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Little Caesar's Bowl: Bowling Green Falcons vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Pick-Odds-Prediction 12/26/13

Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6) at Bowling Green Falcons (10-3)

College Football: Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm (Ford Field)

The Line: Bowling Green Falcons -6 -- Over/Under: 51 See the Latest Odds


Storyline: The Bowling Green Falcons try to add to their MAC Championship while the Pitt Panthers look to end the year on a high note when the two collide in the Little Caesar’s Bowl Thursday.

The Breakdown: Bowling Green had a stellar 2013 campaign, finishing 10-3 and reeling off five straight, culminating in a 47-27 victory over Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois in the Mac Championship game Dec. 6. The Falcons now sit one win away from matching a school record 11-win season. Ranking near the top third in virtually every major statistical category, Bowling Green boasts the nation’s 5th best scoring defense, allowing a stingy 14.8 points per contest, the 35th-ranked passing game at 265.1 yards per, the 26th-ranked ground game at 207.4 yards and the country’s 29th best scoring offense at 35.4 points per outing.

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Little Caesar's Bowl: Bowling Green Falcons vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Pick-Odds-Prediction 12/26/13

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

On the offensive side, the Falcons are led by sophomore QB Matt Johnson (3,195 YDs, 23 TDs, 7 INTs), who topped the MAC in passing efficiency and yards per completion, and one of the nation’s most productive running backs in sophomore Travis Greene (1,555 YDs, 11 TDs). Johnson’s top target this season was senior WR Shaun Joplin (48 REC, 822 YDs, 3 TDs). Defensively, junior DE Bryan Thomas (33 tackles, 8 for loss) was one of the keys to keeping Jordan Lynch in check in the MAC championship and should be a player to watch here.

For Pitt, the slate was peppered with losses and a three-game winning streak at the start of the season consisting of wins over New Mexico, Duke and Virginia were its only string of victories. The highlight, though, would have to be the Panthers’ come from behind win over then 23rd-ranked Notre Dame. Pitt now sits at 6-6 and will be trying to avoid its second straight losing season with a win here.

The Panthers bring the nation’s 61st-ranked passing game at 236.8 yards, its 112th-ranked ground game at 114.9 yards, 86th scoring offense at 26.0 and 70th-ranked scoring defense, allowing 27.2 points per outing. Led by senior Tom Savage (2,834 YDs, 21 TDs), the Pitt offensive line will need to focus on keeping its QB upright after surrendering a nation-leading 41 sacks. Savage’s primary target, freshman WR Tyler Boyd had an outstanding year, breaking Larry Fitzgerald’s freshman record with 77 receptions for 1,001 yards and 7 TDs. On the defensive side, ACC Player Of The Year senior DT Aaron Donald is this unit’s next-level standout. Donald won every award under the sun this season, including the Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Outland Trophy.

Rick’s Pick: The Line in this one is currently set at -6 for Bowling Green with a 51-point total. The Falcons bring one of college football’s best defenses, while Pitt brings one of its best defensive players, but QB play should be the biggest factor here on the winning side. An under on the points looks like the safest play, though.

Follow me on Twitter @SCPRick

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