This weekend, Pitt faces 4-3 Duke on the road. Both teams will be looking to end a losing streak.
After beating Rice a few weeks ago, the Panthers will be trying to snap a two-game losing streak having lost to Syracuse and North Carolina State since their last win. The Blue Devils have gone even longer without a victory. After a 4-0 start, Duke has dropped three straight to fall to 4-3.
Duke has a significantly better record than the 2-5 Panthers but I’m not convinced they’re much, if any, better. The Blue Devils were able to get off to a strong start with a pretty weak schedule early on, beating North Carolina Central, Baylor, Northwestern, and North Carolina. Baylor is winless and North Carolina is only 1-6. Northwestern is probably the best of the bunch and they’re only 3-3.
When the Blue Devils have faced better teams, they’ve fallen flat. Duke was beaten badly by Miami, 31-6 to drop them to 4-1. Next, they lost to Virginia, 28-21. This week, they put up a fight against reeling Florida State, but still lost at home, 17-10. Add it all up and you get the 4-3 record.
Both teams really could use a win but the Blue Devils seemingly have more to play for in trying to get to bowl eligibility. The Panthers aren’t eliminated from bowl consideration but, given how they’ve played so far, don’t have much hope to play in the postseason.
Like Pitt, Duke has had some spotty quarterback play and it will be interesting to see how the Panthers fare against a team without a strong signal-caller. Pitt has faced a ton of really good quarterbacks this season and should get a bit of a breather against Duke. Daniel Jones is completing about 55% of his passes and is averaging only about 170 passing yards per game. On the year, he has only six touchdown passes to five interceptions.
The Blue Devils have a decent running game with a three-headed attack. Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown lead the way as both have more than 400 yards on the ground and each averages 5.9 yards per carry. After the big 80+ yard run Pitt allowed to NC State this past weekend, the Panthers will have to contain those guys.
Defensively, Duke has really been pretty good. The Blue Devils have only given up more than 20 points twice this year. Facing a Pitt offense that has struggled quite a bit this year, they could give the Panthers some trouble as the offense to tries to find its way without starting quarterback Max Browne.
This is a game that I really wish Pitt had at home. I think it’s winnable and would give the Panthers an even better shot if they were at Heinz Field. Even on the road, though, Pitt should still have a fighting chance at a win here.