ACC teams looking to bounce back from tough losses meet in South Florida
After a 3-0 start, the Panthers have lost two consecutive games to NC State and Boston College — the latter a 31-30 overtime loss last week. Pitt's defense, which was solid in their first three games, has stumbled in recent weeks.
Miami also began the season 3-0, but the Canes fell back down to Earth in a 42-17 loss to Clemson last weekend. Now the Hurricanes will look to remain in the ACC Championship Game race with a win over the Panthers.
Miami leads the overall series against Pittsburgh 27-11-1. The Hurricanes have won the last two meetings in the series, including their 16-12 win last season.
Pittsburgh at Miami
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 17 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Miami -10.5
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
The good news is that Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett leads the nation with 1,389 passing yards this season. He has also chipped in eight touchdowns against only three interceptions. However, Pickett is dealing with an ankle injury entering Saturday's game against the Hurricanes, and his status is questionable. But head coach Pat Narduzzi says he is optimistic that Pickett will play against Miami.
"He's banged up," Narduzzi said on Monday. "But he was a lot better yesterday than I thought he might be. We'll see what happens at practice this week, but the one thing I know about Kenny is he's tough as can be."
Pitt will be facing a Miami team that's allowing 420.3 total yards per game, 47th out of 76 active FBS teams. In their loss against Clemson, the Hurricanes allowed 550 yards and six touchdowns. The Tigers were also able to rush for 258 yards, so starting running back Vincent Davis will be a name to watch.
When Miami Has the Ball
Quarterback D'Eriq King was a Heisman favorite heading into the Hurricanes' game against Clemson. But that hype quickly changed as King had his worst game of the season. He completed 12-of-28 passed for 121 yards and two interceptions. Not only did King struggle, but so did the rest of the Hurricanes' offense.
They only scored one offensive touchdown, and that was a rushing touchdown by King himself. One of the few bright spots was King was able to rush for 84 yards. Now King and the Hurricanes will be facing another stout defense.
Pitt ranks sixth in total defense at 263.4 yards allowed per game. The Panthers are also one of the nation's best at stopping the run, as they enter Saturday's game allowing just 52.0 yards per game, which is the second in the nation. Only Georgia's 38.3 rushing yards allowed per game ranks higher at this point in the season.
Pitt and Miami have played some entertaining games in recent years, and Saturday shouldn't be any different. Despite being a 10.5-point underdog, the Panthers have enough talent on offense and defense to hang with the Hurricanes. The question will be is can the Panthers defense make the critical stop that they couldn't in losses to NC State and Boston College.
Miami should be able to move the ball a lot better than they did against Clemson. The Hurricanes might not be national championship material, but they're definitely among the better teams in the ACC. The game could come down to special teams, which the Hurricanes have improved since last season.
Prediction: Miami 30, Pitt 27
Podcast: Week 7 Preview and Predictions
— 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.
(D'Eriq King photo courtesy of @CanesFootball)