Panthers head to Orlando looking to end Knights' winning streak
The Pitt Panthers have been known to score some big wins against highly ranked teams in recent years. With wins against Penn State, Clemson and Miami in the last few years, the threat of Pitt upsetting a team with big goals in front of it is always there. This week, UCF will hope to avoid becoming Pitt’s latest victim as the Knights look to continue to their winning streak this weekend.
UCF and Pitt bring contrasting styles of play to the game this weekend, with Josh Heupel looking to keep UCF playing quickly and Pat Narduzzi likely to choose to slow things down with a ground attack and some gritty defense. Pitt’s defense has had some struggles early on this season, and the UCF offense will be tough to slow down this weekend in Orlando.
Pitt at UCF
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: UCF -15
Three Things to Watch
1. The McKenzie Milton show rolls on
By now you know who the star of the show is for UCF. It’s quarterback McKenzie Milton, who has passed for 895 yards and nine touchdowns in UCF’s three games. Milton has also taken off for 147 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. The junior from Hawaii should be able to make some big plays happen at home as well, where he has 23 passing touchdowns in his last nine home games.
Earlier this year, Pitt faced a quarterback who poses similar threats in Trace McSorley of Penn State. McSorley passed for 145 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 36 yards and a score in a rout of the Panthers. Milton should be able to put up bigger numbers through the air.
2. Can Pitt keep pace with UCF?
UCF likes to keep the game moving at a brisk pace, and that poses some problems for a team like Pitt. Playing on the road in Florida, the Panthers will have to be on their toes when UCF has the football, because Milton and head coach Josh Heupel will want to get lined up quickly and snap the football. It is that style of play that makes UCF so dangerous, and Pitt hasn’t faced a team capable of doing that quite as well as the Knights. UCF is averaging nearly 10 more plays per game than any opponent Pitt has played this season.
3. Pitt’s biggest advantage may be running the ball
One area where Pat Narduzzi should try to gain an edge is the running game. With a running back as strong as Qadree Ollison and a UCF run defense that has been allowing an average of 4.84 yards per carry (ranking the Knights No. 99 in the nation), the Panthers should have an opportunity to work the clock in their favor and slow the tempo of the game down to a more desirable speed. UCF’s offense can strike quickly, so limiting how many possessions the Knights get is a key to the game for Pittsburgh. But Pitt cannot waste its opportunities. The Panthers should be able to work the clock on the ground, but getting points on the board at the end of those drives is necessary.
After having its previous two games against ACC opponents washed out due to storms this year and last, UCF finally gets a chance to claim a victory against a power conference school in the regular season. UCF should walk away with that sought-after victory after Milton gets in a rhythm and keeps Pitt defenders gasping for air and scratching their heads. UCF got off to a fast start last week, and they should do that once again. FAU showed you can run the ball on UCF, which Pitt will hope works in their favor, but UCF just has too much firepower going for it with Gabriel Davis and Dredrick Snelson each capable of catching some big passes and making plays in the Pitt secondary.
Prediction: UCF 37, Pitt 20
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.