Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:00 PM
The storylines are very clear this time around for the annual Labor Day ACC game that gets nationally televised by ESPN. Host Pittsburgh is playing its first ever game in the conference after leaving the Big East for greener financial pastures. Visiting Florida State is unveiling potential phenom quarterback Jameis Winston.
Handicappers must determine which collection of talent is better suited to shine right out of the gate. And, they must determine which motivational angle will rule the day. Will Pittsburgh be able to send a message to its new conference brethren? Or, is it FSU who will make a statement about crashing the national championship discussion with a quarterback who can finally live up to his hype?
You’ll recall that E.J. Manuel was supposed to have a big senior season last year for the Seminoles. They did win a watered down ACC (barely edging Georgia Tech in the finals) before taking out overmatched Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. What matters most to Las Vegas bettors is that Florida State was only 4-9 ATS…3-9 ATS before the bowl game. Hype often equals “overrated,” which is something smart bettors are watching very closely with the Winston situation.
Let’s do a quick review of last year for both teams…
Florida State: 12-2 (beat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl)
Pittsburgh: 6-7 (lost to Ole Miss in BBVA Compass Bowl)
Pittsburgh was in a weaker conference, had a worse record and then didn’t impress in their bowl game. You know they would have preferred to open ACC play against anyone besides FSU!
Florida State: 19 in total offense (39 in passing, 24 in rushing)
Pittsburgh: 71 in total offense (46 in passing, 92 in rushing)
Florida State was much more potent…but that was with a different quarterback. We have to remember though that FSU had a knack for ill-timed turnovers…and for running up the stats against bad defenses. They also could be shaky away from home, given a 17-16 loss to NC State and that title tilt nailbiter against Georgia Tech. You have to assume an edge to FSU in terms of raw production. Can they avoid the turnovers with a redshirt freshman quarterback?
Florida State: 2 in total defense (1 in passing, 3 in rushing)
Pittsburgh: 17 in total defense (20 in passing, 31 in rushing)
Florida State has much better athletes. But, Pittsburgh did an excellent job last year slowing down opponents with smarts, schematics, and a few athletes of their own as well. Part of that ranking is playing on slow Eastern turf against run heavy teams in the Big East. Even with that…you’ve got to give credit where it’s due. Pittsburgh is better defensively than you were probably thinking!
Returning Starters (Projected Quarterback)
Florida State: 6 on offense, 4 on defense (Jameis Winston)
Pittsburgh: 5 on offense, 8 on defense (Tom Savage)
This is the potential headache for FSU. They’re starting a redshirt freshman on the road against a good defense that returns eight starters. And, the kid quarterback just spent the summer reading about how great he looked in the Spring game. If he turns the ball over a couple of times, it’s going to be very difficult covering a double digit spread. In essence….any selection in this game will come down to whether or not you think Winston can handle the pressure. The cover is on his shoulders.
Current Vegas Line: Florida State by 10.5, total of 49
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We’ll talk more football Tuesday and Wednesday here in the NOTEBOOK…before resuming our big TV game preview coverage Thursday with Baltimore/Denver in the NFL season opener. Also on tap this weekend on these pages: South Carolina at Georgia, Notre Dame at Michigan, and the NY Giants at Dallas in the first Sunday Nighter of the new season.
We hope you cashed in with us this past weekend. Keep in mind that THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!