Panthers look to extend winning streak to five games when they host the Hurricanes
Since losing to Penn State on Sept. 14, the Pitt Panthers have gone on a four-game winning streak. During that time, the Panthers (5-2, 2-1 ACC) have posted upset victories over the UCF Knights and Syracuse Orange, the latter on the road.
This weekend, Pitt will host the Miami Hurricanes, who haven't had nearly the same success lately.
Miami (3-4, 1-3) has lost two of its last three games, including a 28-21 overtime loss to Georgia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium last weekend. The Hurricanes will look to get out of the basement of the Coastal Division and back to .500 on Saturday.
Miami leads the all-time series between the two teams 26-11-1. While the Hurricanes won last year's game, the Panthers came away with the 24-14 win in their last matchup at Heinz Field.
Miami at Pitt
Kickoff: Oct. 26 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Pitt -5.5
When Miami Has the Ball
Against Pitt, Miami could be without leading rusher DeeJay Dallas. In the loss against Georgia Tech, Dallas suffered a knee injury and did not return to the game. During practice early this week, Dallas was not seen during the media period, according to reports.
If Dallas does not play, sophomore Cam'Ron Harris will receive the bulk of the carries in the backfield. Against the Yellow Jackets, Harris rushed for 136 yards on 18 carries.
As for the Hurricanes quarterback position, it is uncertain who will start against Pitt. N'Kosi Perry separated his shoulder during last week's game, but he continued to play through it. But Miami head coach Manny Diaz continues to say that Jarren Williams, who has been nursing a shoulder injury of his own, is the team's starting quarterback once he is healthy. Both Perry and Williams have practiced this week.
Miami will also be without starting receiver Jeff Thomas back against Pitt. Thomas was suspended for the Georgia Tech game, and won't return until the Hurricanes game against the Florida State Seminoles on Nov. 2.
The Hurricanes could use a boost offensively. They’ve been held to 21 points or fewer in four games this season and have topped 25 points only twice — and one of those was against FCS Bethune-Cookman.
When Pitt Has the Ball
Unlike in previous meetings against Miami, Pitt's offense — in particular, the passing game — appears to be hitting on all cylinders.
Pitt ranks 36th in the country in passing offense, averaging 270.3 yards per game this season. Starting quarterback Kenny Pickett is on pace to have the best season of his career. In six games, Pickett has thrown for 1,602 yards, eight touchdowns, and four interceptions.
The Panthers' talented receiver group also deserves a lot of praise, as Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench have been two of the best players in the ACC. Mack has caught 45 receptions for 545 yards and two touchdowns, while Ffrench has 56 catches for 488 yards and three touchdowns on the year.
Considering Miami gave up 207 yards on the ground to Georgia Tech last week, expect Pitt to use A.J. Davis frequently. Against Syracuse, Davis rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Saturday is a tale of two teams going in different directions. Pitt still has aspirations of winning the ACC Coastal for the second consecutive season, while Miami is just trying to save its season as the Canes sit at 3-4.
Pitt leads the nation in sacks per game, averaging 5.14 during their first five contests this season. That is terrible news for a Miami team that has struggled to protect the quarterback this season, allowing 4.43 sacks per game, which ranks 127th in the FBS.
With Miami's two banged-up quarterbacks, its leading rusher also injured, and be without its star wide receiver, it is easy to take Pitt, especially at home.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Miami 17
— 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.