After a shocking loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last week, the Miami Hurricanes are once again in a must-win situation, as they travel up to Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday. Miami comes into the game with a 3-4 record and 1-3 mark in the ACC. Pitt on the other hand is 5-2 and 2-1 in conference play.
Last season, the Hurricanes welcomed in the #24 Panthers for a November showdown, and behind the running and punt returning of DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer, as well as a stout defense, Miami shutdown Pitt and won 24-3.
Coming off their loss to Georgia Tech, Miami simply must win on Saturday against the Panthers, as their chances for a bowl game seem to fade after each week. After the Pitt game, Manny Diaz and his team will travel to Tallahassee the following week as they take on their rivals, the Florida State Seminoles.
The Panthers on the other hand, who won the ACC Coastal last season under head coach Pat Narduzzi, are experiencing similar success in 2019, winning their last four games. OddsShark currently has Pitt as a 5 1⁄2 point favorite over the Canes for Saturday.
While the Panthers offense wasn’t particularly efficient in last years meeting, that isn’t the case in 2019. Their attack is led by quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has thrown for 1,602 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions, completing 59% of his passes.
Pitt boasts a talented group of receivers that could cause fits for the Hurricanes young secondary, especially cornerback D.J. Ivey. WR’s Maurice Ffrench and Taysir Mack are arguably two of the best wide-outs in the ACC. Fench has 56 catches for 488 receiving yards and three touchdowns, while Mack has 45 receptions for 545 yards and two touchdowns.
This is definitely the area which concerns me most about the Hurricanes, because their pass coverage hasn’t been top-notch in 2019. It’s pretty obvious Pitt is going to throw at Ivey, so Trajan Bandy and Al Blades Jr. are going to have to step up as the other corners, as well as Gurvan Hall Jr. and Bubba Bolden over the top at safety.
It’s a Blades thing, you wouldn’t understand. This kid just gets better each week pic.twitter.com/0lZF8iyDED— Heat Nation Is Byke (@hurricanesmarsh) October 14, 2019
Running the football, Pitt definitely won't jump out at you, they rank 111th nationally in that category. Though, Miami did give up over 200 yards on the ground last week versus Georgia Tech, so expect Panther running back A.J. Davis to get the ball frequently. Davis rushed for over 100 yards in their last game against Syracuse.
They’re only averaging 22 points per game, but the Panthers can strike, and strike quickly, as they put up 24 points in the first half last week against Syracuse. Shutting down the passing game and Pickett will be the top priority, and the Hurricanes will have to focus on holding Pitt on third down.
Defensively, the Panthers are carried by one of the most ferocious pass-rush units in the entire country. In fact, Pitt leads the country, averaging 5.14 sacks per game. Jaylen Twyman leads the defensive line and team with seven sacks, while Patrick Jones II has five himself.
That doesn’t sound too good for the Hurricanes, a team with an atrocious offensive line, allowing 31 sacks all season. It also doesn’t help that Miami still hasn’t decided on a starting quarterback for Saturday yet. Both Jarren Williams and N’Kosi Perry are dealing with injuries, though the starter will most likely be one of those, unless, head coach Manny Diaz decides to start Tate Martell.
When they’re not sacking the quarterback, Pitt’s opponents haven’t been able to throw on them either, ranking 11th in the country in pass defense. Cornerback Dane Jackson and safety Paris Ford have been the Panthers two most efficient defensive backs. More bad news for Miami, they’ll be without Jeff Thomas, perhaps their most talented receiver.
Against the run, the Panthers have been just as dominant, allowing 90 yards on the ground per game, which is good for 7th in the nation. With DeeJay Dallas expected to be out on Saturday at RB for Miami, they’ll have to rely on sophomore Cam’Ron Harris to carry the load, Harris had 138 yards against Georgia Tech.
Like I said at the beginning, the Hurricanes MUST find a way to win this game, by any means necessary. That means guys like Harris, tight end Brevin Jordan and receiver K.J. Osborn are going to have to make a play on offense, and linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, as well as defensive linemen Gregory Rousseau has to step on that side of the ball. The Panthers are a good team, plus they’ll have home field advantage, but if Miami wants to turn this 2019 season around, they have to leave Pittsburgh with a win.