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Weekly Kickoff: Pitt looks for third straight win at Virginia

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a win at Georgia Tech, the Pitt football team will look to win its third consecutive game when they travel to Virginia this weekend.

No ACC game should be taken lightly, but the Panthers have a beatable opponent in the Cavaliers. The team owns wins against Duke and Central Michigan, but was beaten badly by Oregon and Richmond, and also lost to UConn. Virginia is a very winnable game and a Pitt loss would be a big disappointment to say the least.

Offensively, what Pitt fans don't want to hear is that Virginia has a great passing attack. The Cavaliers rank 28th nationally in passing offense, throwing for nearly 300 yards per game. Virginia doesn't have one great receiver that will overwhelm you, necessarily. Rather, quarterback Kurt Benkert has spread the ball around a lot. Benkert will make mistakes from time to time (he has six interceptions), but has thrown for 1,455 yards already through only five games. In particular, he's been on fire lately with 757 passing yards, eight touchdowns, and only two interceptions in his last two games - both wins.

If Pitt isn't able to run away with this one, it will likely be because Virginia's passing offense is keeping them in the game. And you don't need me to rehash the same storyline of the Panthers' defensive back woes this year.

One other thing to keep in mind is that while Virginia doesn't have big rushing stats, their backs have been capable. The lower rushing totals are more a product of the lack of being used. The top two backs, Albert Reid and Taquan Mizzell, are both seniors and while they have a fairly modest 578 yards between them on the year, they average a combined 5.2 yards per carry.

Defense is where the Cavaliers have struggled, which will lead a lot of people to believe that this will be a high-scoring game. Their run defense ranks only 71st in the nation, giving up 162 yards per game, so that should be a good matchup for the Panthers. Virginia's pass defense, like Pitt's has been downright bad. Pitt ranks 123rd in the nation in pass defense and Virginia sits at 125th, allowing over 300 yards per game.

That seems to be a decent matchup for Pitt as well as the Panthers' passing game has heated up a bit in the past two weeks. Against Marshall, quarterback Nathan Peterman had a career-high 280 passing yards. This week against Georgia Tech, he had 192. Those are two of his three highest totals on the season and Pitt's passing game is finally beginning to click.

Pitt shouldn't take Virginia lightly and the Cavaliers' ability to pass the ball will be something to watch. However, with Virginia's own problems on defense, Pitt should also have a good chance to pick up a win this weekend on the road.

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