FACTS & STATS: Site: Heinz Field (65,500) — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Television: ESPN. Home Record: VT 2-2, Pitt 1-2. Away Record: VT 2-0, Pitt
2-1. Neutral Record: VT 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Conference Record: VT 1-1, Pitt 1-1.
Series Record: Virginia Tech leads, 8-5.
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Tech Hokies and the Pittsburgh Panthers will both try
to surge above .500 in Atlantic Coast Conference play on Thursday night when
the squads meet up at Heinz Field.
Virginia Tech burst onto the national scene with a Sept. 6 upset at Ohio
State, 35-21, but followed that up by dropping back-to-back games to East
Carolina (28-21) and Georgia Tech (27-24). The Hokies have rebounded to 4-2
overall with triumphs over Western Michigan (35-17) and North Carolina
(34-17), the latter their first ACC win of the year.
Pitt came storming out of the gate this season with three consecutive
victories, including in its ACC opener at Boston College on Sept. 5 (30-20),
but since then it has come crashing down to Earth with three straight losses.
The Panthers took a road loss at Virginia on Oct. 4 (24-19), and like Virginia
Tech, they had a bye last week in preparation for the midweek showdown.
Virginia Tech holds an 8-5 advantage over Pitt in the all-time series,
although the Panthers have come away victorious in four of the last five
The Hokies’ offense has been stellar this season, putting up 30.5 ppg and
411.3 ypg while converting third downs at nearly a 50 percent success rate.
Michael Brewer has been wildly inconsistent under center. On the positive side
of things, he’s completing 61.8 percent of his throws for 234.8 ypg and 10
touchdowns, but he’s also tossed 11 interceptions, which is tied for second
most in the country.
Willie Byrn has caught a team-best 29 passes but he’s averaging just eight
yards per catch (231 yards). Isaiah Ford (28 receptions, 366 yards) and Bucky
Hodges (17 receptions, 234 yards) have both been huge in the red zone with
four touchdowns apiece.
Leading rusher Marshawn Williams (85 carries, 337 yards, three TDs) is out
indefinitely with an ankle injury and Shai McKenzie (53 carries, 279 yards,
three TDs) is done for the season with a knee injury, leaving Joel Caleb (84
yards) and J.C. Coleman (61 yards, two TDs) at the top of a thin running back
Virginia Tech has impressed on the defensive side of the ball as well,
allowing less than 20 points per game and 325.2 ypg while forcing 12
Chase Williams is the top defensive playmaker with 49 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.5
sacks and a forced fumble. Kyshoen Jarrett has picked off two passes and Deon
Clarke (6.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks), Dadi Nicolas (7.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks), Ken Ekanem
(8.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks) and Derek Di Nardo (4.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) all put a lot of
pressure on the backfield.
Pitt’s offense (30.5 ppg, 405.3 ypg) is trending in the wrong direction, as it
has scored 20 points or less in three straight games. The unit amassed only
311 yards in its most recent loss to UVA.
The Panthers’ gameplan revolves around their stud tailback James Connor, who
ranks second in the nation in carries (156) and fifth in yards (874) while
scoring nine touchdowns.
Chad Voytik attempts less than 24 passes per game and completes them at just a
58.7 percent rate. He’s thrown for 949 yards, eight touchdowns and five
interceptions while adding solid rushing totals (169 yards, TD).
Voytik has developed a strong rapport with Tyler Boyd, who has caught 30
passes for 428 yards and four touchdowns. Manasseh Garner (14 receptions, 164
yards, two TDs) is the only other player with double-digit receptions.
The Panthers also have an stout defense, allowing 19.0 ppg and 278.7 ypg, the
latter ranking fourth-best in the country.
Terrish Webb and Ray Vinopal have both tallied two interceptions, while Reggie
Mitchell has defended five passes. Anthony Gonzalez anchors the unit at
linebacker with a team-best 36 tackles.
Despite holding the homefield advantage, Pitt is moving in the wrong
direction in the hurry and will have its hands full against a well-rounded
Virginia Tech squad. The Hokies have some issues of their own with a whopping
20 players appearing on the early-week injury report, but their playmaking
defense will come up with a few big plays to catapult them to victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Tech 20, Pittsburgh 17