The Central Florida Knights will be looking to remain undefeated when they host the Pittsburgh Panthers at Bright House Networks Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Central Florida has begun its season with victories over Connecticut, South Carolina State, and Florida Atlantic. Pittsburgh is 2-2 after falling at North Carolina this past weekend.
Pittsburgh has gotten progressively worse and worse–especially on offense–as games have dragged on so far this season. The Panthers’ production has dipped alarmingly as the legs have churned out miles. In their 2018 opener against Albany, they scored all 33 of their points in the first half. During an ensuing loss to Penn State, Pittsburgh put up all of its grand total of six points in the opening quarter. Pitt followed that up with a 24-19 defeat of Georgia Tech, but it scored only three points after halftime. In last Saturday’s 38-35 victory over North Carolina, the Panthers led 28-21 at the intermission before getting outscored 17-7 over the final 30 minutes.
They delivered their first second-half touchdown of 2018 when Kenny Pickett threw a 16-yard strike to Maurice Ffrench with 3:12 left in the game to pull the visitors within one possession. But Pittsburgh could not get a stop and the Tar Heels ran out the clock.
“I thought offensively we were fantastic in the first half,” head coach Pat Narduzzi reflected. “Didn’t do much in the second half.”
Glue that keeps the offense going
Central Florida actually allowed a sack in its 56-36 drubbing of Florida Atlantic last weekend. Unsurprisingly, it did not allow more than one. The Knights had been one of just three FBS teams that had not surrendered a single sack through two games before quarterback McKenzie Milton went down once against the Owls.
“That group, the way we’re close in the meeting room and off the field just kind of correlates to the way we play on the field,” left guard Tyler Hudanick said of the offensive line. “We can communicate. We have no problem being able to say something to someone else if we thought they screwed up or if there’s something that needs to be corrected, we’re not afraid to say something to one another.”
Central Florida’s front five is a big reason–literally–why Milton has been so successful in 2018. The junior from Hawaii completed 21 of 32 passes for 306 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions at the expense of Florida Atlantic. He also rushed for 81 yards and three additional scores on 13 keepers. Through three contests, Milton has racked up 895 yards through the air and 147 yards on the ground while accounting for 12 total touchdowns.
The Central Florida Knights are:
- 4-1 ATS in their last five overall
- 5-1 ATS in their last six September games
- 4-1 Under in their last five games against the ACC
The Pittsburgh Panthers are:
- 7-19-1 ATS in their last 27 non-conference games
- 3-9-1 ATS in their last 13 September games
- 12-4-1 Under in their last 17 overall
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Pittsburgh’s defense will have to watch out for a lot more than just Milton. Central Florida is well-oiled and deep machine, with five players–including Milton–who have already accumulated more than 100 rushing yards this season. Two other Knights have gained more than 70 yards on the ground. The Panthers are solid but unspectacular against the run, giving up 191 rushing yards per contest. They were dreadful on defense in a relatively bad loss to North Carolina this past week.
Prediction: Central Florida Knights
Full-Game Total Pick
Central Florida’s offense stole the show against Florida Atlantic, but its defense cannot be overlooked. The unit had previously allowed 17 points combined against Connecticut and South Carolina State. Pittsburgh scored six points in its toughest test of the season (vs. Penn State) through four outings. The under is 12-4-1 in the Panthers’ last 17 overall, 6-1 in their last seven on the road, 5-1 in their last six against winning opponents, and 6-0-1 in their last seven following a loss. It is also 4-1 in the Knights’ last five against the ACC and 5-2 in their last seven after allowing fewer than 17- passing yards in their previous outing. Look for this one to stay under the total.
Half-Time Side Pick
The Knights unsurprisingly outscored each of their first three opponents in the opening halves, including Connecticut by a 14-0 margin in the first quarter and South Carolina State 24-0 through the first 30 minutes. Pittsburgh may be a tougher test, but probably not by much.
Prediction: Central Florida Knights -7
Half-Time Total Bet
The total has been climbing ever since the odds came out, and this is a good opportunity to take the under–both for the whole game and for the first half. Pittsburgh’s defense gave up 14 points to Penn State in the opening half and 27 thereafter. The Panthers held Georgia Tech to a grand total of zero points in the first 30 minutes before surrendering 19 the rest of the game.
Prediction: Under 34