Week 11 - Pitt at Connecticut

Posted Nov 7, 2012

Week 11 Fearless Prediction – Pittsburgh at Connecticut

Pittsburgh (4-5) at Connecticut (3-6) Nov. 9, 8:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal: So close, yet so painfully elusive was Pitt's upset bid of No. 3 Notre Dame in South Bend last Saturday.

Kevin Harper will be the goat for missing the potential game-winning field goal in overtime, but the Panthers blew a two-touchdown lead on the Irish in the fourth quarter. The loss was gut-wrenching, but it did confirm the fact that Pitt has been playing much better in the second half of Paul Chryst's debut season on the sidelines. The team will have to regroup in a hurry if it's going to win the two additional games needed to become bowl eligible.

Connecticut continues to circle the drain in Paul Pasqualoni's second year, losing a fourth straight game on Saturday night. In typical fashion, the Huskies were unable to generate any offense against South Florida, managing just a pair of field goals. And for the fourth time in 2012, they failed to pull through in a game decided by a touchdown or less.

Why Pittsburgh Might Win: Erratic, yes. Improved? No doubt.

The November version of the Panthers is much better than the September one that lost to Youngstown State. Over the last two weekends, the team has blown out Temple, and had unbeaten Notre Dame on the ropes on Saturday. The defense is making small strides, while RB Ray Graham showcases the form he had before getting injured in 2011. The Connecticut D is no easy assignment, but how many points will be needed to win this game anyway? The Huskies offense is dreadful, averaging just eight points over the last four games.

Why Connecticut Might Win: As long as the D remains solid, the Huskies have a shot against any marginal opponent.

Despite all of this year's issues, Connecticut has had just one off day on defense in 2012, and is ranked No. 9 in the nation. This unit deserves a much better fate. It gets after the quarterback with DE Trevardo Williams and linebackers Sio Moore and Yawin Smallwood, and has only yielded eight touchdown passes all season. Forced to stay on the field longer than the staff would prefer, the Huskies have repeatedly risen to the occasion. The reason why six of their games have been cozy for all four quarters is because the D never gives opponents much breathing room.

What To Watch Out For: Chryst and the staff can't complain about the season being manufactured by QB Tino Sunseri.

No, he hasn't been prolific, but he hasn't thrown a pick since Sept. 15, and ranks No. 15 in passing efficiency. He'll be tested by an underrated secondary that's going to send at least one player to the NFL. The corners are seniors, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz, while sophomore safeties Byron Jones and Ty-Meer Brown are active and athletic. Sunseri's goal will be to work the intermediate routes by getting the ball to receivers Devin Street and Mike Shanahan.

What Will Happen: Pitt went stride for stride with Notre Dame last weekend. Outracing Connecticut, even on the road, won't be a big deal.

The Panthers have turned a corner, even if the record doesn't show it. They're trending north, which also happens to be the opposite trajectory of this week's opponent. The Huskies are sputtering, playing as if they've already got one foot in the offseason. With better options and consistency on offense, as Graham builds a head of steam, Pitt will nudge ahead of Connecticut to even its record.

CFN Prediction: Pittsburgh 20 … Connecticut 14
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Pittsburgh -3.5 O/U: 43.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Skyfall, 1 – Wreck It Ralph): 2