Pitt’s football season is nearly over and, safe to say, it’s been a rough one. The Panthers will clinch their first losing regular season since 2007. More than that, the team has had some really tough losses this year.
Pitt lost by 19 to rival Penn State, was blown out at home by Oklahoma State, lost by 18 to both NC State and Georgia Tech, lost to a 4-7 Syracuse team, and worse, lost to North Carolina, which has no other conference wins. As if all of that wasn’t enough, Pitt suffered a heartbreaker this past weekend to Virginia Tech, failing to score on four attempts from inside the 2-yard line, which almost certainly would have given the team a win in the final minute.
The season, somewhat mercifully, comes to a close on Friday against unbeaten and top five Miami. Pitt can’t spoil the Hurricanes’ season as they are already moving on to the ACC championship game. However, they can pick up a big win over a top foe, which would give head coach Pat Narduzzi and the team another statement victory.
Pitt will surely have its hands full. The Hurricanes haven’t lost this season and have strung together ten straight wins, including an impressive 41-8 beatdown over a top ten Notre Dame team. Miami struggled a little this week as Virginia played them close but ultimately pulled away at the end.
Now, the Hurricanes haven’t played an ultra tough schedule. Aside from Notre Dame, their best win was against Virginia Tech, who looks much less impressive now with three losses. But Miami is still undefeated and, at times, has looked very, very good.
On offense, the name of the game for Miami is balance, The Hurricanes don’t excel in rushing or passing but do both reasonably well. It’s led to a team that scores 33.7 points per game. But like Pitt’s last opponent in Virginia Tech, it’s defense that has made the Hurricanes this season.
Miami gives up only 17.7 points per game, good for 15th in the nation. They haven’t earned any shutouts this year but have more than dominanted opposing offenses, including against some of the best teams they’ve faced. In victories, Miami allowed only six to Duke, eight to Notre Dame, and ten to Virginia Tech. Only two teams have scored more than 20 all season against them (Toledo and Virginia).
That might suggest a lower scoring game as it was this weekend for Pitt facing Virginia Tech. Miami’s defense is elite and while the Panthers have had some struggles there, they’ve held three of their last four opponents to no more than 20 points. The defense continues to make strides and while I still think there are some questions (those last four games have included some weaker opponents), holding a good Virginia Tech team to only 20 points this weekend on the road was another great performance.
This could be a lower-scoring game than expected but it’s worth pointing out that Miami’s offense seems to be clicking lately. The Hurricanes have had two of their highest scoring outputs this season lately, putting up 41 against Notre Dame a few weeks ago and 44 against Virginia this weekend.
In other words, good luck trying to figure out what kind of a game on Friday.