What are the Odds: Backyard Brawl headlines loaded weekend

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Justin Casterline/Getty Images/TNS

Nate Stanley (4) of the Iowa Hawkeyes warms up before a game against the Northwestern Wildcats.

By Ben Bobeck, Senior Staff Writer

All-time record: 22-17

Last week: 2-2

NCAA Football: 12-10

NFL: 5-6

NBA: 4-1

NHL: 1-0

After a 2-2 split last week, I’m opening the book a little bit and giving you an insight into my typical week. Monday through Thursday I’m on the grind, fulfilling my duties as a student and churning out content here for The Pitt News as well as WPTS Radio.

But Friday? It’s college basketball time, with a little bit of NBA on the side. Come Saturday, I’m locked and loaded for a full day of college football. Sunday it’s back to the grind, catching up on everything I ignored over the weekend, with the NFL managing to distract me every now and then. On that note, here’s what has my attention this weekend.

Fridays are for college basketball:

West Virginia at Pitt -1.5 (over/under 146.5)

The Pick: Under 146.5

They don’t call it a Brawl for nothing, folks. Any time these two border rivals meet, it’s an especially physical basketball game. The “Press Virginia” defense of WVU coach Bob Huggins isn’t new to the Panthers who saw it last season in Morgantown. But with the turnover and shooting issues that sophomore point guard Xavier Johnson and Pitt have exhibited so far, they’ll need to work hard to get anything going on offense.

Johnson has averaged just more than 3.5 turnovers per game while Pitt as a whole has struggled on offense, shooting 42% through three games. But the Panthers have countered that on defense by holding their opponents to 39.8% shooting. WVU has been trending down since the departure of Jevon Carter after the 2018-19 season and Sagaba Konate after last year. Both teams will thrive on defense while struggling to put together consistent offense, and this year’s Brawl will go under.

South Alabama at Chattanooga +4.5 (over/under 137.5)

The Pick: South Alabama -4.5

A chance to meet Cinderella before she’s crowned? World, allow me to introduce you to the South Alabama Jaguars of the Sun Belt (read: Fun Belt), who Jon Rothstein points out have some of the deepest returning scoring in the nation. The Jaguars nearly made it through the jungle against Auburn, falling 70-69 on an Isaac Okoro tip-in with 1.7 seconds on the clock.

South Alabama may be disappointed it could not pull off the upset in front of a record crowd in Mobile, but the Jaguars have a promising season ahead of them and could potentially make a run in March on the back of their veteran scoring. Jags cover on the road.

NBA:

Boston at Golden State +8 (over/under 226.5)

The Pick: Boston -8 and over 226.5

No Kyrie and no Gordon Hayward is no problem as Boston has rattled off eight straight and heads west looking to make it a fine nine. Kemba Walker has validated every cent that Boston gave him over the offseason and looks like a revelation since leaving Charlotte. Meanwhile, a crippled Warriors’ team minus their core of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson has turned to offseason acquisition D’Angelo Russell to shoulder the offensive load. D-Lo has responded, averaging 25.7 points per game including back-to-back 30-point games against Houston and Oklahoma City. I’m fairly confident Boston will cover the eight, but I’m even more sure of the total smashing over.

Saturdays are for college football:

No. 11 Florida at Missouri +6.5 (over/under 50.5)

The Pick: Florida -6.5

The Gators have been up and down this year mostly due to their incredibly tough schedule. They’ve had to take on No. 1 LSU, No. 4 Georgia and No. 13 Auburn. But Dan Mullen’s team is still very good, with a strong defense and a quarterback who has continued to improve each week in Kyle Trask.

Missouri … not so much. The Tigers are coming off a shutout at the hands of the aforementioned Georgia Bulldogs and dropped a game earlier to Vanderbilt, one of the worst teams in the Power Five. Gators win by a touchdown at least.

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No. 24 Indiana at No. 9 Penn State -14.5 (over/under 54.5)

The Pick: Indiana +14.5

The easy pick here is to take the Nittany Lions at home coming off a tough road upset to Minnesota. But I’m taking the Hoosiers. Head coach Tom Allen’s team has slipped into the AP rankings at No. 24 for the first time since 1994 after getting out to an impressive 7-2 start to this season. The Hoosiers will have redshirt junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey under center after another disappointing injury to starter Michael Penix Jr., but Ramsey has previous starting experience.

My concerns over Penn State redshirt sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford’s ability to lead the offense were validated by his three-interception performance against Minnesota last week. Indiana has a history of keeping these sorts of games close, and will do so again — maybe even finishing the job this time around. Take the points.

No. 7 Minnesota at No. 23 Iowa -3 (44 over/under)

The Pick: Golden Gophers +3

Minnesota is 9-0 coming off one of its biggest wins in program history over previously undefeated Penn State. Yet Minnesota is still a three-point underdog, a number that speaks to the near-mystical powers of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium in the eyes of oddsmakers.

The Gophers will face an Iowa team that struggles on offense. Led by senior quarterback Nate Stanley, the Hawkeyes have managed to cross the 30-point threshold just three times, and not since September. If Minnesota can manage its emotions from last week’s triumph, the Golden Gophers will pull off back-to-back upsets, which is an absurd sentence when describing a team that has a chance to move to 10-0 on the season. Row the boat one more time.

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