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  • At 7-1 against the spread this season—and ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2011—Virginia is favored by a touchdown against Pittsburgh on Friday night. Should you back the red-hot Cavaliers?
By Zachary Cohen
October 29, 2018

Pittsburgh at Virginia (-7)

Fri. 11/2, 7:30 p.m. ET

Three things you need to know before betting on Pittsburgh-Virginia:

1. Since the start of the 2013 season, Pittsburgh is 4-1 both straight up and against the spread when facing Virginia. However, the Cavaliers are 3-1 straight up (2-2 against the spread) when hosting the Panthers since 2003. This year’s game has a different feel than usual: Pittsburgh is once again a mediocre football team, but Virginia has surprisingly jumped out to lead in the ACC Coastal Division. The Cavaliers are an impressive 7-1 against the spread on the year, and the team is also 3-1 both straight up and against the spread when playing as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points under current head coach Bronco Mendenhall. Another telling number is the fact that Virginia is 3-1 against the spread under Mendenhall after allowing 75 or fewer rushing yards in its previous game.

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2. Pittsburgh is a team that needs its running game to be effective in order to be competitive, and running backs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall have been great this season. On the year, Ollison has rushed for 795 yards and seven touchdowns on 126 carries (6.3 yards per carry) and Hall has added 429 yards with four touchdowns on 70 totes (6.1 YPC). In Pittsburgh’s win over Duke last week, the team rushed for 484 yards and four touchdowns. That’s the type of explosiveness the Panthers are working with on the ground. But this Virginia team is not going to let Pittsburgh come in and run wild. The Cavaliers have one of the nation’s best rushing defenses, as the team has allowed just 113 rushing yards per game (20th in FBS) and six scores on the ground (8th). Virginia is going to come out and force Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett to win this game, something that would seem to be beyond his abilities. Pickett hasn’t thrown for more than 200 yards or two touchdowns in a single game this season.

3. On the other side of the ball, it’s hard to imagine the Panthers coming up with a way to keep Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins in check. The dual-threat junior has been a revelation for the Cavaliers this season, as he has now thrown for 1,623 yards with 15 touchdowns, and has also added 575 yards and six scores on the ground. Considering he’s going up against a Pittsburgh defense that is giving up 250 yards per game on the ground (91st in FBS), both he and Jordan Ellis—who has rushed for 683 yards and seven touchdowns this season—should be in line for some big numbers.

Pick: Virginia -7

Confidence Level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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