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Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Miami Hurricanes Prediction and Preview

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Miami Hurricanes Prediction and Preview

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Miami Hurricanes Prediction and Preview

A year ago, things were much different for the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Miami Hurricanes.

In last year's season finale, the Hurricanes entered the game at Heinz Field undefeated as they were heading into to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, while the Panthers were looking to spoil their season. The result was the Panthers pulled off the 24-14 upset on Black Friday to end Miami's national championship aspirations.

In this year's matchup, the Panthers are the team that's headed to Charlotte to play Clemson, while the Hurricanes are just barely bowl eligible after their 38-14 victory over Virginia Tech.

Saturday will be the 38th all-time meeting between the Panthers and Hurricanes as Miami has a 25-11-1 edge in the series. 

Pittsburgh at Miami

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Miami -5.5

Three Things to Watch

1. N'Kosi Perry
Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt has kept his word as he hasn't played musical chairs with the quarterback position the last couple of weeks. Perry has been Richt's guy, and last weekend it paid off.

Against the Hokies, Perry completed 21-of-34 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. In his last two starts, Perry has thrown for 336 yards, two touchdowns against zero interceptions.

"I thought he did well," Richt said about Perry. "He’s getting better. He’s getting more comfortable as he goes. We had a couple shots. We had a deep ball [to Dee Wiggins that] if we complete that, that was about a 60-yarder for a touchdown. We had another one that landed right in the hands of our running back [Travis Homer] that would have been another 70-yarder. Another 130 yards of passing and a couple more touchdowns would have been really a big day."

If Perry continues to play well, the Hurricanes will have an excellent chance to win on Saturday and in their bowl game to end the season on a good note.

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2. Panthers' rushing attack
The key to winning Saturday's game for Pittsburgh could be their rushing attack. Throughout the season, the Panthers have been one of the best rushing teams in the nation as they currently rank 14th in rushing offense.

Pittsburgh is averaging 247.5 yards per game on the ground. Miami is 33rd against the run, giving up about 135 yards a game. The Panthers should expect the Hurricanes to play the run heavily as they will likely force quarterback Kenny Pickett to make passes down the field.

If Pittsburgh can gain yards on the ground, it could be a long day for the Hurricanes' defense.

3. Revenge factor
Many Hurricanes players are using last year's loss as motivation for Saturday's game.

“That game hurt,” Jaquan Johnson said. “It could have been an undefeated regular season and who knows what happens in the ACC Championship Game going in with that momentum.”

Although so many things are different from last year's game, the Hurricanes will undoubtedly want to cool off a hot Panthers team that has won four games in a row. Johnson, like many Hurricanes seniors, will be playing in his final game at Hard Rock Stadium. So, of course, they will want to perform well in front of their friends and family.

Final Analysis

The Panthers have nothing to lose as they've already punched their tickets for the ACC Championship in Charlotte. But it is important to play well as they will have their hands full against the Clemson Tigers a week from Saturday.

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As for this game, this will come down to the two defenses. Miami is ranked third in the country in total defense while Pittsburgh is ranked 75th. However, the Panthers are averaging 2.45 sacks per game. With the Hurricanes leaky offensive line, the Panthers should have opportunities to get pressure on Perry.

This should be a close game, but the Panthers are the better team right now, and they should pick up the narrow road victory.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Miami 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.