With a game against Miami coming up in Week Nine, the Pittsburgh Panthers just need to play their brand of football to continue their winning streak.
With four straight wins and a 5-2 overall record on the season, the Pittsburgh Panthers enter Week Nine looking to defeat an inconsistent but talented Miami team. On the one hand, Miami has shown flashes of excellence this season, beating a Virginia team that embarrassed Pitt in Week One. On the other hand, however, they are fresh off a loss to a Georgia Tech team that nobody is mistaking for a powerhouse. Depending on which version of Miami we see this weekend, Pitt could either be in for an easy win or a momentum-ending loss.
For Pitt, victory may come down to relying on the same basic principles that have gotten them this far. Behind a feisty defense, Pitt has been able to overwhelm opposing offenses with a mix of excellent pass-rushers and instinctive play from the linebackers and secondary. Given that Miami is hardly a juggernaut on offense and has a leaky offensive line that frequently breaks down, Pitt’s defense has an opportunity to make a massive impact on this game. Given the amount of pressure Miami’s offensive line gives up, guys like Habakkuk Baldonado and Deslin Alexandre to dominate after a relatively quiet few weeks.
As good as Pitt’s defense can be, it will be up to the offense to take advantage and put points on the board. Kenny Pickett, though improved from last season, remains a limited quarterback overall. He struggles when trying to push the ball downfield, and when he feels pressure he tends to freak out and throw poor passes. Against a Miami defense that has been stingy throughout the season. Pickett has stepped up in some big spots this season, but this will be a true test of just how far he has come as a thrower.
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A wild-card for Pitt in this game will be the effectiveness of their running game. A.J. Davis is coming off a nice, 103-yard performance against Syracuse but has been inconsistent as a lead back this season. The same could be said for Todd Sibley Jr. who has a 100-yard rushing performance on the season but has too often been hesitant and ineffective with his carries. It won’t be easy against Miami’s strong front seven, but if Pitt can run the ball effectively, it would take a ton of pressure off Pickett while simultaneously controlling the clock and limiting Miami’s offensive possessions.
This is ultimately a game the Pitt should win, but it won’t be easy. Miami is a more dangerous team than their 3-4 record suggests, and Pitt isn’t as dominant as their 5-2 mark. That said, Pitt is still the better team in this matchup, and as long as they continue to play strong defense and good enough offense, their winning streak should continue.