The Northwestern Wildcats will take on the Pittsburgh Panthers in the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl. The game is scheduled for Wednesday, December 28th. Kickoff is set for 2:00 EST at Yankee Stadium in New York and will be televised on ESPN. Oddsmakers have the Panthers as a 5.5-point favorite with the total at 65 points.

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Pinstripe Bowl Vegas Odds Preview: Pittsburgh vs Northwestern

The Wildcats (6-6) ended up T-4th in the Big Ten West with a record of 5-4. Northwestern really bounced back nicely after a disappointing start. They opened the season 0-2 with home losses to W Michigan and Illinois State. Their best win of the season was a 38-31 upset victory at Iowa. Though their best game was in a 20-24 defeat at Ohio State. Northwestern had to fight to the very end to become bowl eligible. They needed a win at home in their finale against Illinois.

The Panthers (8-4) finished in a 3-way tie for 2nd in the ACC Coastal at 5-3. Pittsburgh made national headlines when they upset Clemson 43-42 on the road late in the year. Add in their 42-32 win over Penn State early in the year and they can lay claim to having beat two Power 5 Champions. With a win over Northwestern, the Panthers can reach 9-wins for the first time since going 10-3 back in 2009.

Pinstripe Bowl Free Betting Pick & Predictions: Pitt -5.5

I’m going to back the Panthers laying less than a touchdown against the Wildcats. Pittsburgh is a program on the rise under head coach Pat Narduzzi. The Panthers come into their bowl game with a ton of confidence. They followed up their upset of Clemson with a 56-14 beating of Duke and 76-61 win over Syracuse.

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I also think we see Pitt come out with a chip on their shoulder after their poor showing in last year’s bowl game. The Panthers lost 28-44 as a mere 3-point dog to Navy. I know it wasn’t much better for the Northwestern. The Wildcats got destroyed 45-6 by Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. However, Northwestern is just 1-5 in bowl games under head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Pitt offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, has taken the same job at LSU. The big key here, is that Canada is sticking with the Panthers until after the bowl game. That’s huge, as Pittsburgh’s offense has been unstoppable. The Panthers scored at least 28 points in every single game this season. Eclipsing 35 points in 10 or more games.

I just don’t see Northwestern being able to keep pace offensively. The Wildcats finished a mere 77th in total offense with the 103rd ranked rushing offense. Northwestern will likely have some success throwing the ball, but not enough to cover. Keep in mind that same Duke team that Pitt scored 56 on, the Wildcats only managed 24 against them.

I also like that the Panthers are a senior dominated team, which only adds to their motivation in this game. I also like that Narduzzi is a defensive-minded guy. I think given the extra time to prepare, he’s going to have the Pitt defense ready to rock.