First off, the talent level between Pitt and Clemson should be considered. Pitt is no pushover or doormat, making them an intriguing opponent to play following a week with nonstop hype and media coverage. Clemson is a powerhouse and far ahead of any other ACC team on a national scale, but the ‘Canes can’t afford to take their foot off the gas. If the ‘Canes start the game with a hangover, Pitt will surely make them pay.
Miami is 8-2 against Pitt in their last 10 meetings, but that doesn’t tell the full story. In 2017, it was Pitt that sparked the downfall of the then-perfect ‘Canes season. Miami was ranked 2nd in the country at the time—their 15-game win streak dating back to 2016 was snapped. Miami won easily in 2018 against the Panthers, but 2019s matchup was an arduous defensive struggle that went down to the wire.
Up three at the half, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said his team would upset undefeated Miami. They just did. pic.twitter.com/srsGyhyn7R— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 24, 2017
With that in mind, the defensive approach that works against the ‘Canes year after year is selling out to stop the run. Without a run game, Miami quarterbacks have been mostly incompetent. This doesn’t just pertain to the ‘Canes, as a solid run game is a quarterback’s best friend. However, it always seems to be a tactic that Miami has extreme trouble beating.
The Tigers successfully stopped Miami’s running backs, holding Cam’Ron Harris to only 3 yards on 8 carries; Pitt will surely try to follow Clemson’s attack. By stopping the run, however, it forced quarterback D’Eriq King into uncomfortable situations, throwing 2 interceptions in the game, his first of the year.
D'Eriq King throws his first interception as a Miami Hurricane. King had not thrown an interception in his previous 135 pass attempts dating back to his time at Houston.— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) October 11, 2020
If Pitt shuts down Harris and other Miami runners, the ‘Canes need a sharper game from King, who threw ill-advised passes outside of the 2 interceptions. Much of the pressure rests on the coaches and the execution, especially on offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, whose play call was entirely figured out by Brent Venables and the Clemson defense.
If Miami’s offense starts quickly as they did against Florida State, it’d reinstall much confidence in Lashlee and King. Falter, and Miami’s hopes of achieving a rematch against the Tigers in the ACC Championship Game dwindles.