This week, Pitt heads to Virginia to play the Cavaliers. It's safe to say that after a mess of a second half against Iowa two weekends ago and a sheer disaster against Akron on Saturday, the game looks much less winnable for Pitt.
Both teams sport 3-2 records, but Virginia has played against better competition than the Panthers. Pitt has had some tests via a road game against Boston College and a home contest against Iowa, but those teams don't stack up to the three ranked programs the Cavaliers have faced in UCLA, Louisville, and BYU. While Virginia dropped two of those games, they did manage to defeat Louisville earlier in the year. Even in the losses, the Hoos have been competitive, falling by only eight each to both UCLA and BYU.
This game has huge implications for the Division. Despite Pitt's recent stumbles, they're no further away from being able to win the ACC Coastal. A loss to fellow Coastal team Virginia, however, could make winning the Division difficult as the Cavaliers look to be a player.
Virginia is finally starting to show some of the promise many thought would have come a little earlier. The program has put together four top Top 30 recruiting classes in the past five years (two in the Top 25) according to Rivals and after a disastrous 2013, things seem to be falling into place.
I'm not sure Virginia does any one thing great, but they do everything fairly well. The team ranks in the middle of the FBS in passing offense, rushing offense, scoring offense, and scoring defense.
One thing to watch is the passing game of the Cavaliers. Pitt's secondary has been a train wreck lately, so even modest quarterbacks have found success against them. However, Virginia's quarterbacks have also struggled a little with turnovers - the Cavs have primarily used two quarterbacks this season, sophomores Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns, and the two have already combined for eight interceptions. The Panthers secondary has been struggling recently, but there's some hope there for a turnover or two.
As mentioned earlier, the Virginia running game has been solid, but nothing special. Like several of the teams Pitt has faced so far, the Cavaliers use somewhat of a by-committee approach with three backs registering at least 35 carries. Kevin Parks clearly leads the way, but Taquan Mizzell and Khalek Shepherd have gotten work as well. The trio have combined for about 200 yards less than James Conner by himself, but the group has been serviceable, averaging about four yards per carry combined.
It's all pretty fundamental for Pitt - if they can get the stagnant offense going, they'll be right there in this one. The defense is key, of course, but the offense has been the bigger problem for the Panthers lately. Pitt has the better running game and while Virginia has had a better passing offense, they don't have a player with the skill of Tyler Boyd. Things look bleak for the Panthers, but if they can have some more success on offense as they did earlier in the year, there's a chance to win.
This game isn't completely unwinnable for the Panthers and to pull off a big road win after such a wildly disappointing loss would be typical for Pitt. Still, in a night road game, the team will have their hands full in trying to win their second ACC game of the year.