MIAMI Vs. PITT
The Panthers inaugural season in the ACC wouldn't be complete with out a visit from former Big East Foes Miami. UM and Al Golden will be looking for a revitalization this season, whereas Pitt looks to be in the midst of a rebuilding year under Paul Chryst. The Panthers are coming off of back to back 6-7 seasons.
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Head Coach: Paul Chryst (2nd year)
Friday, November 29, 2014. Heinz Field TBA.
It's sure to be cold and nasty up north for the season finale for both teams. Will the frigid weather affect the 'Canes? Will either/both teams start slow from an overdose of tryptophan??? Will my hardcore female UM fans skip "black friday" to watch their beloved Hurricanes? Most importantly, will a BCS Bowl or a significant prize be on the line for Miami?
Miami leads the all time series 22-9-1. UM last played Pitt in 2010, dominating the game at Heinz Field 31-3 as Jacory Harris threw 2 TDs and the defense stifled Tino Sunsieri and the Panthers O all night. Perhaps the most recent memorable match-up was in 2002 when #1 UM defeated #23 PITT 28-21 behind 159 yards and 2 TDs from Willis McGahee to extend their winning streak to 32. The Panthers had a pretty decent WR that year named Larry Fitzgerald.
Miami Vs Ptt Highlights 2002 (CaneFreak2001)
UM's impact players:
For Miami it all starts up front, where G Brandon Linder, C Shane McDermott, and LT Seantrel Henderson create holes for Duke Johnson to run through, and provide superb protection for QB Stephen Morris. The WRs are stacked, look for Herb Waters to emerge from the bunch as the go-to guy. Freshman Stacy Coley should also see plenty of passes come his way. LB Denzel Perryman and S Deon Bush lead what should (needs to be) be a very improved defense. Miami's roster, particularly on offense, is loaded top to bottom with talent. The key will be getting the most out of the talent on defense.
Pitt's impact players:
For this section I enlisted the help of our new ACC brethren over at Cardiac Hill.
Here's what Anson over at Cardiac Hill had to say:
Donald should be taken in the NFL Draft next season and is one of Pitt's best defensive linemen in recent memory. He was a terror at defensive end a couple of years ago and still caused quite a bit of disruption up front when he was moved to the inside last year. Getting some preseason All-American recognition, he could be the best player on the entire team. Street is looking to break a couple of school records in receptions and yardage this year, and also should be playing on Sundays. He's not as good as some of Pitt's other standouts at the position such as Larry Fitzgerald or Antonio Bryant, but can be a playmaker on offense. Savage, the former Rutgers and Arizona transfer hasn't played since 2010, so you can understand the concern of most Pitt fans. But once a highly-touted recruit, the hope is that he's gained some experience while sitting out the past two seasons and can be a solid one-year stopgap before redshirt freshman Chad Voytik presumably takes the reins next year.
As an honorable mention, I'd throw running back Isaac Bennett's name out there. He was expected to back up Rushel Shell this season, but Shell left the program and the job is Bennett's to lose. He's shown a lot over the past two years in practices and training camp, including the ability to break off big runs. He's played sparingly in his first two years at Pitt, but I expect him to have a solid season and be a real threat to gain 1,000 yards.
On Pitt's expectations:
I think best-case scenario for Pitt is eight wins. That's a lofty goal for a team with so many question marks, and all of the personnel changes and coaching changes over the past two years. But if everything broke right, I could see it. Worst-case scenario is probably a five-win season. My pick is either a 6-6 or 7-5 year. The schedule is difficult but they have lots of very winnable games including Old Dominion, Navy, New Mexico, Duke, Virginia, and Syracuse.
By this point in the season, I expect Miami's offense to be featuring two Heisman candidates in Morris and Johnson. But will the frosty conditions slow them down? Pittsburgh also has a pretty decent secondary led by Jason Hendricks. This one could be close for a while. Pitt is something of a mystery team but playing at home on senior day should have them fired up. But behind Duke Johnson, Miami and their high powered offense probably make just enough plays to make Mark May really wish the 'Canes HAD received the death penalty. Canes win 31-21.
Thanks again to the guys over at Cardiac Hill for the assist.