After coming off their first win against a Power 5 opponent this season, the Miami Hurricanes have another tall task ahead of them this weekend.
Miami (3-4, 1-2 ACC) will face one of the nation's best quarterbacks as the Hurricanes travel up to Pittsburgh to take on the 17th-ranked Panthers. Miami is coming off of a much-needed 31-30 upset of then-No. 18 NC State at home. One on the road on Saturday would get the embattled Canes back to .500.
Meanwhile, the Panthers (6-1, 3-0) handed reeling Clemson a 27-17 loss behind 466 yards of total offense. Pitt will look to extend its winning streak to five in a row and pad its lead in the ACC Coastal Division.
The Hurricanes hold a 28-11-1 advantage in the series, including three straight wins over the Panthers.
Miami at No. 17 Pittsburgh
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Pittsburgh -9
When Miami Has the Ball
The moment quarterback D'Eriq King was lost for the season, many wrote the Hurricanes off. But that might have been a blessing in disguise for redshirt freshman Tyler Van Dyke.
In the victory over NC State, Van Dyke stole the show, completing 25 of 33 passes for 325 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Now 2-2 as the starter, his confidence continues to grow with each game.
Unlike last weekend when he had a lot to say about NC State, Van Dyke is taking the quiet approach when it comes to Pitt.
"The first couple games, I didn't start how I wanted to," Van Dyke said. "We were just talking. We were like, 'Let's go play out there and just have fun. Who cares what the outcome is? If you have fun, the result will come.'"
We'll see how much "fun" Van Dykle and the Canes' offense has against the Panthers' defense. Miami enjoyed considerable success (31 points, 420 yards) against one of the top defenses in the ACC, and Pitt is right behind the Wolfpack when it comes to yards (318.7, 2nd) and points (19.6, 3rd) allowed per game. The Panthers have been even tougher against the pass, allowing opponents to complete just 55 percent of their attempts (lowest in conference) with nearly as many interceptions (seven) as touchdowns (nine) given up.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
If Kenny Pickett was playing in a program like Alabama, Georgia, or Ohio State, he would probably be the leading Heisman Trophy contender. As it is, he could send up with some votes if he maintains this impressive level of production and the Panthers keep winning.
He's tied for fourth nationally with 23 touchdown passes and is averaging 319.4 yards per game through the air. This is on top of him completing 69 percent of his passes with just a single interception. He carved up Clemson last week with 302 yards and two scores.
Overall, Pitt is fourth in the nation in scoring at 45.3 points per game. The only teams averaging more are Ohio State, Alabama, and Coastal Carolina.
Pickett is getting plenty of help. Wide receiver Jordan Addison is tied for the FBS lead with 10 touchdown catches, and he's fourth in the ACC in receiving yards per game (95.7), while running back Israel Abanikanda is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. But the Panthers' leading receiver and rusher both suffered concussions in the win over the Tigers so one or both may not be available against Miami.
If Abanikanda has to sit this game out, Pitt would probably turn to a combination of Vincent Davis (team-high 79 carries) and Rodney Hammond (5.8 ypc) in the backfield.
As for Miami, the Hurricanes will definitely have to turn it up a notch of defense if they want to slow down the Panthers. Even in last week's win, Miami gave up 421 yards to NC State. Most of the damage (310 yards) was done through the air, which does not bode well for this matchup with Pickett, who is among the leading contenders, if not the front-runner, for ACC Player of the Year right now.
Miami has played much better the last couple of weeks. Even despite a loss to North Carolina two weeks ago, it's apparent that Van Dyke is getting more comfortable running the Hurricanes' offense.
However, this will be a test unlike any he or Miami has faced so far. Not only does Pittsburgh have an explosive offense, but the defense also is ranked near the top of the ACC. If it weren't for Pickett's exploits, that side of the ball would be getting more attention.
Would it surprise me if the Hurricanes were to give the Panthers a huge challenge? Not at all. But it's still hard to go against Pitt, especially at home.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, Miami 24
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— 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, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.