Pitt will play Miami for the 39th time on Saturday, and for the first time in a long time, Pitt will be favored to win.  Pitt has only beaten Miami 11 times in the previous 38 tries, and Pitt has only beaten Miami six times at home.

But this year is different.  The Panthers are bringing an aggressive and talented defense to the party, one that leads the country in sacks.  Miami, on the other hand, is bringing one of the worst offensive lines in the country.

Just how bad is Miami’s offensive line?  Lets just say they are in the top 4%…in the wrong way.  They rank 125th (out of 130) in TFL allowed.  They rank 127th in sacks allowed.  They rank 128th in sack rate.  They are so bad in fact, that two former Miami offensive linemen got together on a podcast to talk about just how bad they are.  Go ahead and give a listen by clicking on this link.  This, people, is how you complain about an offensive line.  I’m setting the sacks over-under at 10.

So yes, we can expect Miami’s o-line to be a turnstile.  And that is not a good thing for the Cane’s top two quarterbacks, because both of them have. shoulder issues.

In addition to that Miami’s top running back is likely to be sidelined and their #2 wide receiver is serving out a suspension.

Like I said, this year is different.

The ‘Canes do have one of the nation’s best receiving tight ends at their disposal however.  6’3″ Sophomore Brevin Jordan has posted 28 catches on the season for 438 yards.  That’s 15.6 YPC.  Can you imagine what Mark Whipple would do with such a talent?  We Pitt fans can only dream…

Miami also has a pretty good backup running back.  Cam’Ron Harris ran for 138 yards on 18 carries vs. Georgia tech.  That’s 7.6 YPC folks.  Pitt needs to continue to focus on stopping the run.

When Miami’s injured QB’s have had time to throw they haven’t been bad.  Together Jarren Williams and N’Kosi Perry have combined for over 1900 yards and 15 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 151.

But despite the nice passing numbers, Miami’s weakness plays right into Pitt’s strength.  As long as Pitt’s front seven shows up to play on Saturday, it’s going to be along day for Williams and Perry.  If things get really ugly, its conceivable that the ‘Canes may have to go to their third string option, Ohio State transfer Tate Martell.  We Pitt fans can only dream…

On the other side of the ball, Miami’s defense is pretty talented.  If they decide to play with discipline, it could be just as long of a day for Kenny Pickett as it is for Williams and Perry.

Senior Linebacker Shaq Quarterman leads the unit with 51 tackles.  He gave Pitt fits last season and I’d expect him to be all over the field again on Saturday.

Pitt catches a bit of a break at outside linebacker.  Starter Michael Pickney (38 tackles, 3 sacks) is listed as doubtful and won’t start.  Former four-star recruit Zach McCloud starts in Pickney’s place.  He’s got three tackles on the season, but registered 44 last year in limited action.  Feels like an area that Mark Whipple may want to try to exploit, if only because McCloud could be prone to mistakes.

The biggest area of concern for Pitt is not at linebacker though.  It’s the defensive line.  The Cane’s Redshirt freshman DE Gregory Rosseau has 5 sacks on the season.  Senior DE Trevon Hill has come on lately, notching three sacks in his last four games.  Pitt is going to need to rely on short drops or get their offensive tackles some help on Saturday if they want to move the ball through the air.

Pitt’s line is also going to have to figure out how to pick up the blitz.  DB Trajan Bandy has three sacks.  DB Gurvan Hall has two.

Miami’s total passing defense is not all that bad, possibly because they are pretty good at generating pressure.  They’re giving up 201 YPG.  Games against Georgia Tech (138 yards passing), Central Michigan (217 yards passing) and Bethune-Cookman (67 yards passing) have helped though.  Against legitimate Power 5 passing teams, Miami’s defense has given up 260 yards per game.  Assuming Pitt can provide some semblance of pass protection, then I think we should expect to see a similar output from Pitt.

Miami’s rushing defense is stout, giving up just 96 YPG.  In seven games only two teams have gone for more than 100 yards against the ‘Canes.  Georgia Tech ran for 207 last week.  Virginia Tech ran for 150+ just a few weeks prior.  Tech and Tech are 64th and 57th in rushing respectively.  Pitt on the other hand is 109th, so under 100 yards rushing is probably a pretty safe bet.

On the special teams front, Pitt’s kicking game is trending up.  Alex Kessman is a perfect four-for-four after switching to his blue suede shoes for the Duke Game.

Miami’s kicking game is trending in the opposite direction.  Miami’s two kickers Turner Davidson and Bubba Baxa were a combined 0-3 last week against Georgia Tech (although one of the three was blocked).

There is also the weather to consider.  There’s a 45% chance of rain at noon on Saturday, with mid-50 degree temperatures (just cold enough to make those Miami boys uncomfortable).  You’d like to think that gives Pitt the advantage.

With all that said, this is a game that Pitt should win.  They’re 5.5 point favorites.  ESPN’s notoriously anti-Pitt FPI gives Pitt a slightly better than 50% chance.  The Miami program is reeling.  But alas this is Pitt, and while our beloved Panthers have shown signs of turning the “Same Old Pitt” corner, we Pitt fans need to continue to brace ourselves for a letdown.  Dare we hope to live up to expectations and play ourselves into the top 25?  I say dare at your own risk, but hold out hope that this year is indeed different.

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone

49 thoughts on “Miami Preview

  1. Another excellent article/synopsis of the two teams’ strengths and weaknesses, MM. Mot sure I can go with the over on sacks, only because I believe our DL will pressure the QB to the extant that Miami will run the ball 70% of the time. Hopefully our TFLs will rise because of this.

    Hopefully T. Mack will be ready to go. Otherwise, I look for Shocky to fill the gap. Hopefully he has developed Mack-like hands.

    H2P

    Liked by 2 people

  2. We loyal Pitt fans know we are now entering very dangerous territory. Pitt is favored! Against Miami! On National TV (ESPN). Oh how can I see this whole thing heading south. As you pointed out, if we win we will be ranked in the top 25. All this is bringing out the pessimist in me!

    I can see it now, Pickett gets knocked out of the game on the first series throwing a pick six. Patti comes in and lead Miami to two more scores. Pitt’s defense hangs tough and does not allow an offensive touchdown but Pitt loses 21-7. Now that I have painted the worst case scenario, everyone can discuss how it will be different this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Is it Harris (#23) that is doubtful? He’s quick, agile and fast so that is good for us if he is out.

    The Canes have our number, but I’m picking Pitt to win this one.

    Hopefully, Whipple game plans around the aggressive Miami defense to keep the pressure off of Kenny.

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  4. SC John- not worry! Our hopes have been dashed so many times we all have doubt-filled minds/hearts.

    However, that is us. This team is brimming in confidence. They know how to win scoring in only half the game. They know they can beat the crap out of the opponent, and have enough in the tank to finish them off in Q4.

    I talked to a Miami alum in our company today, and he told me, “Don’t worry, you guys will kill us!” They are the ones full of doubt!

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  5. —A win would give Pitt FIVE wins in a row for the first time since Wanny.

    —Dan Marino will be in attendance…

    Yikes! And double yikes!

    Hail to Pitt!

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  6. If it rains that helps Miami IMO as it neutralizes the field of play. A Pitt CB can slip and fall just as easily as a Miami CB. And it’s going to be big plays and few mistakes that has one team winning IMO. A clean field gives the “superior team” the advantage and a wet field tends to take the away advantages on both sides.—-NOTE: I did use the term “superior team” and I consider Pitt to be that team right now. As for superior talent I really think it may reside on the Miami sideline. From another blog it was posted by someone that in the 2018 Miami recruiting class they had TWO 5 stars and FOURTEEN 4 stars. So I think it’s fair to say that there is a considerable amount talent over on the opposition sideline this week.

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  7. Like

    1. This is the type of stats that I am amazed that someone is tracking.

      I have a spreadsheet on Pitt recruiting but not on any other team. Whoever is doing this has to keep track of recruits by year. Was that recruit have initial eligibility. Did that recruit enter the portal in later years? Did he go pro after three years. Did he portal into the this team. Amazing to track. Must be the use of technology & crunching of data’

      BTW – Using Rival’s, Pitt only has 5 4 stars – Hamlin, Watts, Ford, A.J Davis & Beville. Maybe the data above is at opening day roster. Salahuddin was a 4 when he entered the portal..

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Michaelangelo, not totally sure what this means. Last year’s scores and rating of recruits from high school?? In running a business, not enough to make a major financial decision. I still would go with the present season’s stats. God, I hate our “new” retro colors. Classless! And I will keep saying it until we change back to where we were.

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  8. I guess I can’t wipe out the memory of what Miami did to us last year.

    We are both different teams this year, but we are still Pitt and they are Miami.

    Their 33 4 & 5 star guys vs our 6.

    The other concern is the loss of Mack our number 1 offensive weapon.

    Then you have our record of miserable fails when the biggest chips are on the line.

    I am hoping that with AJ back our running game is rounding into shape, we will need it.

    I need some of Ike and Dr Tom’s positive vibes this morning and another cuppa.

    Whatever happened to Reed and UPitt. Haven’t been heard from during the win streak.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ^^ gc, some people take a PITT win a little harder than others.

      Richard, I’m with you on the question as to who in the heck follows stats like that. Pretty amazing.

      PITT wins PITT wins! Be it by one point or whatever……… PITT wins!

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  9. Lets hope so Fran.. I am with jrn -rain would neutralize our passing game… heck we have problems holding onto a dry ball… hope KP has a pair of gortex baby blues….

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I heard that Oprah is going to be at the game tomorrow & will be giving our Defensive Squad a pregame pep talk. I can hear her now referring to use producing some QB sacks, “and I want you to get one and you get one and you get one, everybody get’s at least one”!

    H2P!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Excellent job of digging up background info, especially injury situations, and another terrific write-up, Michael! Unfortunately my days of thinking an opponent’s injuries would give Pitt an advantage some way ended with David Thompson in 1974. Nothing would surprise me tomorrow. A close game or a blowout in either direction. Who knows?

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  12. I never worry about what happened last year, those were different times altogether. I’m with Narduzzi on that one as well. The only game that matters is the next one and that game is almost at hand.

    Not sure if KP has big enough hands to be effective in the rain with a wet ball? PITT needs to get a nice lead before the rain comes and let Miami worry about a wet ball.

    I think it’s RB Brian Dallas out for this game, Harris is the Miami RB back-up and should play, he’s also very good.

    I watched a little of the Miami game last week, That Davidson kicker kicks like a jr high kicker. The other dude is way better but his confidence is fractured. Let’s hope it stays that way another week.

    My key to the game is not letting the Miami QB out of the pocket and watch for designed runs. (QB draws and such)

    Doesn’t a 45% chance of rain mean that there is a 55% chance it won’t rain at noon?

    Let’s just win this dam game and get that doubting Thomas monkey off out backs!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Bad feeling about this game.

    Lair people think it will be a cakewalk.

    Pickett’s shoulder is bad and Whipple is doing nothing to protect him, neither is the O-line.

    Miami will torch Pitt deep as Bates won’t change his coverage and drop the two safeties deep.

    It’s back to same old Pitt I’m afraid.

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  14. I expect a low scoring and relatively close game. If Pitt can protect Kenny and if the D can get some turnovers, Pitt covers the spread. Too bad an ugly will be the weather. But the tailgate is always good.

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  15. My son sent me a video of a Pitt game from 40 years ago where Pitt beat a 5-1 Washington team in Seattle. Jackie Sherrill was the Coach – and he walked the sideline looking sharp in his gold sports coat and a tie.

    The list of Pitt players was impressive – Meisner, Boyarsky, Green, Jackson, Sunseri, Rooster Jones, Randy MacMillan, Mark May, Emil Boures, Benji Pryor — to name some.

    The POV would have been in an uproar. Rick Trocano was the QB. A freshman kid named Marino was on the bench. Pitt was 5-1 and this may have been Trocano’s last game as QB before Dan took over…

    What was odd was that Pitt was running an option offense with the tailback and fullback — and the play calling was run heavy with Trocano having several carries while I watched. He completed some passes, but his throws came up short to some open receivers… Anyway, Pitt won.

    Another odd thing – when I started to watch the game, I assumed it was a national broadcast – I didn’t recognize the voices. But after a while, i realized I was listening to the young and faster talking Billy Hillgrove and his partner, Johnny Sauer.

    BTW, Pitt ended up going 11-1 that season.

    The lone loss—— of course, UNC…

    Go Pitt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A quirky thing about that game — Dave Trout did the kickoffs soccer style, but Shubert kicked a field goal and the extra points that I saw in the old-fashion straight-on style…

      Go Pitt.

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    2. Jackie was a sharp dresser unlike Chryst. Dress to impress.

      If only Pitt could have kept him but the admin was de-emphasizing sports and becoming anal about compliance. The culture shifted. Jackie saw it. But I know he loved Pitt and would have loved to stay.

      He would have prevented Paterno from winning those two national titles in the 80’s. For that, you couldn’t pay the man enough.

      What could have been.

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      1. We will always be uneasy going into games until we start annialating our foes on a regular basis…. for the time being- enjoy the suspense…. nothing could feel worse than being King if the Hill and losing to a Jerry Falwell coached ND team or being 10-0 , ranked #1 getting ready to go Up 21-0 on the Nits only to get our collective asses handed to us… and I mean nothing has ever felt worse!!!

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  16. I’m thinking whoever’s knocks out one (or both) of the U QBs gets to TRIPLE DUNK on the BB Hoop. And I think both are finished off tomorrow. Even bigger, the turnover chain (never capitalized!) never gets outta the case!

    We win on KP’s 3 TD passes and “2/2 for Baby Blue”

    If I may be so bold as to borrow from our Crap Heel Brotheren: “If God is not a Panther, then why are our kickerz shoes Sky Blue?”

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  17. I want to feel optimistic, but Miami is one of those teams that will always be a bad matchup for Pitt, regardless of record. Florida State, which is on the schedule next season, will be the same. I’d feel more secure if I knew Mack was playing since his contested catches are a big part of the offense, especially when Pickett is under pressure, as he will be often. I think the defense can hold Miami to about 20-23 points, but to win, Pitt will need to clean up the penalties and gain an advantage on special teams. Christodoulou and Kessmann are keys to victory.

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  18. Pitt proved last week that it knows how to take advantage of a bad OL but 10 sacks is too big a number, but I don’t think that 8 is unrealistic. However, expect Miami to go run heavy so the LBs better be ready to plug the holes from its DL going up field with abandon.

    If weather is bad and with these two defenses being the strength of each team, I think the first to 17 may be the winner. Miami has no reason to be complacent this year, like they did the last time in town, so their 4-5 stars may have their heads in the game, and let their talent win out.

    I fear that this is the game where Pitt’s 2nd half swoon will catch up to them. It has to sooner or later, so I’m not going to the game with much confidence. I’m a broken record but when both offenses are suspect, turnovers resulting in short fields, and D scores will likely win the game.

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