The Pitt Panthers host the Virginia Cavaliers in Week 1 action of the 2019 college football season from Pennsylvania. Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM EST on Saturday, August 31st at Heinz Field and the game will be televised on the ACC Network.

Taking a look at the Week 1 college football odds, Pitt opened as a very slight 1.5-point home underdog earlier this week. That line has shifted by a full point after early betting, as the Panthers are currently listed at +2.5. The total for the game is sitting at 46.5 points.

Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds: Pitt vs Virginia

Virginia had a pretty successful season in 2018, finishing with a respectable 8-5 record and qualifying for a bowl game. They will hope to perform a little bit better during conference play this year, as they only managed to go 4-4 in ACC action. The Cavaliers did impress in their final outing of the season, rolling 28-0 over South Carolina to clinch the Belk Bowl. It was the program’s first bowl victory since 2005, so it appears as if head coach Bronco Mendenhall has really got his players to buy in after Virginia went just 2-10 in his first season on the sidelines back in 2016. It is also worth noting that the Cavaliers easily could have gone 11-2 in 2018, as they lost two close games in overtime and an early season matchup by only four points.

Virginia was just slightly below average on offense last season, averaging 28.5 points per game (69th overall) on 385.0 total yards. However, they certainly made up for it on the other side of the ball, limiting opponents to only 21.8 points per game on 337.0 yards of total offense. The defense also finished the year tied for 11th nationwide in interceptions, racking up 17 during the course of the season.

Pitt also had a very solid year in 2018, going 7-7 overall but 6-2 in conference play to win the Coastal division. They got hammered 42-10 by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game but ended their season on a high not after sneaking by Stanford 14-13 in the Sun Bowl. The Panthers have now been to a bowl game in three out of the last four years, which speaks to the culture change that head coach Pat Narduzzi has been able to implement.

The Panthers could have some troubles on the offense side of the ball in 2019, as starting QB Kenny Pickett seemed to regress a little bit in his sophomore campaign and threw for less than 2,000 yards passing on a less than 60% completion rate. Pitt also lost their two best running backs in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, as both 1,000 yard rushers have both moved on after a strong showing in their final year. On defense, the Panthers will look to rebound after giving up 28.8 points per game (79th overall) in 2018.

NCAA Football Betting Predictions & Free Pick: Virginia -2.5

Despite fully expecting this game to stay close throughout, I have a bit more faith with the road favorite in this particular spot. Kenny Pickett didn’t look all that good after a strong freshman season in 2017 and I’m a bit worried about he will respond without the security blanket of Ollison and Hall in the backfield. Pittsburgh currently doesn’t really have any experience at the running back position, which could spell trouble. To make matters even worse, they will also be without three former starters on the offensive line. While it is important to note that the Cavs will also be without their two best running backs from 2018, starting QB Bryce Perkins is returning after a stellar 2018 where he threw for 2,680 yards and 25 touchdowns.

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Virginia really does appear to be the better team on both sides of the ball right now, especially defensively. Pitt really struggled against both the pass and the rush last season, allowing opponents to rack up over 400 total yards of offense per game. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, were well above average in most defensive categories and easily could have been a ten-win team if they had gotten a few more breaks in a couple of their many close losses. All things considered, I feel much more confident taking a shot with the road team in this matchup of two ACC rivals – give me Virginia!