Pitt had lost two in a row, including a 51-28 loss to stumbling Miami just the week before. But the Panthers went down to Clemson and knocked off the No. 2 Tigers. It made Pittsburgh bowl eligible with two remaining games to give the Panthers an opportunity to increase their bowl resume.
Their first chance will be against Duke, who comes to Pittsburgh after reclaiming the Victory Bell with a 28-27 shocker of North Carolina. The Blue Devils are now 4-6 and need to win both of their final two games to officially secure a bowl berth.
Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 11-9, which includes last year’s 31-13 victory in Durham.
Duke at Pittsburgh
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC-RSN/WatchESPN
Spread: Pittsburgh -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Duke Taking Shots Downfield
The Blue Devils are not a team that makes a lot of big plays in the passing game. They only have six pass plays this season that have covered more than 40 yards. But Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi loves to be aggressive with his cornerbacks and with an inexperienced, injury-riddled group on the back end, the Panthers have given up a lot of passing yards. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson each threw for more than 500 yards against a Pitt defense that can be carved up by good quarterbacks. Duke freshman Daniel Jones is getting better each week and now may be the time for the Blue Devils to open things up.
2. The Efficiency of Nathan Peterman
Until last Saturday, the Pittsburgh quarterback was quietly having a solid season. But against Clemson, quiet went out the window as the senior threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns. It is true that many of those passing numbers were on shovel passes that torched the Clemson defense, but they all count. While his 211 passing yards per game isn’t going to bowl anyone over, his 19 touchdowns against just four interceptions is very impressive. With James Conner running the ball, an effective Peterman takes the Pitt offense to another level.
3. Duke Defense Just Need to do its Job
Pitt likes to move guys all around on offense. Tackles that are eligible receivers move back into normal positions most of the time... but not all of the time. Jet sweeps are a common play, except when Peterman pulls it back and throws a shovel pass or takes a shot downfield. There are a lot of moving parts but Duke cannot not get caught up in the constant motion on the other side of the ball. The Blue Devil defenders need to know their roles and execute their assignments.
Duke is 4-6 but the Blue Devils have been in every game this season. Interestingly, their most lopsided loss was by 14 points to 2-8 Virginia the week after the big win at Notre Dame. After their second major upset of the year, the Blue Devils face an up-and-down Pittsburgh team. The Panthers are averaging more than 37 points per game but are giving up 35. With safety Jordan Whitehead out with an arm injury, making a weak Pittsburgh secondary even weaker, Daniel Jones and the Blue Devils will have success throwing the ball. But the Panthers will find a way to score just enough points to win another close game.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 38, Duke 34
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.