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Weekly Pick ‘Em: TPN sports staff locks in ACC game predictions

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Michigan's Donovan Peoples-Jones makes a catch against Wisconsin during second quarter action Nov. 18, 2017, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin won 24-10. 
Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS
Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS

Michigan's Donovan Peoples-Jones makes a catch against Wisconsin during second quarter action Nov. 18, 2017, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin won 24-10. Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS

Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS

Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS

Michigan's Donovan Peoples-Jones makes a catch against Wisconsin during second quarter action Nov. 18, 2017, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin won 24-10. Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS

By Trent Leonard, Sports Editor

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The Pitt News staff introduces its first installment of weekly pick ’em, with 10 of our writers looking at a slate of games in the upcoming week. In this segment, we provided score predictions for Pitt and its fellow ACC competition, as well as a non-conference game of the week. If you want to see how your picks stack up against our staff’s, visit TPN Sports Twitter page to vote on each matchup.

Pitt (3-3) at No. 5 Notre Dame (6-0)

Trent: ND 38, Pitt 20

Griffin: Pitt 35, ND 31

Tyler: ND 41, Pitt 24

Stephen: ND 34, Pitt 24

Ben: ND 42, Pitt 17

Nitti: ND 38, Pitt 17

Nick: ND 41, Pitt 23

Sami: Pitt 26, ND 23 OT

Andrew: ND 45, Pitt 14

Dom: ND 49, Pitt 16

On paper, there’s no reason the Panthers should win. They’ve allowed 38 points per game, good for 110th in the nation out of 120 teams. On the offensive side, Pitt only scores 24.6 points per game. Those numbers indicate that the Panthers are getting outscored 38 to 24 versus their average opponent.

Even more daunting is the fact that Notre Dame is no average opponent. Unlike Pitt, the Fighting Irish have no glaring weakness. They rank 19th in scoring defense and 34th in scoring offense. And ever since junior Ian Book took the reins as quarterback, Notre Dame’s offense has reached a new level. The team has won all three games with Book at the helm and he’s already thrown for 887 yards and nine touchdowns.

However, there’s a reason two of our writers picked Pitt to win. Call it bias, call it intuition — or maybe historical precedent. The Panthers have made a habit of knocking off top teams against all odds, beating undefeated Clemson in 2016 and undefeated Miami in 2017. Notre Dame is currently undefeated, so the question is if Pitt can continue the habit. The Irish are currently 21-point favorites, but the Panthers will look to defy logic once again.

No. 16 Miami (5-1) at Virginia (3-2)

Trent: Miami 30, Virginia 21

Griffin: Miami 42, UVA 14

Tyler: Miami 31, UVA 14

Stephen: Miami 30, UVA 14

Ben: Miami 28, UVA 14

Nitti: UVA 27, Miami 23

Nick: Miami 31, UVA 20

Sami: MIami 34, UVA 27

Andrew: Miami 28, UVA 13

Dom: Miami 31, UVA 17

The Pitt News’ own Michael Nitti was the only person bold enough to pick against the Miami Hurricanes. Every other staff member sees the Hurricanes winning handily, as our predictions favored a 14.6-point margin of victory.

But in reality, this game is more of a tossup than our predictions indicate. The Cavaliers aren’t a bad team, as evidenced by their three wins and a formidable defense that allows 349.5 yards per game. And while Miami has improved drastically since its blowout loss to LSU on opening night, the Hurricanes certainly aren’t invincible. They barely escaped with a victory against lowly Florida State last week, holding on for a 28-27 win.

It should at least be a closer game than our scores predict, with the betting line pointing to Miami as 6.5-point favorites. Virginia also has home field advantage working in its favor, so it will look to make Nitti proud with an upset victory this Saturday.

Louisville (2-4) at Boston College (4-2)

Trent: BC 28, Louisville 24

Griffin: BC 35, Louisville 7

Tyler: BC 38, Louisville 21

Stephen: BC 35, Louisville 10

Ben: BC 27, Louisville 24

Nitti: BC 30, Louisville 20

Nick: BC 34, Louisville 31

Sami: BC 36, Louisville 24

Andrew: BC 24, Louisville 10

Dom: BC 17, Louisville 13

Like Virginia, Boston College is a decent, albeit unremarkable football team. Nothing about them jumps off the page, except star sophomore running back AJ Dillon, who ranks ninth in the nation with 652 rushing yards.

To call Louisville a decent football team would be a lie — it is bad. The Cardinals’ two wins on the season have come out of conference and they’ve been bashed around by ACC competition. They’re one of the nation’s worst teams both offensively and defensively, ranking in the bottom 30 for each. This is why our staff predictions resemble a full sweep in favor of Boston College.

Virginia Tech (3-2) at North Carolina (1-3)

Trent: VT 31, UNC 13

Griffin: VT 28, UNC 10

Tyler: VT 35, UNC 13

Stephen: VT 28, UNC 3

Ben: UNC 24, VT 17

Nitti: VT 28, UNC 24

Nick: VT 38, UNC 35

Sami: VT 28, UNC 14

Andrew: VT 27, UNC 10

Dom: VT 42, UNC 17

The staff almost picked a clean sweep of Virginia Tech over UNC, with Ben Zimmer as the lone exception. It’s perfectly plausible that the Tar Heels pull off the upset, considering they beat Pitt earlier in the season while the Hokies suffered an embarrassing loss to otherwise-winless Old Dominion.

But both of those games were anomalies for each team, which is why the predictions so heavily favor Virginia Tech. The Hokies boast a solid team year after year, while the Tar Heels typically dwell in the basement of the ACC. The game may be closer than the average 16-point deficit our writers predict, with the betting line currently showing Virginia Tech as mere six-point favorites. But you should still expect them to earn the win, as nine of our 10 writers do.

Duke (4-1) at Georgia Tech (3-3)

Trent: GT 27, Duke 23

Griffin: Duke 34, GT 31

Tyler: Duke 34, GT 27

Stephen: GT 34, Duke 28

Ben: GT 7, Duke 14

Nitti: GT 24, Duke 19

Nick: Duke 27, GT 24

Sami: GT 38, Duke 33

Andrew: GT 31, Duke 20

Dom: Duke 24, GT 21

Two weeks ago, Duke would have been heavily favored to win this matchup. The Blue Devils won their first four games, while the Yellow Jackets started the season with a 1-3 record.

Since then, however, the two teams have embarked on opposite trajectories. Georgia Tech won its next two games scoring 63 and 66 points, respectively, while Duke fell 31-14 to Virginia Tech. Due to their hot streak and home field advantage, the Yellow Jackets enter this contest as 2.5-point favorites and earn a six-to-four advantage in our staff picks.

Game of the Week: No. 15 Wisconsin (4-1) at No. 12 Michigan (5-1)

Trent: Michigan 24, Wisconsin 20

Griffin: Wisconsin 42, Michigan 14

Tyler: Michigan 28, Wisconsin 24

Stephen: Wisconsin 28, Michigan 7

Ben: Wisconsin 35, Michigan 14

Nitti: Wisconsin 37, Michigan 31

Nick: Wisconsin 31, Michigan 28

Sami: Michigan 38, Wisconsin 34

Andrew: Wisconsin 24, Michigan 17

Dom: Michigan 29, Wisconsin 24

In the Game of the Week we have a classic rivalry in the Big 10. Our writers who predicted scores in the 30s and 40s may be disappointed — this game involves two of the best defensive teams in the nation, with Michigan ranked seventh and Wisconsin 11th in scoring defense.

The matchup to watch is Wisconsin star sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor against the stout run defense of Michigan. Taylor is first in the nation with 169.8 rushing yards per game, while the Wolverines allow an average of 96.5 rushing yards each week. The betting line favors Michigan as nine-point favorites, largely thanks to its strong home field atmosphere, but our staff sees things differently, favoring Wisconsin six-to-four with an average victory margin of 14.3 points.

Contributed reporting by The Pitt News sports staff.

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Weekly Pick ‘Em: TPN sports staff locks in ACC game predictions