One of the biggest surprises in the ACC — and college football in general — has been the Pittsburgh Panthers and quarterback Kenny Pickett. The Panthers are ranked No. 18 in the current AP Top 25 poll and can clinch the ACC Coastal Division, and a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a win over the visiting Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday. The Cavaliers should get quarterback Brennan Armstrong back from injury.
The college football odds favor the Panthers by more than two touchdowns.
Virginia vs Pittsburgh Betting Lines
Virginia won the last meeting between these teams in 2019 but Pittsburgh has dominated the matchup in recent years, winning four of the last five games. The Cavaliers won the most recent game 30-14 behind a pair of Bryce Perkins touchdown passes as they picked off Pickett twice.
The Panthers lead the overall historical series 8-4.
Next game: vs. Virginia Tech
Virginia really struggled without Armstrong last week, losing 28-3 to Notre Dame. Backup Jay Woolfolk couldn’t get going and threw two interceptions while Virginia ran the ball 30 times for just 82 yards. Notre Dame’s Jack Coan only needed to throw for 132 yards to toss three touchdowns as the Fighting Irish’s ground game — led by Kyren Williams — ran for 249 yards.
Bronco Mendenhall’s team wasn’t close to covering as nine-point home underdogs. The over (62 points) was dead in the water due to Virginia’s offensive issues.
Of course, Armstrong’s status as he recovers from a rib injury is the most important piece of injury news for Virginia. But, third-leading wide receiver Billy Kemp IV (leg) and leading running back Wayne Taulapapa (head) are also both questionable for Saturday. It’s never good to have so many offensive playmakers with questionable designations.
Safety De’Vante Cross recently suffered a season-ending knee injury, so the Cavaliers will be without a leader in the secondary.
Next game: at Syracuse
The Panthers needed overtime to take care of North Carolina on Saturday, blowing a 17-0 first-quarter lead and allowing 16 unanswered points in the second half. But, Pickett was able to find Lucas Krull in the end zone on the first possession of the extra period and the Pittsburgh defense picked off Sam Howell on the next possession, so the Panthers escaped.
Pickett threw for 346 yards and three scores while the defense did a good job limiting the Tar Heels’ explosive offense to 384 total yards. Pittsburgh barely covered as seven-point home favorites. The high total (72 points) fell way under.
Pittsburgh has its own injury issues to sort through. Defensive lineman Keyshon Camp (leg) is questionable but expected to play while receivers Taysir Mack (arm) and Jaylon Barden (arm) are questionable yet less likely to suit up against Virginia. Starting offensive lineman Jake Kradel left the North Carolina game early with an undisclosed injury and is questionable as well.
Virginia vs Pittsburgh Betting Preview
Because of their late bye week, Virginia actually hasn’t won a game in nearly a month while Pittsburgh has won two in a row and six of its last seven games. So, it makes sense that the college football spreads favor them heavily — especially with the uncertainty around Armstrong’s health for the Cavaliers.
On the BetUS sportsbook, Pittsburgh actually opened as 13½-point favorites with the line moving up a point over the course of the week. That’s probably where the line movement will end, considering that Armstrong could still play for Virginia which would make this a much more competitive game.
The Panthers are fourth in the FBS in scoring offense (43.5 points per game), mostly due to Pickett’s incredible season in which he has thrown for over 3,500 yards with 32 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His top target has been Jordan Addison, who has 11 receiving touchdowns so far and eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau last week. That combination will be very tough to stop for a porous Virginia defense ranking 99th in scoring defense.
Even with Virginia’s statistically strong offense (21st in points nationally), the possibility of Woolfolk playing instead of Armstrong makes it too risky to consider the Cavaliers’ lofty moneyline. There’s great value at +450 but Virginia is still a big longshot even if Armstrong is able to go. If you’re betting online, stay away from that pick.
As for the over/under, it’s a high number but when considering that these teams’ strengths are putting points up and not preventing them from being scored, it’s not that unreasonable. The concern is that the Cavaliers won’t score enough if Woolfolk is behind center, which might justify a bet on the under. 66½ points is a lot, even in the ACC.