Pittsburgh vs. Louisville Betting Odds & Pick: Panthers Defense Will Be the Difference (Saturday, Sept. 26)
Justin Berl/Getty Images. Pictured: Pittsburgh Panthers football team at Heinz Field.
- Saturday’s noon matchup between Louisville and Pitt profiles as a classic battle between an explosive offense and a shut-down defense.
- BJ Cunningham's pushing his chips in on the Panthers, whose stout defense should bring the Cardinals’ high-flying offense back down to earth.
- Check out his full game breakdown with odds, projections and his pick below.
Pittsburgh vs. Louisville Odds
|Pittsburgh Odds||-3 [BET NOW]|
|Louisville Odds||+3 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-143/+118 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||55 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 12 p.m. ET|
Odds as of late Thursday night and via Parx, which offers new customers a 20% profit boost + $500 risk-free wager on their first bet AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.
The Pittsburgh Panthers look to make it three straight wins at home on Saturday as they welcome the 24th-ranked Louisville Cardinals to Heinz Field. The Panthers were able to grind out a win over Syracuse last Saturday with a fantastic defensive performance. The Pittsburgh defense looks poised to be one of the best in ACC after giving up only 2.73 yards per play in its first two games.
Louisville, on the other hand, is looking to rebound after taking a beating from Miami last Saturday night. The Cardinals out-gained the Hurricanes, but they also turned the ball over three times en route to a 40-27 loss. Louisville has one the most explosive offenses in the country, but it will have a tough matchup against Pittsburgh’s stout defense.
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Scott Satterfield’s offense was perhaps the most explosive in all of college football last season. Louisville ranked ninth in the FBS in rushing explosiveness and was the nation’s No. 1 offense in passing explosiveness.
The Cardinals seem to have picked up this season right where they left off in 2019: As one of the nation’s most dangerous offenses. Over the team’s first two games, Louisville has averaged 6.2 yards per play.
The Cards have done most of their damage through the air with quarterback Micale Cunningham, who is a legit dual-threat QB and one of the most efficient passers in the country. Last season, Cunningham averaged 11.2 yards per attempt, and he has backed that up this season with 9.3 yards per attempt through his first two games. However, he’s only completing 64% of his passes, so he’ll need to improve that number in order to buoy Louisville’s consistency in 2020.
Cunningham shares a backfield with the Cardinals’ sophomore phenom running back Javian Hawkins. The shifty underclassman was fantastic against Miami last weekend, rushing for 6.1 yards per carry against the stout Hurricanes defensive front. Cunningham and Hawkins are among Louisville’s top contributors for an offense that returns 78% of its production from last season.
However, offensive line play will likely be Louisville’s Achilles’ heel. The Cardinals have yet to fill a gaping hole on the left side of the line after Mekhi Becton’s ascension to the NFL ranks. They’ve allowed 20 tackles for loss in their first two games of 2020, and things will not get any easier against Pittsburgh’s front-seven.
The Cardinals defense rivals its offensive line among the team’s top concerns this season.
Louisville was horrible against the run in 2019, ranking 101st in defensive rushing success and 115th in defensive rushing explosiveness. Those struggles were apparent against Miami as they allowed the Hurricanes to rush for 5.4 yards per carry.
The Cardinals return only one starter on their defensive line, so it’s hard to imagine things are going to get better in rush defense any time soon. They do bring back most of their starters at the linebacker position and in the secondary, but those units must drastically improve their performance. Louisville ranked 90th in passing explosiveness and 86th in havoc last season.
Through two games this season, the Cardinals have allowed 8.6 yards per attempt, so things haven’t really improved from last year. Even though Pittsburgh’s offense didn’t look very effective against Syracuse, the Panthers should be able to find some success against the Cardinals defense on Saturday.
Last season, the Panthers made an offensive transition away from their usual ground-and-pound game to more of an aerial attack. They threw the ball 55.9% of the time, compared to only 37.9% the previous season. However, it didn’t help much, as the Panthers ranked 105th in passing success and 121st in passing explosiveness. It was apparent last week when the Panthers struggled against Syracuse’s 3-3-5 defense, throwing for only 6.0 yards per attempt.
Pittsburgh’s ground attack took a step back in 2019 with the increased focus on the passing game. The Panthers ran the ball for only 3.5 yards per attempt and ranked 104th in rushing effectiveness. They struggled against Syracuse, carrying the ball for only 2.5 yards per rush.
The running game will likely improve as the season goes on since Pitt brings back its entire offensive line, which includes three All-ACC players from last year. So, I think we will see a commitment to the run on Saturday, given how bad Louisville’s rush defense is.
The defensive side of the ball is where the Panthers excelled last year, and that defensive excellence has continued into 2020. The Panthers defense held Syracuse to just 2.95 yards per play and only 1.5 yards per carry in last week’s rivalry game.
Pittsburgh brings back eight starters on a defense that ranked in the top 30 in defensive passing and rushing success last season. The Panthers also ranked eighth in havoc. This defense is no joke.
Pittsburgh will have to deal with the loss of its best defensive lineman, Jaylen Twyman, who opted out of the season. The Panthers still have plenty of talent on defense, including two of the best safeties in the ACC in Paris Ford and Damar Hamlin, who combined for 21 pass breakups and 181 tackles last year.
Pittsburgh’s secondary was one of the best in the country last season, ranking 18th defensive passing success. They should be able to shut down Cunningham and the Louisville passing attack on Saturday afternoon.
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Betting Analysis & Pick
This matchup is going to come down to Pittsburgh’s commitment and ability to run the ball right into the teeth of the Louisville defense. Given Pitt’s experience and excellence on the offensive line, I expect the Panthers to run the ball all over Louisville. Additionally, I think Pittsburgh’s defense will be able reek havoc in the backfield all day long and force Cunningham into plenty of difficult situations.
I have Pittsburgh projected at -6.47, so I think there is plenty of value in backing the Panthers at -3. I would bet them up to -4.5.
Pick: Pittsburgh -3. Play up to -4.5.