When Pitt and Duke have hooked up the past two seasons, the guy with the toughest job in the stadium has been the scoreboard operator.
In their two ACC meetings, the Panthers and Blue Devils have combined to score 212 points (106 each).
The two teams meet again on Saturday with a lot on the line. Both are riding two-game losing streaks. Pitt was beaten at home by Notre Dame 42-30, while the Blue Devils were crushed by North Carolina 66-31.
Pitt is looking to stay in the ACC Coastal race, while Duke’s seniors, who have won 31 games as a class, look to finish the season on a strong note.
Who has the advantage?
Let’s take a look.
When: Saturday, November 13
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC.
Time: Noon, EST
Watch: ESPN News
Spread: Duke (-2.5)
Series Began: 1929
Series Overall: Pitt leads 10-9
ACC Series: Series tied 1-1
At Pittsburgh: Duke leads 5-4
At Duke: Pitt leads 6-4
Last Meeting at Pitt: Nov. 1, 2014 (2OT: Duke 51, Pitt 48)
Last Meeting at Duke: Sept. 21, 2013 (Pitt 58, Duke 55)
Current Series Streak: Duke has won 1 (2014)
Longest Pitt Series Win Streak: 4 (1969, 1975-76, 2013)
Longest Duke Series Win Streak: 5 (1940-42, 1950-51)
Largest Pitt Victory Margin: 45 points (52-7, 1929)
Largest Duke Victory Margin: 28 points (28-0, 1942)
Keys for Pitt (6-3, 4-1 ACC)
1. Eliminate the big play- One thing that has killed the Panthers in their past two losses has been allowing the big pass play. Corners Avonte Maddox and Lafayette Pitts have struggled at times this season and they must be good on Saturday. Some of the secondary struggles are due to the lack of the pass rush all of the sudden, but Pitt can’t win if they are giving up big pass plays for the third week in a row. ND’s Will Fuller had his way against Maddox and Duke’s Max McCaffrey could create similar matchup problems.Duke QB Thomas Sirk will also be a problem as Pitt has struggled badly the past three weeks against running quarterbacks.
2. Take Shots- The Panthers have to stretch the field, which should make their run game better as well. Tyler Boyd had only three catches last week. That can’t happen this week. Nate Peterman started the game just 3-of-18 last week against Notre Dame. He has to be better and has to get the ball to his playmakers when the opportunities to make plays arise. Pitt is likely going to need a few big plays to win this game and the offense must deliver. In its last three games, Duke has allowed an average of 46 points and 516 yards. They also have allowed well over 1,000 yards and nine touchdown passes in just the last three games. This Duke defense was once ranked in the Top 10 nationally. It is reeling and the Panthers need to take advantage.
3. Splash plays- Plain and simple, while the Pitt defense has been good, there haven’t been enough big plays recently. Pitt needs to get to the quarterback, as the sack has been missing the last three weeks. They also need to force some turnovers. They also must tackle much better. Possibly playing in the Panthers favor is the fact that Sirk is questionable after suffering an upper body injury last week. He’s third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in total offense, which will be a big loss if the Blue Devils have to turn to backup Parker Boehme.
Keys for Duke (6-3, 3-2):
1. Eliminate turnovers- Duke must eliminate turnovers. Turnovers hurt the Blue Devils last week against UNC and have proven costly other weeks as well. With an uncertain situation at quarterback, Duke may be better off turning to the run game and moving the chains.
2. Find Tyler Boyd- As mentioned before, Boyd had only three catches last week. You can bet the Panthers are going to try and get him the ball as much as possible this week. The same could be said for freshman Jordan Whitehead, who will see a few touches as well. Pitt will find creative was to get both of their playmakers the football. Duke has to recognize that and get stops defensively.
3. Take away the run- Duke likes to line up in the nickel and will do so most of the game. That means Pitt running back Qadree Ollison (5.3 yards per carry) could be in for a big game. If Ollison is effective, it will open up the downfield passing game. Duke needs to stop the Pitt ground game and make them one dimensional. If they do so they win easily.
Prediction: Both teams need a win after dropping their past two, although Pitt has looked much better in defeat than Duke has. If Sirk can’t go, that puts a lot of pressure on Boehme, who has not played meaningful minutes in a competitive game. That being the case I like Pitt to bounce back. We will find out what this team is made of in a very tough road game. It is Senior Day in Durham and Duke has not lost three straight games since the 2012 season when this year’s seniors were freshmen. Rememember last year when Chris Blewitt blew it? Not this time. It won’t be a shootout like the past two meetings, but it will be entertaining nonetheless. Pitt 27 Duke 24