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Thursday Night College Football: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh

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The biggest question surrounding this game is whether Virginia Tech will have anyone in the backfield as leading rusher Marshawn Williams has been ruled out due to an ankle injury sustained on October 4.  The Hokies have lost their top three running backs – Shai McKenzie (torn ACL), Trey Edmunds (broken clavicle) and now Williams – in the last two games. Through the first six games of the season, Williams led the Hokies with 337 rushing yards, while McKenzie is second on the team with 269 rushing yards.  Williams and McKenzie lead the team with three rushing touchdowns apiece.

The lack of a backfield further hinders a pedestrian Virginia Tech offense that is averaging 30.5 points per game at 4.1 yards per rush play, 6.4 yards per pass play and 5.2 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 4.6 yards per rush attempt, 7.1 yards per pass attempt and 5.8 yards per play to mediocre offensive squads.  And, while Virginia Tech is 2-0 SU and ATS on the road this season, the Hokies are averaging just 3.0 yards per rush play and 4.2 yards per play on foreign soil.

Overall, Virginia Tech is 0.5 yards per rush play, 0.7 yards per pass play and 0.6 yards per play worse than average offensively this season, and those numbers will decline further now that opposing defenses don’t have to worry about the Hokies’ ground attack.  Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is 0.2 yards per play better than average defensively (4.6 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 4.8 yards per play), which gives the Panthers a solid 0.8 yards per play advantage defensively over the Hokies’ anemic attack from the line of scrimmage.

Pittsburgh takes the field with a very good offense that is averaging 30.5 points per game at 5.3 yards per rush play, 6.6 yards per pass attempt and 5.7 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 4.4 yards per rush attempt, 6.6 yards per pass attempt and 5.4 yards per play to a mediocre offensive squad.  The Panthers are also averaging 428 yards per game at home this season at 5.9 yards per play.

Overall, Pittsburgh is 0.9 yards per rush play and 0.3 yards per play better than average offensively, which is not good enough to have much success against a very good Virginia Tech stop unit that is 1.0 yards per play better than average (5.2 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 6.2 yards per play).

Pittsburgh possesses a 0.8 yards per play advantage defensively over the Hokies’ attack, while Virginia Tech maintains a 0.7 yards per play advantage over the Panthers’ offense.  I certainly lean with the ‘under’ 45 points in this game, but I believe the better play is with Pittsburgh.

The Panthers apply to a very good 89-31-2 ATS contrarian situation of mine that invests on certain home favorites off three or more consecutive losses, provided they are matched up against an opponent off a win. Conversely, since 1980, college football teams on the road off consecutive wins are a money-burning 25-29 SU and 19-34-1 ATS following a bye in Game Seven.

College Football Pick: Pittsburgh (-1) (-110)

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