Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone. If you didn’t get a chance to check out Reed’s farewell article yesterday, please take a look. He’s the reason why we are here and he’ll always have a place in Pitt POV legend and lore. Definitely worth a read.
Now that you’ve done that, onto Miami.
Imagine this: An underperforming team with a true freshman quarterback takes on a the Coastal Division champ in the final game of the season and pulls off the upset.
Yep. That was us last year. Hail to freakin’ Pitt.
This year it’s Miami.
There are differences, of course. Miami True Frosh QB N’Kosi Perry is a four star recruit. Picket was a three. Also, Miami committed to Perry early, and they’ve played him in 8 games so far. Pitt held back on Pickett, and he had played in only two coming into the Miami. Lastly, Pitt was the underdog last year. And…somewhat surprisingly (or maybe not given the national media’s bias against Pitt) Pitt is the underdog again.
So lets talk about Perry.
First off, right now Perry is not a great passer, at least statistically. He’s completing 56% of his passes on the season at 6.4 yards per attempt on the season. To his credit he’s thrown 13 TD’s to only 5 picks. All this is good for a rating of 129.6. Not exactly stellar. With the exception of the TD / Int ratio, Perry has roughly the same stat line as the 2017 version of Ben Dinucci (56% / 6.9 YPA). Sure, Perry probably has more upside then DiNucci, but you have to like the fact that Perry has not yet developed into an NFL caliber passer. Yes he can still hurt you with his legs, but we seem to have figured that out as of late (no whammy, no whammy…)
Also I want to point out that Perry has not been a great against ACC competition. His last two games vs. GA Tech and Virginia Tech were not his worst, but they were also below his season averages. We arguably are playing as good or better defense than these two teams recently.
Perry in last two games (avg)
122 passer rating
Just for Kicks and Giggles: Pickett in Last 2 games (avg)
11.6 YPA (I’m not making this up folks)
200+ passer rating
All this to say that Perry’s level of play, assuming he does not break out on Saturday, pretty much plays into our defense’s strength. As Alan Saunders pointed out in his recent film study article, the Pitt Defense benefits from inaccurate and inexperienced passers. Lets hope Perry remains true to form on Saturday, and lets also hope that we can dial up some pressure on the quarterback.
The Miami Running game is another story. Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas are a dual threat to be reckoned with. They are both smaller backs (Dallas is the bigger of the two at 5’11” / 200), and lightning quick. And they’ve racked up 1371 yards between them for an average of ~5.7 yards per rush. We will need to continue to plug the gaps and tackle well or it will be a long day. I’d recommend the coaching staff watch the BC and GA Tech game films, because those teams held these guys to about 3 yards per attempt.
Now lets talk about the defense.
Miami has the #3 defense in the country. Yes. #3. We should be worried.
In many ways this will be a good warm up for the ACC Championship vs Clemson (they have the #2 defense) because I expect our band of gritty two-and-three star offensive players to be severely overmatched for much of the day.
Yes, Shawn Watson will have his work cut out for him. Nonetheless, Miami has lost five games this season, three of them against teams that we’ve beaten. So they are not invulnerable.
Virginia beat them with defense and special teams.
Georgia Tech did it with turnovers. (they are #14 in the nation in turnover margin. For the record, we are #37)
Duke did it with a jump pass in the rain.
All of these games were low scoring affairs.
Which leads me to believe this game will be too.
The bottom line is that Pitt has too much heart to lose to a faltering Mark Richt Miami team, even though the talent gap is still pretty wide. Miami will make mistakes and the Panthers will capitalize. And there is the very real possibility that after we beat on them for three quarters, Miami will quit. Pitt wins 21 – 17.