North Carolina comes into Week 9 sitting on top of the ACC Coastal Division, and the Tar Heels have an excellent chance to help us all avoid some Coastal Chaos. Enter the defending ACC champions, the Pitt Panthers.
Pitt (4-3, 1-2 ACC) makes the trip to Chapel Hill this week looking to stay in the division race. Already with two losses in ACC play to Georgia Tech and Louisville, the Panthers need a win to keep in the hunt in the Coastal Division. But do the Panthers have the firepower needed to return home with a win, or will No. 21 UNC (6-1, 3-0) remain undefeated in ACC play going into the final month of the regular season?
Pitt at No. 21 North Carolina
When Pitt Has the Ball
Pitt's success is based on what it does on the ground. The Panthers own one of the ACC's top rushing offenses with 189.4 rushing yards per game coming into the weekend. Israel Abanikanda should pass the century mark this weekend and could add to his 13 rushing touchdowns this season. North Carolina knows this is a mismatch to be concerned with, as the Tar Heels are last in the ACC in rushing defense (186.3 ypg). Four times this season, UNC has allowed at least 200 rushing yards, including last week at Duke.
When North Carolina Has the Ball
If Pittsburgh is focused on dictating the tempo on the ground, UNC will try to make this a fast-paced game that lights up the scoreboard. North Carolina leads the ACC in scoring with 41.7 points per game (Pitt is sixth with 31.4 ppg). Drake Maye is having a fantastic freshman season with 2,283 passing yards and 24 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Maye also leads the Tar Heels with 378 rushing yards. If Pitt can't rattle the freshman, they could be playing catch-up early on.
In the end, Pitt will not be able to keep up the scoring pace. With UNC's explosive offense tacking on multiple touchdown drives, the Panthers will need to make some big plays that just will not develop. As such, the Tar Heels celebrate a big win at home against the defending ACC champions while keeping their own conference title hopes going strong.
Prediction: North Carolina 30, Pitt 22
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