Week 3 College Football Free Pick - Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh
The Pitt Panthers have ran into a couple of tough weeks to start the season. After allowing a poor Youngstown State take them to overtime, they got hit with #4 Penn State last week, and #9 Oklahoma State this week.
FREE PICK: Pittsburgh +13.5 vs. Oklahoma State (Covers 55.5%)
After they shook off the first week jitters, Pitt allowed them to pop back up last week. They were entirely overmatched on all sides of the ball against Penn State as would have been expected. Pitt entered that contest as three touchdown underdogs to the Nittany Lions.
However, there was more of a silver-lining for Pitt than one would realize looking at the final score. Pitt had ten more first downs than Penn State, out-gained them in the air, and out-gained them on the ground. Pitt's issues came with USC transfer quarterback, Max Browne, as he threw a pick deep in Penn State's territory to start the game and another inside his own half in the second quarter.
The Penn State defensive line and linebackers pushed the Pitt offensive line, more famously known for run blocking, around all game, adding pressure to Browne and his ability to drive the ball down field. Running back, Qadree Ollison, filled in for James Conner nicely by rushing for 96 yards on just 15 carries. He wasn't able to get more involved in the game due to the Panthers trailing 14-0 early and playing catch-up.
This week will pose a different threat for Pitt on the defensive side of the ball. Pitt played Oklahoma State last season where the Cowboys took home a 45-38 victory. Quarterback, Mason Rudolph, returns to face Pat Narduzzi's defense, which he destroyed for 540 yards passing a year ago. Of the 540 yards, 296 of them were thrown to top receiver James Washington, who also returned for his senior season.
Rudolph has thrown for over 600 yards already this season, but the Cowboys have yet to be tested against Tulsa and South Alabama. Don't get me wrong, there's no doubt that Pitt will give up some points on defense to the fourth-best passing game in college football, but they showed some good indicators over the last year that they can keep these high-scoring games closer than expected.
In fact, if we simply look at the two touchdown line itself and switch the game to be played in Stillwater, we would have to assume Pitt would be three touchdown underdogs again this week. Thus, we have to make one of two assumptions...
Either Oklahoma State is valued as an equivalent to Penn State OR Pitt is a few points worse than we expected previously. Considering, as explained above, Pitt somewhat played right with Penn State outside of the final score, I don't think they are a few points worse than expected from last week. I also think it's safe to assume Oklahoma State is not as good as Penn State, 16th and 6th in our power rankings, respectively. Hence, the number is a bit high for a Pitt team that we've watched compete in these shootouts for the last few seasons.
According to 50,000 games played by our simulation engine at PredictionMachine.com, Pitt wins over Oklahoma State just 26.0% of the time with an average losing score of 38.5 to 30.1. As a 13.5-point underdog losing by an average margin of 8.4 points, the Panthers cover the spread 55.5% of the time, which would justify a $33 wager for an average $50 bettor.