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At First Glance: Previewing Pitt's next opponent, the Miami Hurricanes

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers head into this week's game with a two-game winning streak after defeating the Duke Blue Devils and the Louisville Cardinals, Pitt's football team will go for a third in their regular season finale against the Miami Hurricanes this Friday. Here's an early look at the team's next opponent.

Record/Schedule

Miami's season can be easily broken down into thirds. The Hurricanes started off 3-0 before dropping three of their next four, and then winning three of their last four. In other words, it's been a roller coaster of a season where head coach Al Golden was fired in the middle. Golden was fired after that middle stretch and the team has found some success since then under Larry Scott.

Common Opponents

Pitt and Miami have a 4-1 record against their common opponents. Each has defeated Virginia Tech, Virginia, Duke, and Georgia Tech while losing to North Carolina. Pitt had an easier time with Duke while Miami defeated Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech by larger margins. Both defeated Virginia by 6-7 points but the Panthers kept things closer against the Tar Heels.

Most Recent Game

Miami defeated Georgia Tech this weekend, 38-21.

Standouts

Outside of quarterback Brad Kaaya (who I'll get to in a minute) Miami doesn't have anyone on offense posting tremendous numbers. Several players there are capable, though, including running back Joseph Yearby, who by benefit of some big games earlier in the season will have a chance at 1,000 yards with the Pitt contest and a bowl appearance. He shares carries with freshman Mark Walton, who leads the team with eight rushing scores. A trio of receivers, Stacy Coley, Rashawn Scott, and Herb Waters, have amassed more than 500 yards each and have combined for 117 catches and eight touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, defensive back Artie Burns is causing havoc with an ACC-leading five interceptions.

Under Center

Kaaya is one of the better quarterbacks in the conference and having another solid season for the Hurricanes. He is second in the ACC in passing (2,758 yards) and he has 14 touchdown passes to only four interceptions. Kaaya isn't going to kill you with his legs, but he is a more than adequate passer that Pitt will need to pressure to make sure he doesn't have a huge game. Kaaya has four 300-yard games on the season and has had at least 285 on three other occasions. He comes into this game with back-to-back 300-yard games, putting up 626 yards against North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

The thing that concerns me about Kaaya is his big play ability. The Hurricanes don't have a receiver with eye-popping statistics but have three very good ones. Kaaya threw for 300 yards this past week with only 16 completions. Contrast that with Pitt's Nathan Peterman, who had only 232 yards with 22 completions this week and you can see there's a big difference. Miami will air it out and not only be looking to throw, but throw for big gains.

Strengths

Miami is one of the top teams in the nation in turnover margin, averaging a full turnover better than their opponents per game (5th in the FBS). They are also one of football's better passing teams with Kaaya, who helps them to 283.8 passing yards per game (26th in the nation). Defensively, the Hurricanes are an above average pass defense outfit, allowing only 201.2 yards through the air (37th in the nation). Finally, the Hurricanes have done a good job on fourth downs on both sides of the ball. On offense, they have converted 69% of their attempts (16th in the nation) and defensively, have held opponents to a 42% conversion rate (33rd in the nation).

Weaknesses

Miami has struggled in the run game on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they average only 119.8 yards per contest, right near the bottom of the entire FBS. Defensively, they are also near the bottom of the country, allowing 212.5 yards on the ground per game. The team has also been bad on third downs, ranking 93rd with a 36% conversion rate on offense and 76th allowing a 40% conversion rate to their opponents. The Red Zone has also been a problem area for the Hurricanes, converting only 83% of their trips there to points (70th in the nation) while allowing opponents points 89% of the time (103rd nationally). Finally, like Louisville, Miami is a heavily penalized opponent, ranking 127th in both penalties per game (9.6) and penalty yards per game (84.1).

Prognosis

Going into this one, I feel about the same as I did against Louisville. Both the Cardinals and Hurricanes are decent teams but not great ones and considering Pitt gets the game at home, I give them a slight edge here. In addition to Kaaya and his ability to hit long strikes on offense, what Miami has done lately under the interim coach scares me a little, too. They've won three out of four games and while they were blown out by North Carolina, they've also beaten the same teams Pitt has defeated.

Overall, though, their defense isn't what Louisville's was and the Panthers had a big scoring day for a half against the Cardinals. They will have another chance to put up some points this week and that makes it hard for me to go against the home team here.

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