Certain quarterbacks have made this college football season resemble the great heavyweight-boxing rivalries of the 1970s, maybe even the middleweights of the ’80s.
Howell beat Armstrong but lost to Hartman, Armstrong lost to Hartman, Pickett gets Howell this week and Armstrong next weekend.
After opening Pitt -5 in Las Vegas on Sunday, the line has moved in the favorite’s direction, sitting 6.5 on most oddsboards on Thursday morning.
NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA|
North Carolina Tar Heels (5-4)
Of course, Howell, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior from Indian Trail, N.C., and Pickett aren’t donning the Everlast gloves and battling each other.
They must contend with the other guy’s defense, which means Pickett is licking his chops this week reviewing tape of that Carolina-blue defensive sieve.
The Heels have allowed 0.593 points per play in their past three games, a bottom-10 national figure, as is their average yield of 520 yards. Those three foes tallied 16 touchdowns. In their past four, the UNC defense has allowed 44 points per game.
Hartman threw for 398 yards and five TDs against Carolina last week, Armstrong 553, and four on Sept. 18.
UNC is 0-3 against the spread on the road this season, 4-9 ATS away from home in Mack Brown’s latest Chapel Hill chapter. In three away games this season, Howell has thrown four TD passes and had four picked off.
However, Pitt must monitor Carolina receiver Josh Downs, tied for fourth in college football with 74 receptions and fifth with 1,014 receiving yards. In addition, tailback Ty Chandler is tied for eighth with three others at 13 rushing touchdowns.
No. 25 Pitt Panthers (7-2)
At Pitt, Pickett is in a league of his own with a career-best 11,155 aerial yards. Alex Van Pelt (10,913) and Dan Marino (8,597) place and show on that chart as well.
His legs make Pickett extra lethal since his 19 rushing TDs are also the most among every Pitt quarterback. He has also been more accurate (62.3%) than either Van Pelt (57.8%) or Marino (57.6%).
A 6-3, 220-pound fifth-year senior from Oakhurst, N.J., Pickett has 29 TD passes and only three picks this season.
Two of those interceptions came in a home defeat to Miami two weeks ago. The other one was against Western Michigan, which he deftly offset with six scoring tosses.
In his past three games, Pickett has averaged 412 passing yards. He has run it in four times this season, and Israel Abanikanda (five), Rodney Hammond Jr. (four), and Vincent Davis (three) pace the Pitt ground attack.
Sophomore split end Jordan Addison is a favorite target, as his 11 TD receptions tie him atop the country with Jerreth Sterns of Western Kentucky. Jaylon Barden averages 19.3 yards per catch.
North Carolina at Pitt Full Sportsbook Odds
UNC vs. Pitt Pick
The tale of this tape goes to Kenny Pickett and his Panthers. (Good band name, eh?) Pitt’s defense is stout on third and fourth down, it gets to opposing quarterbacks and the Panthers’ offensive line protects Pickett well.
We give the edge to Pickett in his home ring Thursday in an ESPN main event, since Howell and his entourage do not travel well.
Pitt by TKO.
Our Pick: Panthers -6½ (BetMGM)