Week 14 - Pitt at South Florida

Posted Nov 28, 2012

Week 14 Fearless Prediction - Pitt at South Florida

Pittsburgh (5-6) at South Florida (3-8) Dec. 1, 7:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal: You can say one thing about Paul Chryst's first Pitt team—there's no quit in it. And for their perseverance, the Panthers remain alive in the quest for postseason eligibility.

The team that has answered each two-game losing streak with a two-game winning streak will do it once more with a win Saturday evening in Tampa. Over the last month, Pitt has beaten Big East-leading Rutgers and taken No. 1 Notre Dame to triple-overtime in South Bend. This program would greatly benefit from an additional 15 practices and another game, regardless of the destination.

The early indications are that Skip Holtz will be back for another year to try and make things right at South Florida. His tenure, which was so promising at the outset, has collapsed to the tune of four wins in the last 18 games. The Bulls have squandered all of the traction that was built by Holtz predecessor Jim Leavitt, and have been relegated to spoilers with Pitt in town.

Why Pittsburgh Might Win: The Panthers are playing for a bowl trip and a shot at .500. The Bulls haven't been relevant in weeks.

South Florida has barely exhibited a pulse, especially after starting QB B.J. Daniels went down. Pitt, on the other hand, is brimming with confidence. That'll happen after a team beats the conference favorite handily, 27-6. The Panthers were dominant defensively, led by DT Aaron Donald, and balanced on offense. RB Ray Graham is back to his pre-injury form, and QB Tino Sunseri has efficiently thrown 18 touchdown passes and not a single pick since Week 3. Conversely, the Bulls are lost without Daniels at the controls, averaging only 11 points over the last three games.

Why South Florida Might Win: It all comes down to home-field advantage, code for the Bulls lacking the personnel to simply beat teams head-to-head.

The Panthers have not played well on the road, beat only Buffalo in five trips outside of Western Pennsylvania. South Florida, on the flip side, has been most competitive at Raymond James Stadium, beating Connecticut earlier in the month. While the defense is getting thin and worn down, it still has fangs and plenty of speed. The Bulls can be stingy against the run, schooling a weak Pittsburgh O-line with a gifted front seven that includes DT Cory Grissom and active linebackers Sam Barrington and DeDe Lattimore.

What To Watch Out For: Can the Bulls offensive line keep Donald in check? The guards, Mark Popek and Danous Estenor are veterans, but C Austin Reiter is only a sophomore. The Panther tackle is a handful, down-in and down-out, using his leverage and quickness to beat blockers to the pocket. South Florida QB Matt Floyd has had enough problems completing passes downfield over the past two weeks. The very last thing he needs is to be running from No. 97 whenever he drops back to pass.

What Will Happen: The tug of a postseason game can be powerful for a team that's been scrapping and clawing for respect all year.

Pittsburgh is not only playing better as the regular season concludes, but it'll be playing for much more as well this weekend. Since opening 0-2, the Panthers haven't played many bad games in 2012. They'll remain efficient in Tampa, beating South Florida with the methodical combination of Graham on the ground and Sunseri on intermediate throws. Once the visitors gain a cushion, South Florida won't have the tools or the offensive consistency to mount much of a comeback.

CFN Prediction: Pittsburgh 27 … South Florida 16
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Pittsburgh -6 O/U: 45
Must Watch Rating (5 – Crossfire Hurricane, 1 – Comic Book Men: 2.5