In 2015, the Canes handled the Pitt Panthers for the majority of the ballgame. The fourth quarter got ugly, but Miami eventually pulled away with a 29-24 victory.
Pitt was actually a good football team last season, even with All-American tailback James Conner out for the season while he underwent cancer treatments. The good news is that Conner is back and healthy and expected to be a full-go this upcoming season. The bad news is that he’ll be ready to feast on the Hurricanes like he did in 2014.
The Panthers return their leading passer, rusher and receiver from last year and are adding Conner back into the fold. They will yield one of the best one-two combos in the backfield in the ACC with Conner and Quadree Ollison, who used for 1,121 yards and scored 11 TDs in 2015. The Panthers may not light up offensive statistics, but do not overlook them when talking about contenders for the Coastal Division title. Miami’s defense will have to come ready to play, and will have to be ready to tackle from start to finish.
As for the Canes, most, if not all signs point to them winning this game. Although Pitt returns their offensive leaders, so does Miami. Future NFL Draft pick Brad Kaaya is back for his junior campaign, Mark Walton and Joe Yearby are back, and do not forget about the addition of Gus Edwards. Stacy Coley is as talented of a receiver you’ll find, and the Canes definitely have an edge at tight end.
Pitt had, and still has a good defense, but Miami was able to exploit their lack of athleticism last year by playing fast and making plays before they took their foot off the gas (which we saw FAR too many times in "Golden" years). With Miami’s best playmakers back, one would hope the results are similar to their previous contest. The defense will be interesting to watch, as ‘read and react’ didn’t work on Conner i the slightest two season ago. Now with a more aggressive scheme, keying Conner out the backfield will be a priority in trying to slow down the Pitt attack.
By this point in the season Miami should have worked out some of the growing pains of installing a new offense and a new defense. It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s approach progresses by this point in the season. Will it stay the same? Or will it gradually become more aggressive and as the season plays out? With Pitt, I wouldn’t expect them to try to line up and fool you. Expect a heavy dose of the ground game and a solid passing attack from QB Nathan Peterman. Miami should also be pretty set on offense and defense in regards of their personnel.
Facing Pitt at home will be the first November game after a dreadful October slate and two away games @ Virginia Tech and @ Notre Dame. October may make or break the Canes’ season, but there should be no reason why the Canes shouldn’t finish 4-0 i the final month.
This game should, again, should serve as a game for the Canes to bounce back on their feet after a tough stretch of games. It’s funny, because I feel like the Canes are capable of sleepwalking through some of their final games, but I remember there’s a new coach, a new defense, a new mindset, a new regime in Coral Gables. I expect the effort to be far better than in previous years, so there is plenty of reason for hope when Miami faces their Coastal foe. Miami should walk out of New Miami Stadium victorious, but know that it may not come easy.