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Louisville vs. Pittsburgh Football Prediction and Preview

Cardinals look to bounce back on the road against the undefeated Panthers

The Louisville Cardinals will have to quickly shrug off their tough home loss to Miami when they return to ACC play this weekend on the road against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field.

 

Louisville's 47-34 loss to the Hurricanes dropped them from No. 18 to No. 24 in this week's AP Top 25. Now they will play in their first game away from Cardinal Stadium against the undefeated Panthers.

 

No. 21 Pitt is looking for its 3-0 start since 2014. They will play in their third consecutive home game to begin the season after wins over Austin Peay and Syracuse.

 

Saturday will be the 18th meeting all-time between the former Big East rivals. This will be their first meeting since the Cardinals defeated the Panthers 45-34 in 2015.

 

Louisville at Pittsburgh

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 12 p.m. ET

TV: ACC Network

Spread: Pitt -3

 

When Louisville Has the Ball

Despite the loss, the Louisville offense was able to succeed against Miami. Quarterback Malik Cunningham threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns, but he did throw an interception. Two of those touchdowns went to Tutu Atwell, who caught eight passes for 114 yards. Atwell is expected to be a major focal point of the offense after recording 69 catches for 1,272 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019. Running back Javian Hawkins looked the part as well, rushing for 164 yards against the Hurricanes on 27 carries.

 

Pitt's defense held Syracuse's offense to only 170 yards of total offense and forced a pair of turnovers and missed field goals in the 21-10 victory. The Panthers already had the best defensive line in the ACC before Jalen Twyman opted out to prepare for the draft. After two games, they still could have the best in the entire conference, as Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver have been stud defensive ends.

 

Louisville's offense should be able to move the ball against Pitt, but can the Cards do it when it counts? They had their problems doing that against a Miami defense that isn't nearly as good as the Panthers', and now Cunningham will face a stout defensive front.

 

When Pitt Has the Ball

Senior quarterback Kenny Pickett is one of the more underrated players in the ACC, probably because he is in a conference with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. So much so that Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi took it to another level to call Pickett the most underrated quarterback in the country.

 

Through two games, Pickett has thrown for 492 yards and three touchdowns against only one interception. Last season, Pickett completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 3,098 yards and 13 touchdowns along with nine interceptions. Pickett led the ACC and was fifth in the nation last season with an average of 24.1 completions per game while finishing second in passing yards per game (258.2).

 

Pickett and the Panthers will be facing a Cardinals defense that has had their issues this season, especially in their game against the Hurricanes. Louisville gave up 558 total yards and several big plays, which translated to 47 points. They also allowed Miami to score two different 75-yard touchdowns in the loss.

 

If Pickett can limit the turnovers, they certainly should be able to move the ball against a Cardinals defense that has undoubtedly had its issues.

 

Final Analysis

 

This should be your typical ACC game in September and will likely come down to the last five minutes of the game. Conventional wisdom says the Panthers should be able to have success moving the ball against a subpar Cardinals defense. However, Pitt struggled at times to do that against Syracuse.

 

The Cardinals have a ton of offensive weapons to stay in and even win this game. However, they dug themselves a hole early against Miami, and they weren't able to recover. They will now face a Pitt team who has arguably one of the nation's best defensive lines.

 

This game really could go either way, but Pitt seems like it's the better team here.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Louisville 24

 

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Event Sport: 
College Football
Event Date: 
Saturday, September 26, 2020 - 12:00
Event Location: 
Heinz Field, 100 Art Rooney Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
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