The post-Christmas portion of the college bowl season begins with the Little Caesars Bowl from Ford Field in Detroit, MI featuring the Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6) of the ACC taking on the Bowling Green Falcons (10-3) of the Mid-American Conference on Thursday evening (6:00 pm ET). Pitt lost 2 of their last 3 games to close the regular season, including a 41-31 loss at home in their finale. Bowling Green won 5 straight games in impressive fashion to close the regular season, including a 47-27 win over previously undefeated Northern Illinois 47-27 in the MAC Championship Game to knock the Huskies out of contention for a BCS bowl berth. Bowling Green will by lead by interim Head Coach Adam Scheier after Dave Clawson left to take the top job at Wake Forest.
Pitt ranks 102nd among FBS teams in total offense with 351.8 yards per game and 85th in scoring offense with 26 points per game. Quarterback Tom Savage threw for 2,834 yards with 21 TDs and 9 INTs for the Panthers, and running back Isaac Bennett (795 yards rushing, 7 TDs) is their leading ground gainer. Wide receivers Tyler Boyd (77 receptions, 1,001 yards, 7 TDs) and Devin Street (51 receptions, 854 yards, 7 TDs) are two productive aerial threats for Savage. Pitt ranks 42nd among FBS teams in total defense with 374.1 YPG allowed and 69th in scoring defense with 27.2 PPG allowed. The Panthers are led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner and ACC Defensive Player of the Year who leads the nation in tackles for loss (26.5), is tied for 8th in forced fumbles with 4 and tied for 13th in sacks (10).
Bowling Green ranks 23rd among FBS teams in total offense with 472.5 yards per game and 27th in scoring offense with 35.4 points per game. Quarterback Matt Johnson has thrown for 3,195 yards with 23 TDs and 7 INTs and run for 269 yards and 5 scores for the Falcons. Running back Travis Johnson (1,555 yards rushing, 11 TDs) and wide receiver Shaun Joplin (48 receptions, 822 yards, 3 TDs) are two of the most productive players in an offense that distributes the ball evenly among multiple options. . Bowling Green ranks 8th among FBS teams in total defense with 308.7 YPG allowed and 5th in scoring defense with 14.8 PPG allowed.
Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Pittsburgh Panthers +4
@ Bowling Green Falcons -4
Over 50 (-110)
Under 50 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Pittsburgh vs Bowling Green Pick
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Bowling Green’s last 11 games, and the total has gone UNDER in 7 of Pittsburgh’s last 9 games.
Bowling Green boasts a balanced offensive attack and one of the stingiest defenses in the nation, one that held Northern Illinois, the nation’s 5th ranked team in total offense, under their average level of production and held Heisman contender Jordan Lynch to a 52% completion percentage and intercepted him twice. The Falcons have outscored their opponents 223-44 during their 5 game winning streak, and Johnson is coming off of his best game after throwing for a career-high 393 yards and 5 TD passes against Northern Illinois. Pitt has been inconsistent running the ball, and they will have trouble throwing it as well against a Falcon secondary that ranks 4th nationally with a stingy 166.2 passing YPG allowed. The Falcons are the better team here and they proved in the MAC Championship Game that they are very comfortable in the controlled climate at Ford Field, look for Johnson to have a big day and the Falcon defense to frustrate Savage. Take Bowling Green to cover here.