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At First Glance: Pitt vs. North Carolina

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a big win against Notre Dame, Pitt should have a bit of momentum on their side. Unfortunately their opponent this week, North Carolina, has some, too.

The Tar Heels started off 1-5 this year, but I still had a lot of confidence in that team, constantly ranking them a bit higher in the weekly ACC power rankings. North Carolina hasn't been as good as they were last season, but to be fair, they had a very difficult schedule to start the year.

After a road game against then No. 6 South Carolina, the Tar Heels picked up an easy win against Middle Tennessee State. But after that, they played a solid Georgia Tech team, East Carolina (who's now 7-2), Virginia Tech, and Miami. That's a stretch that would give almost any team fits and while losing all of those games wasn't ideal, there wasn't an easy win to be had there.

With such a tough stretch, the schedule has predictably gotten a bit more manageable - and because of that, North Carolina is responding. They've won three straight games against Boston College, North Carolina State, and Virginia. Just as important is that they've looked pretty impressive doing so. They won by eight on the road against the Wolfpack, 24 at home against Boston College, and 31 against Virginia at home.

As expected, the Tar Heels are finding success through the air. Bryn Renner was leading the team at quarterback but a separated shoulder sustained a few weeks ago meant the end of his season. Marquise Williams, a dual-threat guy, has taken his place. North Carolina's passing attack ranks 21st in the NCAA with nearly 300 yards a game.

It's a good thing the passing game has been so good because the Tar Heels have no running game to speak of. They rank near the bottom of the NCAA in terms of rushing and don't have a back with even 300 yards on the season.

On the surface, Renner's absence might look good for Pitt, but they've had some trouble with quarterbacks that can scramble so the Williams substitution isn't a slam dunk victory for the Panthers.

I'm really torn on this game, folks. North Carolina is playing really well lately and while they're 1-3 on the road, they did play both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech competitively away from home. At first glance, it's a game that Pitt can win at home ... but it won't be easy.

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