Last year, Pitt opened as a big nine-point favorite against Penn State for their football game later in the year. When that line first dropped, I cautioned that it was too high and Vegas seemingly agreed. By the week of the game, that line was cut in half, falling to Pitt -4.5.
But that early line was nothing compared to what Vegas is predicting right now. Penn State opened as a 19-point favorite against the Panthers for this year's contest.
Nineteen points is, suffice to say, a lot. I would have probably expected something like 13-14 points if you asked me to take a shot at it. When you get up to 18, 19, 20, etc., those types of numbers are most often reserved for teams facing off against non-FBS opponents. And even then, you don't see it all the time. It's also somewhat ironic that Pitt was a 19-point underdog against Clemson last year, too. So just throwing that out there.
It should also be noted that Vegas is calling for an easy Penn State win against Michigan, favoring the Nittany Lions by 14 in that game.
Just as I felt last year, that opening Pitt game line seems high. Now, Penn State clearly looks like they will have the better team and also have the game at home. But you just don't see Pitt manhandled like that too often and 19 would be the second biggest margin of defeat suffered by the team since Pat Narduzzi took over as head coach.
The Panthers going on the road to take down undefeated Clemson last year doesn't seem to have done much to persuade folks that Pitt can win in hostile environments. The argument will be that this is a different team. No doubt about it. But given how seriously Narduzzi took the game last year, limiting media access and such, I don't know. I would be surprised if the Panthers were unprepared and if they're ready, hopefully that translates into a closer game.
None of that means Penn State can't win by that much. The Nittany Lions are hoping to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff and return a lot. And this is, after all, a Pitt team playing on the road, retooling on the offensive line, starting a new quarterback, starting an almost entirely new defensive line, and without last year's starting running back James Conner. That doesn't even hit on the fact that the secondary was an absolute bust last season and is replacing players, too.
But despite that, this is still a rivalry game. I'm not a gambling man at all but I would be quite surprised if that line remained that high by game day.