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Pitt given long odds for 2018 football season by Vegas

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Super Bowl LII Proposition Bets At The Westgate Las Vegas Race & Sports SuperBook Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook revealed its initial odds for the upcoming 2018 ACC football season, and Pitt is not favored to fare especially well this year despite ending last season on a high note. In fact, at 100-1, Pitt is tied with Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse for the second-worst odds to win the conference title in the coming season.

The news comes as little surprise, given the team shares a conference with several perennial championship contenders, such as Clemson and Florida State. The Tigers and Seminoles were given 5-9 and 9-2 odds, respectively, to win the ACC crown, while the Miami Hurricanes rounded out the top three, with 5-2 odds. Westgate gave Virginia the lowest odds, at 300-1.

While few actually expect the Panthers to compete for supremacy in one of the toughest conferences in college football in 2018, the fact that they’re placed behind teams like Boston College and Wake Forest, both of which went 3-9 as recently as 2015, and grouped with Syracuse, which has finished the last three seasons 4-8, is unlikely to sit well with fans.

Of course, the cloud of pessimism hanging over Pitt is not entirely unwarranted, as the team is coming off a 5-7 season — its worst finish in a decade. That was due in large part to an overambitious schedule that included Miami, Oklahoma State, Penn State and Virginia Tech, and Pitt's upcoming schedule is likely to pose just as stiff a challenge.

In addition to rematches with Miami, Penn State and Virginia Tech, Pitt will hit the road to take on a UCF team that went undefeated in 2017 and a Notre Dame team that went 10-3.

That difficult schedule has other Vegas oddsmakers taking a dim view of the team’s chances in 2018, as OddsShark recently set the over-under for Pitt’s 2018 win total at 5.5 games. (For comparison, that’s down from 7.0 games in 2017, which was expected to be a down season.)

“Pitt was the top under team in the conference at 2-9-1 O/U last season thanks to an offense stuck in quicksand,” wrote OddsShark sports betting analyst Jon Campbell. “They’re hoping that changes this year with dual-threat quarterback Kenny Pickett taking over. The O-line is a big question mark, though, and only four starters return on offense.”

“I love that the defense has three returning starters and upperclassmen at middle linebacker, but I really have more questions than answers with this team,” he added.

While Campbell’s assessment is pretty even-handed, there’s reason to believe Pitt can outperform the expectations laid out by Vegas — at least with regard to the low over-under.

For one, the Panthers have resolved perhaps the biggest issue that was plaguing them last season, which was week-to-week uncertainty at the quarterback position. As Campbell alluded to, the emergence of Pickett should benefit the team and allow for some chemistry to develop on the offensive side of the ball — something that was sorely missing for the majority of last season.

On top of that, the schedule isn’t all bad. Pitt will face Duke and Syracuse at home, two teams they have dominated regardless of location over the last five years. Georgia Tech, a team that went 0-4 on the road in 2017, will also head to Heinz Field on Sept. 15, and if the Panthers can avoid squandering the opportunities the Yellow Jackets hand them, they can avenge last year’s loss.

They’ll get similar chances against beatable North Carolina and Virginia teams on the road in addition to what should amount to a freebie at home against Albany. Provided Pitt is able to come out on top in those generally winnable matchups, that would bring their win total to six.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed in any of those games, and defeat is also far from a certainty against the likes of Miami, Penn State, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, as each one of those teams has fallen to Pitt at least once in the last five years.

With all that said, whether the Panthers wind up on the right or wrong side of .500 this year will depend on how well the team jells with Pickett under center, as Pitt’s most glaring deficiency last season was its offense, which fell from 10th in the nation in scoring in 2016 to 101st in 2017.

Addressing that drop in production will take Pitt a long way toward defying the odds.