Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern prediction, Pinstripe Bowl pick, odds, line, watch live stream
How to watch the Pinstripe Bowl: Game storylines, spread, time, date, TV channel
The seventh edition of the Pinstripe Bowl features an interesting matchup in Pittsburgh (8-4) and Northwestern (6-6). In Pitt you have a team that has had to try to outscore opponents this season, and picked up huge wins against Penn State and Clemson. Northwestern is a team that's won with defense more often than not, and has only one win against a team that finished the regular season with a winning record (Iowa).
This will be the seventh meeting between these teams, though it's the first one since 1973. Pitt won that meeting 21-14.
Date: Wed. Dec. 28
Time: 2 p.m. ET
Location: Yankee Stadium -- New York
Pittsburgh: The Panthers had one of the most potent offenses in the country this year, finishing the regular season ranked No. 11 nationally with 42.3 points per game. The problem has been that the Panthers have also been allowing 35.6 points per game, which ranked No. 109 nationally. A win in this game would give the Panthers nine on the season, which would be the most the Panthers have had in any years since finishing 10-3 in 2009.
Northwestern: The Wildcats entered the 2016 season with high expectations after finishing 10-3 last year, and took a significant step backward. The Wildcats were in danger of missing a bowl game altogether before beating Illinois in the final game of the regular season to get to 6-6. Things could have been far worse, however, because the Wildcats did begin the season with a 1-3 record, including two losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State to open the year.
Players to watch
Pittsburgh: The best story on the Panthers is easily running back James Conner. Conner had to overcome both injury and cancer during his college career, and the Pinstripe Bowl will be his final college game before entering the NFL. He enters the game having rushed for 1,060 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016. He's joined by fellow running back Quadree Henderson -- who is also a fantastic returner on special teams -- who rushed for 555 yards on 54 carries. Both Conner and Henderson are threats in the passing game as well, combining for 43 receptions, 540 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, be on the lookout for Ejuan Price. He'll be easy to spot. Just look for the guy wearing modified bicycle shorts disrupting the Northwestern backfield. Yes, Price and his exposed thighs finished the regular season with 13 quarterback hurries, 12 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick for good measure.
Northwestern: Quarterback Clayton Thorson definitely improved as the season went along, but Northwestern's offense still revolves around two players: running back Justin Jackson and receiver Austin Carr. Jackson's not as much of a big-play back as he is a guy that can wear defenses down. He finished the season with 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns on 266 carries. Carr can do just about everything in the passing game, whether it's playing underneath the defense of over the top. He caught 84 passes for 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Defensively, there's a lot to like on this Wildcats team. Godwin Igwebuike is a tackling machine and finished with 101, and then there's Mr. Everything himself, linebacker Anthony Walker. Walker finished with 98 tackles, including 10 for a loss, two sacks and an interception. Ifeadi Odenigbo led the Wildcats with 10 sacks, and sophomore defensive back Montre Hartage picked off five passes.
While I don't think the Northwestern defense is good enough to stop Pitt's offense entirely, it is strong enough to slow the Panthers down a bit. And, as I went over earlier, Pitt's defense is "good" enough to allow Northwestern's offense to score more points than it's accustomed to. As a result, I think Pitt will end up winning this game, but I have a hard time not taking Northwestern and the points. Plus, the last two Pinstripe Bowl games have gone to overtime. This game has a history of being close more often than not, so that just makes me lean Northwestern's direction a little harder. Pick: Northwestern +5.5
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