The Western Michigan Broncos will travel to Heinz Field on Saturday afternoon to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers in a non-conference matchup. The Panthers are 1-1 and are coming off a 28-0 shutout home win over the Illinois State Redbirds. Sophomore quarterback Kaleb Eleby went 15-of-21 for 174 yards with a touchdown in that game. The Panthers are 2-0 and are coming off a 41-34 road win over the Tennessee Volunteers. Senior quarterback Kenny Pickett went 24-of-36 for 285 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
These programs are doing pretty well so far in the early portion of the season so it will be interesting to see how they match up against one another. Let’s take a closer look into the matchup to determine where we should be placing our wagers.
Grounded Like the JeffersonsThe Western Michigan Broncos have been solid on the ground rushing the ball as junior running back La’Darius Jefferson has been doing great to begin his season. He has 28 carries for 144 yards (5.1 yards per carry) with three touchdowns on the ground but also has a reception for five yards in the passing game as well. In the last game against Illinois State, he had a great game as he finished with 18 carries for 106 yards with a pair of rushing touchdowns while adding a five-yard reception. If head coach Tim Lester can figure out how to draw plays to make Jefferson a factor, it will do wonders for their offense.
The Western Michigan Broncos are a decent defensive team as they are averaging 23.5 points allowed per game this season. They are coming off a shutout victory over the Illinois State Redbirds where they gave up just 57 yards of offense (29 passing, 28 rushing). The Broncos were incredible at getting stops on third down as the Redbirds were just 1-of-13 on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth down. It would be ludicrous to expect that type of performance but if they can dominate defensively, they will be in a great spot.
Back Up the Mack TruckSenior wide receiver Taysir Mack has been one of the best offensive pieces for the Pittsburgh Panthers this season. Looking at his production so far this season, he has seven catches for 134 yards (19.1 yards per catch) but has failed to find the end zone thus far. Looking at his last game against the Tennessee Volunteers, Mack had four catches for 100 receiving yards. If he can figure out a way to be more involved in the passing game, the Panthers will take that next step as an offense.
The Pittsburgh Panthers defensive unit has been doing a good job to kick off their season as they are allowing 20.5 points per game. Looking at last week’s win over the Tennessee Volunteers as they gave up 34 points on 374 total yards (238 passing, 136 rushing). They need to be a little better against opposing rushing attacks as the Panthers allowed the Volunteers to run for 4.1 yards per carry. The defense also forced an interception in this game so forcing turnovers is a huge plus. If they can be better at stopping the run, they will control Notable Trends
- Pittsburgh: 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games
- Pittsburgh: 6-2-1 ATS in their last 9 September games
- Western Michigan: 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games
- Western Michigan: 3-9 ATS in their last 12 road games