew survived a Trevor Lawrence injury scare against Syracuse, the Tigers offense has flat out dominated a weak ACC Atlantic. Let's take a look:
W @ Wake Forest, 63-3, 698 Total Yards
W vs. NC State, 41-7, 471 Total Yards
W @ Florida State, 59-10, 524 Total Yards
W vs. Louisville, 77-16, 661 Total Yards
Clemson by a billion.
Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma, O/U 77
Brian: The Sooners haven't scored less than 45 points since September 22. The Pokes average 38 a game, and even though they've been up and down, it's hard to imagine a Mike Gundy squad not throwing up points against a bad defense. I'm taking the over, because at the very least I want to root for Kyler Murray playing his Manziel-ian style in a heated rivalry game. They may not break 80, but I'm already rooting for it. Life's too short (and pass heavy) to bet the under.
Joey: This is one of those games that you should bet every year without even looking at the total. Last year's edition of the "We Don't Play Defense in Oklahoma Bowl" was tied 38-38 at half (that's 76 points for the non-math majors among us), and this year shouldn't be much different.
The Joey Coogan Memorial "Navy Hits the Over" Lock of the Week.
Brian: Ohio State is good, but possibly emotionally broken. Their defense is leaking points, and it falls on Dwayne Haskins to carry the load. Michigan State isn't very good, but wins over Maryland and Purdue have somehow made people forget that their offense no-showed games against Michigan, Northwestern, and (wait for it), Arizona State. Yet somehow, the Buckeyes are only favored by three and a half? Let me side with the talent and the points.
Joey: What Navy did last week was flat out embarrassing. Needing just seven (SEVEN!) points to hit the over after allowing Cincinnati to rack up 42 with ease, the Midshipmen instead decided to put up a donut (sending my Navy bets back to .500 for the year).
Thankfully, Navy travels to Orlando this week to take on UCF, an actual football team that may score 70+ without blinking. The total's at 63, so the over feels like a safe play here.
P.S. If you want another lock, UCF -25.5 is stealing.
Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh Over/Under: 54
Brian: There will be points. I imagine this thing being closer to the 39-36 fade extravaganza in '16 than last year's defensive slogfest. Willis will find some receivers, the Panther running backs will find some holes, and Maurice Ffrench will remind us multiple times about his ridiculous silent consonant. Over.
Joey: I agree with Brian, 54 seems low. I'd argue that Pitt's offense is better than BC's (at least recently), and the Eagles managed to put up 31 against Tech despite a first half performance that bordered on incompetent.
Provided Cornelsen and Fuente don't sleepwalk through another third quarter, I like the over.
Spread: Pittsburgh -3.5
Brian: I really believe in the Hokies this week. Again. Which is dumb, because they're just going to kick me in the ass again. Especially in a place that has routinely haunted the program (in 2012, I was so angry over Tech's no-show in Pittsburgh that I threw a butter knife at the wall of my Hunter's Ridge apartment, and it stuck like a dart). But this comes down to pure gambling logic. They may be on a hot streak, but I'll never trust the Panthers with points, no matter who they're playing.
Give me the away team, +3.5.
Joey: Oh, Brian.
The Hokies haven't covered a line since their 31-14 win over Duke (in September, lest we forget), and I don't see that changing until Tech wrecks Marshall to keep the bowl streak alive.
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.