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Pitt vs. Iowa: Against the Odds

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Pitt will be the underdogs on the road Saturday night.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt opened this week as a three point underdog to Iowa.  The line has since blossomed to 5.5, and some are even saying it is up to six points.  However you look at it, most expect Iowa to be able to fend off Pitt on their home turf, and I think that is a reasonable projection from the odds makers.

Iowa is 2-0 to start the year, but has been only a little more impressive than Pitt has.  The Hawkeyes went on the road and defeated their in-state rivals, Iowa State by a score of 31-17. Although the score says they won by two touchdowns, it was actually closer than it appeared. It took two late Iowa scores to put away the Cyclones.  Not saying there is anything wrong with that (especially in a rivalry game) but Iowa State is picked towards the bottom of the Big 12, thus not making it a great win.

Pitt, on the other hand, managed to cover last week's 13-point spread, despite my skepticism. The Panthers used an impressive defensive performance, but sputtered on offense. Obviously the talk among Pitt fans is the quarterback debate, and that alone is a good enough reason Pitt is close to being a touchdown underdog to a fairly average Iowa team.

Pitt and Iowa are both 2-0. They are similar programs roughly on the same level in recent seasons. In fact, this will be the fourth meeting between the two schools since 2008.  Pitt won the first meeting by a single point in Pittsburgh but Iowa won by four in 2011 after trailing by 21 points and also won last year after trailing by ten at halftime. In three meetings, the total margin of victory for either side is nine points. It would not be a wild assumption that these two teams play to another close finish.

If you plan on betting on Pitt this game, the thing you have to worry about most is Pitt's quarterback situation.  If you trust that Pitt can get competent quarterback play, than 5.5 points isn't too bad against an Iowa team that isn't outstanding. On the other hand, you can look at the facts that Pitt is on the road, it is Pat Narduzzi's first big game as a head coach, they are down their best player in James Conner, and they do not have a set quarterback.  All of that is enough to scare me away from taking the Panthers.  I would think the safe bet in this one is Iowa, but do you take Pitt on the assumption the game finishes up how the past two meetings have gone with them able to cover the points?

Tough call.