PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (6-6)
vs. BOWLING GREEN FALCONS (10-3)
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Ford Field – Detroit, MI
Kickoff: Thursday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Line: Bowling Green -4, Total: 50
Bowling Green is on a high after winning the Mid-American Conference title and looks to continue its success Thursday against Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field, the same venue in which the Falcons captured the MAC crown.
The Panthers barely secured a bowl bid, losing four of their final six games and finishing sixth in the seven-team ACC Coastal division. They had some big wins this year when they defeated Duke on the road and then Notre Dame in early November. Pittsburgh has been in a bowl game in each of the past three seasons and has lost the past two both SU and ATS. Last season, the Panthers faced Ole Miss in their third straight BBVA Compass Bowl appearance and lost 38-17 as 4-point underdogs. The Falcons put together a fantastic season and destroyed Northern Illinois’ chance at an undefeated season and a potential BCS bowl when they beat the Huskies by a score of 47-27 to win the MAC championship. That was Bowling Green's fifth straight win (SU and ATS) in which it outscored opponents by a hefty 223 to 44 margin. The Falcons participated in the Military Bowl last season, losing 29-20 against 7-point favorite San Jose State. These two programs have met just three times since 1999 with Pittsburgh going 2-1 (SU and ATS), but Bowling Green winning the most recent meeting in 2008 by a score of 27-17. The Falcons did great for bettors this season, going 10-3 ATS on the year and they are also 11-2 ATS after a win by 17 or more points over the past two seasons. The Panthers are a woeful 4-8 ATS this year, including 1-4 ATS on the road, but are 12-4 ATS after having lost to out of their past three games.
Can Bowling Green close out the season with a sixth straight victory? For the answer, connect to College Football Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013-14 bowl season. The four experts finished the regular season a collective 51.1% ATS (120-115-7) on college football Best Bets, led by StatFox Dave's stellar 57% ATS (35-25-2) mark. This included a 64% ATS (23-13-2) record in his final 11 weeks. StatFox Gary was 2-1 ATS in the final week to finish 53% ATS (21-19-1) in the regular season. Gary was 56% ATS (20-16-1) in college football Best Bets since Week 3. StatFox Brian also finished strong with a 3-1 ATS mark on Best Bets in Championship Week, giving him his fourth straight winning season of college football Best Bets at 52% ATS (33-30-1). StatFox Scott is looking to repeat a huge 2012-13 bowl season, when he posted a 71% ATS mark in Best Bets (5-2-1).
The Panthers were a one-dimensional offense with their passing attack averaging 237 YPG (61st in FBS) and their running game going for only 115YPG (112th in the nation) but surprisingly running for more than 200 yards in three different games, including 220 in the most recent contest, a 41-31 home loss to Miami. QB Tom Savage was solid all season, completing 61.1% of his passes for 2,834 yards passing (7.5 YPA), 21 TD and 9 INT. Over the past eight games, Savage has tossed only three interceptions, and he has thrown for more 200 yards (with 10 TD) in eight straight games. One reason that Savage had such a strong season was his stud freshman WR Tyler Boyd (1,001 rec. yards, 7 TD) and NFL hopeful senior WR Devin Street (854 rec. yards, 7 TD). Boyd has had 8+ receptions in four of his past five games, but broke 100 yards in only one of them, while Street missed two games on the year and surpassed six receptions only once. While the Panthers post underwhelming numbers in the running game (3.3 yards per carry), the duo of HBs Isaac Bennett (795 rush yards, 4.8 YPC, 7 TD) and James Conner (570 rush yards, 4.8 YPC, 7 TD) are both decent. DT Aaron Donald (10 sacks, 54 tackles) took home a lot of hardware this year (Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Award and Outland Trophy), but he could only do so much, as the Pittsburgh defense allowed 27.2 PPG to their opponents on the season (71st in FBS). The Panthers allowed 374 total YPG, including 161 rushing YPG on 5.3 YPC.
The Bowling Green offense has tallied 473 total YPG on the season including 574 yards in the MAC championship game against NIU. The Falcons were led by QB Matt Johnson who threw for 3,195 yards (9.5 YPA) with 23 TD and 7 INT. He put up his best game of the season against NIU in the championship game when he threw for 393 yards and five touchdowns while keeping the ball away from the opposing defense with zero interceptions. During the team's five-game win streak, Johnson has thrown for 274 YPG, 14 TD and just 4 INT. The Falcons’ leading receiver, senior WR Shaun Joplin (822 rec. yards, 3 TD), had only one catch for 15 yards in the last game, but all three of his 100-yard receiving efforts this year all came on the road. Freshman WR Ronnie Moore (535 rec. yards, 7 TD) had only 229 yards over the team's first 10 games, but in his past two contests, he has exploded for 306 receiving yards and four touchdowns. HB Travis Greene led the running attack with 1,555 yards on 6.0 YPC and 13 total touchdowns (11 rushing). He has a 10-game streak of rushing for at least 95 yards, and has scored a touchdown in each of the past four contests. The real strength of this team is the defense that is allowing only 14.8 PPG to their opponents (5th in the nation), while being led by senior DT Ted Ouellet who has 4.5 sacks over the past five games. The Falcons are on the field for just 25:44, which has helped them limit opposing passers to 166 YPG and 5.4 YPA on 54.7% completions.