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At First Glance: Previewing Pitt's next opponent - the Virginia Cavaliers

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Pitt carries a bit of momentum after a 17-13 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Panthers rebounded from a tough loss at Iowa and are off to a 3-1 start with additional wins over Youngstown State and Akron. Next up - the Virginia Cavaliers.

Here's this week's game preview.

Record/Schedule

Virginia enters with only a 1-3 record, but have had an extremely difficult non-conference slate. The Cavaliers have already been dealt losses by Notre Dame, UCLA, and Boise State. As of this week, all three teams are ranked. I don't know where their non-con ranks 'officially' but that had to be one of the tougher schedules around. Earlier this summer, FOX Sports said their schedule was the third most difficult, FWIW. The team's lone win was a 35-29 victory over William & Mary.

Most Recent Game

Last week, the Cavaliers suffered a crushing 56-14 loss at the hands of Boise State. Virginia was dominated in the game and it was never really close. That was in stark contrast to the way they played against Notre Dame (losing by only six points) and UCLA (trailing by only eight at halftime before fading in the second half for an 18-point loss).

Standouts

Running back Taquan Mizzell may be the team's most dangerous offensive weapon. As purely a rusher, Mizzell isn't tearing up the competition - he has only 157 yards on the ground and not a single rushing touchdown through four games. But what makes Mizzell a tremendous threat is his ability as a receiver. He leads the team with three touchdown catches and 22 catches for 292 yards are both a close second to wide receiver Canaan Severin (23 catches for 298 yards).

On defense, linebacker Micah Kiser has made a tremendous impact. His 39 tackles are among the best in the conference and with 4 1/2 sacks, he leads the ACC in that category. There's also safety Quin Blanding, who was a Freshman All-American last year. Blanding doesn't have any interceptions yet this year and he hasn't made as big of an impact in the box score this season, but he's still a player Pitt will need to keep tabs on.

Under Center

The team's starting quarterback is Matt Johns and he's had an up and down season so far. His 989 passing yards are good for fourth in the conference (only three away from third place). But in addition to his eight touchdown passes (2nd in the ACC), Johns has also tossed a league-high six picks already.

Weaknesses

Outside of Johns' sporadic play, there are some other concerns on Virginia's end. For one thing, the Cavaliers don't have much of a rushing attack, ranking 122nd out of 127 FBS programs with only 93.8 yards per game. Defensively, Virginia has struggled, too - the Cavaliers have given up nearly 450 total yards per game, ranking 108th in the nation. The team's kicking game is also up and down as kicker Ian Frye is only 3-6 on the year in field goals.

Prognosis

Virginia is off to a rough start, but to me, they're still a team with a lot of questions. They've struggled in a lot of key areas as outlined above, but it's also difficult to know how much can be attributed to the difficult competition they've faced. No, Virginia's close win against William & Mary wasn't too impressive. However, they had a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter before allowing them to get back into the game. The Boise State loss? Well, that's plain ugly. But as stated earlier, Virginia was also competitive against a top ten Notre Dame team and played reasonably well for a half against ranked UCLA.

All in all, I like Pitt in this game. The Panthers' defense has played well this season and getting the game at home for Homecoming weekend should help, too. Pitt needs to take care of business and show up, but not only can I see the defense shutting down the Virginia offense, Pitt's own offense has a chance to get more on track against what has been one of the weaker defenses in the nation.

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