Northeast Conference foes battle when the Sacred Heart Pioneers face the Duquesne Dukes in an FCS spring football opener on Sunday. The Pioneers tied for third with the Dukes in the conference at 4-3 and were 7-5 overall in 2019. Duquesne was 6-5 overall a year ago. The teams will play a four-game spring conference slate after the NEC postponed all fall competition and championships due to the coronavirus pandemic last July.
Kickoff from Rooney Field in Pittsburgh is set for noon ET. Duquesne leads the all-time series 11-4, including a 5-3 edge in games played at Pittsburgh. The Dukes are 1.5-point favorites in the latest Sacred Heart vs. Duquesne odds from William Hill Sportsbook, while the over-under for total points scored is set at 45.5. Before making your Duquesne vs. Sacred Heart picks, you'll want to see the latest college football predictions and betting advice from SportsLine's Emory Hunt.
Hunt is the founder and CEO of Football Gameplan, which has been supplying analysis of all levels of football since 2007, and a former running back at Louisiana-Lafayette. He knows the game from a player's perspective, and is a specialist when it comes to picking all levels of college football. He enjoyed a dominant 2019 season, going 116-79 against the spread while returning nearly $3,000 to $100 bettors.
- Sacred Heart vs. Duquesne spread: Duquesne -1.5
- Sacred Heart vs. Duquesne over-under: 45.5 points
- Sacred Heart vs. Duquesne money line: Duquesne -125, Sacred Heart +105
- SHU: Nasem Brantley is the top returner at wide receiver with 33 receptions for 407 yards in 2019
- DUQ: The Dukes return six starters from last season, including three players on offense
Why Duquesne can cover
Although the Dukes lost their top two quarterbacks to graduation, they have a talented replacement ready to step in. Ohio transfer Joe Mischler will get the starting nod on Sunday. He played in three games for the Bobcats in 2019, completing one pass for 23 yards in a 52-3 win at Akron. He was an All-State selection at Cathedral Prep High School in Erie, Pa., throwing for 7,719 passing yards and 98 touchdowns in his career.
Duquesne featured a pair of All-NEC selections at running back in 2019 in A.J. Hines and Mark Allen. The two combined for 1,469 yards and 10 touchdowns, but have since graduated. A number of new faces will look to replicate that production this season. Among them will be Mercyhurst graduate transfer Garrett Owens, who was a two-time All-PSAC West selection for the Lakers. He rushed for 2,743 yards and 31 touchdowns in three seasons at Mercyhurst.
Why Sacred Heart can cover
Despite that, the Dukes are not a lock to cover the Sacred Heart vs. Duquesne spread. That's because the Pioneers can run the football and will turn to junior running back Julius Chestnut. He was named to the 2020 Stats Perform FCS Preseason All-America second team after rushing for 1,495 yards, which ranked second in all of FCS and was the second-highest single season total in school history. Chestnut carried an FCS-high 293 times and had nine 100-plus yard games in 12 appearances in 2019.
Also powering the offense will be sophomore quarterback Marquez McCray. He was the Pioneers' starter for the final three games last season, which included wins over Wagner and Lehigh. In a 16-14 loss at Robert Morris, McCray was solid, completing 14-of-22 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown. In five appearances, he completed 54 passes for 354 yards and two TDs. He also rushed for 180 yards, which was second on the team behind Chestnut.
How to make Duquesne vs. Sacred Heart picks
Hunt has studied the matchup and found a critical X-factor that has him jumping all over one side of the spread. You can only get the pick at SportsLine.
So who wins Sacred Heart vs. Duquesne? And what crucial X-factor causes one side of the spread to hit hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread you need to jump on, all from the proven expert who specializes in picking all levels of college football.