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Film Preview: Pittsburgh at Miami

The ‘Canes host the ACC Coastal Champions on Thanksgiving Saturday

Pittsburgh v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Pitt Panthers have had an extremely strange football season that will be highlighted with an ACC Coastal crown and trip to Charlotte, NC to face Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. The Hurricanes came to the ACC expecting to be in that game year in and year out, mainly against the FSU Seminoles but both programs are riding down seasons in 2018.

The Panthers have defeated Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia, and Wake Forest convincingly and Syracuse in overtime. Pitt also played Notre Dame tough but lost to UNC and were blown out by Penn State and Central Florida.

It’s been a rollercoaster season for Pitt- who is ranked 54th per the S&P+ with a 7-4 record. The ‘Canes on the other hand are 6-5 and sitting at 29th because Bill C’s analytics really love Mark Richt.

Multiple Formations

Pitt is going to formation you to death. That’s what they do. They run a bunch of personnel packages and formations and Miami is low on football IQ. Pick your poison. The Panthers used their multiple looks to run for 492 yards (13.7 per carry) and six touchdowns against Bud Foster’s Hokies defense. The Panthers also averaged 14.7 yards per passing attempt without an interception.

Above, the GIF is split zone with the inside bunched ‘receiver’ as the kick out guy. When the Tech defensive end squeezes down the line of scrimmage he kicks him out so the running back can cut back. As an offensive coordinator your goal is to be able to keep one personnel package on the field, run a limited number of plays, but formation people to have to install ‘checks’ during the week.

Okie Robber 4

Okie Robber 4 is a check to this 2x2 open formation based on down and distance. It was never a base call and is something our Free Safety would have the defense check in to if we saw a 2x2 open formation on 1st and 10. The reason was that the offense would throw stalk-bubble on 1st and 10 from this formation over 80% of the time.

Motion to Trips

As AGAPE motioned to trips, our defense had to adjust. Our defensive end would close down into a four man line, bumping his fellow linemen over. Our defensive backs to the single wide receiver side would change to cover 2 read while our trips-side defensive backs would play robber coverage.

Miami is going to have to check in and out based on formations, motions and shifts that the Panthers use as they don’t often change personnel packages to run their bunch formations or even two tight end formations.

Pitt Defense

Pitt likes to play a base 4-2-5 with 2 high safeties. However, they will play games with their linebackers and drop defensive ends while bringing pressure from linebackers. They’ll also drop eight into coverage after showing a six man pressure. It’s great football if your guys can learn it and get themselves into position.

The way Pitt lines up takes away from pre-snap RPO’s, which Mark Richt seems to use. In this front what do you like to run? I don’t want to run 6 into 6 showing pressure, and I don’t want to throw a bubble into that flat defender. Thus Miami will have to audible out of the play if they’re not going to read the flat defender post-snap.

Pitt checks the outside linebacker from pressure to being a wall 3 (inside protecting against the slant or shallow drag) while the flat defender now hears from the outside linebacker that he can run the flat without hesitation. The Hokies Ryan Willis takes off running, I’m hoping that Miami quarterback N’Kosi Perry will do the same.


On paper, Miami shouldn’t drop a game to the Pitt Panthers. Miami is more talented per recruiting rankings and the ‘Canes have the more established head football coach. However, we’ve seen the Miami program steadily remain mediocre since the 2004 season and it hasn’t changed over the past 15 years.

If Miami is going to get a win against the Panthers it will be a high scoring affair as Pitt is designed to give Miami’s defense fits. Then again, Coach Diaz has done the best job of making mid-game adjustments that I’ve seen at Miami in a long time.

Prediction: Pitt by 3