Well, the Pitt-Duke matchup seems to have lost some of its luster, right?
The Panthers' embarrassing loss to Georgia Tech really took the wind out of Pitt's sails and will make it harder for the team to win the ACC Coastal Division that, for some reason, is still up for grabs.
Here's the thing, though. This is still a huge game for Pitt and the Panthers aren't out of the Division title picture yet. Simply put, a win against Duke means Pitt will be right back in the race for the Coastal title. More in a separate post on this later.
Winning against Duke, though, won't be easy. The Blue Devils are 6-1 on the year with their lone loss coming to Miami. Duke has also beaten two opponents that defeated Pitt - Georgia Tech and Virginia.
Duke will come to Heinz Field boasting both an impressive offense and defense. While the fifth-ranked defense leads the way, the Blue Devils are also scoring 33.6 points per game - good for 41st in the nation. The good news for Pitt? Those stats may be somewhat inflated?
Like Pitt's Top 20 ranked defense, Duke hasn't been tested all that much. The Blue Devils' non-conference slate, for example, included Troy, Tulane, Kansas, and Elon - hardly a Who's Who for college football teams. Their competition has gotten more difficult lately and things haven't come as easy for Duke as they did earlier this year.
Over the past three games, Duke has averaged only 20.3 points per contest - significantly lower than their season average. Their defense has taken a step back, too. The Blue Devils gave up only 11.5 points per game over their first four. But that number has increased to 20 per contest over their last three.
Similar to the Panthers, this is a team that will try to run the ball. Duke averages 218 yards per game on the ground and that's the strength of their offense. Wide receiver Jae Crowder is dangerous but like Tyler Boyd, hasn't been utilized as much. Through seven games, Crowder has a modest 471 yards. Last season, he topped 1,300.
On paper, this looks like a bit of a mismatch. Duke and Pitt have two common opponents and Duke has beaten each while Pitt has lost to each. And while the Blue Devils had an incredibly light non-conference schedule, so did the Panthers. The only difference is that while Pitt struggled with theirs, Duke steamrolled through their competition, winning all four games by an average of 32 points.
Based on Pitt's up and down play this year, I don't think any of us would be all that surprised if they managed to beat Duke. But at this point, it's hard to predict the Panthers will win.
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