FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Life Stadium (76,100) — Miami Gardens, Florida.
Television: ESPN 2. Home Record: Pittsburgh 3-4, Miami-Florida 5-1. Away
Record: Pittsburgh 2-2, Miami-Florida 1-4. Neutral Record: Pittsburgh 0-0,
Miami-Florida 0-0. Conference Record: Pittsburgh 3-4, Miami-Florida 3-4.
Series Record: Miami-Florida leads, 23-9-1.
GAME NOTES: Entering the final weekend of the regular season, the Pittsburgh
Panthers and the Miami Hurricanes will clash in an Atlantic Coast Conference
battle at Sun Life Stadium Saturday.
Pittsburgh clings to a 5-6 record on the season, and is desperately trying to
work its way to .500 and possibly become bowl eligible. The Panthers put a
stop to a three-game losing streak with a commanding 30-7 victory over
Syracuse last weekend.
Miami, sitting at 6-5 on the season, likely has a bowl spot wrapped up. The
team will try and avoid slipping down to .500 at home this weekend against
Pitt. But the Hurricanes have lost two straight contests, with a 30-13
pounding from Virginia the most recent on the slate.
These two conference rivals have met plenty of times on the football field in
their history, and Miami has dominated that series with a 23-9-1 overall
record against Pitt. The two sides played last year in the regular-season
finale as well, which Miami won on the road, 41-31.
Although Pittsburgh’s season has been largely up and down, the offense has
remained a threat on the legs of running back James Conner, who has rushed for
an even 1,600 yards and 22 touchdowns on 261 carries. His 145.5 rushing ypg
mark is by far the most on the team, and he’s the primary reason the Panthers
average 253.6 ypg on the ground.
Quarterback Chad Voytik hasn’t been overly spectacular this season, but with
such a powerful Pitt running game, he generally just needs to be a game
manager. The signal caller has thrown for 1,877 yards and 14 touchdowns
against seven interceptions on the year, and has added two rushing scores as
well. He and Conner have helped Pittsburgh to average 31.4 ppg this season.
When it comes to threats through the air for the Panthers, Tyler Boyd has
proven to be the most notable. The pass catcher has hauled in 64 targets for
1,077 yards and seven touchdowns. The next-highest reception total on the team
belongs to J.P. Holtz and his 18 catches. He does have three receiving scores,
Defense has been a problem at times for the Panthers, who allow opponents to
score 25.8 ppg this season through the team’s 11 games played. Although
Pittsburgh only surrenders 342.7 offensive ypg, the team still finds itself
with a sub-.500 record. In the team’s three-game losing streak prior to last
weekend’s win, the Panthers let up 56, 51 and 40 points, respectively, to ACC
Todd Thomas and Anthony Gonzalez each are at the top of the team’s tackle
charts with 67 on the year, but otherwise the two haven’t been very productive
elsewhere. Rori Blair leads the team with just four sacks this season for a
team that has racked up just 16 combined through 11 games played. With just
four fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions, the Panthers need to create
turnovers in this contest to remain competitive.
Miami’s offense has been largely focused on quarterback Brad Kaaya and running
back Duke Johnson, who are the key cogs in a unit that averages 30.5 ppg this
season. Johnson has been on fire recently, and now has 1,431 yards and 10
touchdowns entering this last contest of the regular season. He averages 130.1
rushing ypg to lead the team.
Kaaya has gotten the start in all 11 games for the Hurricanes, and has looked
very strong with a 152.6 passer efficiency rating and a 60 completion
percentage. The quarterback has thrown for 2,666 yards and has amassed 23
touchdowns with 11 interceptions. The Miami offense behind Johnson and Kaaya
is averaging 431.9 offensive ypg through 11 contests.
Phillip Dorsett leads the Hurricanes this season with 11 touchdown receptions,
but Clive Walford tops the squad with 40 receptions on the season. Walford has
hauled in 627 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 57.0 receiving
ypg. Johnson has been very effective in the passing game as well, catching 30
balls for 354 yards with two touchdowns this season.
Defensively, Miami has shown to be a strong team in 2014, allowing just 23.4
ppg to opponents through those 11 games played. The Hurricanes have
surrendered 30 points each in the team’s back-to-back losses, but before that
Miami gave up 26 points combined in the previous two weeks. Opponents are
managing just 325.5 offensive ypg against the Hurricanes.
Denzel Perryman leads Miami this season with 96 total tackles, adding in seven
tackles for loss, two sacks, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles to
his stat line. He has over 40 tackles more than the second-place Hurricanes
player on the squad – Jermaine Grace, who has notched 53 stops. Having forced
15 fumbles this season with 13 recoveries, the Hurricanes will want to try and
jar the ball loose against Conner and Pittsburgh’s ground game.
Miami is likely headed to a bowl game, while Pittsburgh needs a win badly in
order to feel at least semi-secure about the team’s odds at a postseason
berth. But playing in Florida against a tough Miami team on both sides of the
ball might be a tall order for the Panthers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami 34, Pittsburgh 28