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Matchup of the Week: Pitt Edition

After four consecutive losses, Miami looks to get back to their winning ways against Pitt.

Miami v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Another. Big. Collective. “SIGHHHHHHHHHHHH.” Well, the Canes are now 4-4 (1-3) ACC and do not look good or healthy coming out of the brutal October everyone knew Miami was going to have. Yes, people were very hyped about the Canes when they were 4-0 and ranked No. 10, but there’s no way Miami should be 4-4. BUT, here we are. I could sulk all day, but its best to move forward and focus on the rest of the season.

Looking ahead, Miami has four Coastal games left, starting with Pitt. The Panthers are are 5-3 (2-2) as they head to Coral Gables. Pitt was considered a Coastal favorite/surprise to many, and while they are still mathematically alive for the division race, VT and UNC are in much better position to face Clemson in the ACC Championship game.

With Pitt coming to town, Miami will face a tough, physical team that has great individual talents the Canes must slow down. Let’s take a look at the last time they played:

Look, James Coley as an offensive coordinator was so predictable and called a halfback pass in the snow, but watching that offense makes me miss it...which brings me to my next point.

Miami Offense vs. Pitt Defense

Yeah...this is the easy matchup choice. And it’s easily the most important. Starting with Pitt, in their conference games the Panthers defense has given up 37, 34, 31 and 39 points, allowing 32.4 points per game to opposing offenses. Pitt is led by sophomore DB Jordan Whitehead and senior DJ Ejuan Price. Whitehead has been a lockdown corner for the Panthers and Price is currently tied for the ACC lead in sacks with nine. While the defense was supposed to be the strength of this team, they have been very inconsistent and vulnerable to giving up big plays.

Now, for Miami’s side...smh. This offense was supposed to do NUMBERS on defenses. But in reality, they struggle mightily throughout huge portions of games and frankly disappear at times. At Notre Dame last week, Miami had three straight three-and-outs and the biggest play Miami had in the first quarter was a six-yard Brad Kaaya scramble on third-and-long. Yikes.

Strangely enough, Miami is still averaging 32.9 points per game, but those numbers are certainly inflated from the first four games the Canes have played. Against ND, Miami had 18(!!!!!!!!!) total rushing yards for the game. That last stat takes into consideration the -35 yards from sacks on Kaaya, but still. Yikes. Mark Walton carried the ball 18 times for just 45 yards and one score, while his partner Joe Yearby carried the ball six times..........FOR ONE YARD. Gus Edwards also finally got his chance and....he carried the ball three times for -1 yards. Ok.

The offensive line SUCKS!!! Everything is not always on them, don’t ever think that. But this unit is playing so poorly and it hurts to watch. No running lanes created, not time for Kaaya, no winning one-on-ones. Not sure if it’s (previous) coaching, but this unit was rate very high coming out of high school, so the reason for this poor play is beyond me.

What I would like to see for Miami is more shots downfield and create the ability to stretch the defense. Mark Richt’s offense clearly isn’t the most dynamic, but it is efficient when it’s run properly. But it takes a strong offensive line and a sound running game, and the Canes lack both. Going forward, it would be great to see Miami go more out of the shotgun, incorporate more movement and create these match up problems for defenses.

This game is crucial for Miami for a myriad of reasons. The Canes are at risk of losing FIVE games in a row, falling below .500, and entering a realm that reminds players and fans of the previous regime. While the Canes are struggling immensely, do not lost hope. This is Richt’s first season, and he is doing everything he can to change the mindset of his players and the culture of this program. We all wanted to the miracle 2013 Auburn season or 2015 Michigan season, but it didn’t happen. But we move forward with what we have. One thing of note: both of those teams had FAR superior depth than Miami is working with.

This game, along with the rest, are certainly winnable for Miami. With an ailing defense that has virtually kept them in every game, this game is on the offense. Pitt is a good team with a bad defense. Miami is a good team with a bad offense. Something has got to give in this matchup.

Miami will be favored again as they head home for first of two remaining games in Coral Gables. Re-establishing the winning culture and mindset will be pivotal as the season comes to a close. Finishing 9-4 or 8-5 is attainable and would be a major win this season if you ask me, but it starts NOW. Believe in this team, because they won’t quit, and they know what is at stake.

Canes 31-Pitt 24