After a week off following their first loss of the season, the Pitt Panthers begin ACC play on Saturday against a familiar opponent in Virginia Tech.
Pitt has had success against the Hokies and will look to get ACC play off on a good note.
Pitt has won five of the last six games in the series, but have lost five of the last six played in Lane Stadium.
Who has the advantage?
Let’s take a look.
When: Saturday, October 3
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
Time: Noon EST
Watch: Root Sports Pittsburgh
Spread: Virginia Tech (-4)
Series Began: 1993
Series Overall: VT leads 8-6
ACC Series: Series tied 1-1
At Pittsburgh: Pitt leads 5-3
At Virginia Tech: VT leads 5-1
Last Meeting at Pitt: Oct. 16, 2014 (Pitt 21, Virginia Tech 16)
Last Meeting at VT: Oct. 12, 2013 (Virginia Tech 19, Pitt 9)
Current Series Streak: Pitt has won 1 (2014)
Longest Pitt Series Win Streak: 4 games (2001-03, 2012)
Longest VT Series Win Streak: 4 games (1993-96)
Largest Pitt Victory Margin: 31 points (38-7, 2001)
Largest VT Victory Margin: 42 points (63-21, 1993)
Keys for Pitt (2-1, 0-0 ACC):
1. Establish a ground game- Yes James Conner is out and Pat Narduzzi has elected to go with a better throwing quarterback in Nate Peterman, but this Virginia Tech defense is reeling right now and it is a perfect time for Pitt to try and establish the run and take some pressure off of Peterman.
The Pitt rushing attack has gotten worse every week. The Panthers gained 325 yards on the ground against Youngstown State, but only 127 against Akron before bottoming out at just 55 yards at Iowa. Likewise, the team’s yards per carry average has plummeted from 7.6 to 2.8 to 2.0. They won’t get it done on the road this week if they can’t run the football.
2. Voytik anyone? Narduzzi would be wise to give junior Chad Voytik equal playing time. While he may not have the arm that Peterman has, Voytik ran for 118 yards against the Hokies last season, and they have been getting crushed by running QBs, most recently allowing East Carolina quarterback James Summers 169 rushing yards last week, Narduzzi has a weapon in Voytik. Hopefully he doesn’t bury him on the bench.
3. Win the battle up front- The weather is supposed to be bad and every time these two teams meet it tends to be a physical matchup. Pitt must win the battle of the trenches plain and simple. Pitt has worn the Hokies down in their past two victories (2012 and 2014), averaging 4.2 and 4.6 yards per carry. Coincidently the one time they lost (2013 at Lane Stadium) the Panthers averaged just 0.9 yards per carry. Whoever wins up front likely wins the game.
Keys for Virginia Tech (2-2, 0-0):
1. Force Pitt to throw- The Hokies rank 102nd in the FBS, allowing 205 rushing yards per game. They will receive a little help with the expected return of middle linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka, But Frank Beamer’s team needs to stuff the run and force Peterman to beat them. The junior threw two picks in his first start vs. Iowa and you can bet the Hokies will come after him.
2. Contain Tyler Boyd- That is now very challenging for the Hokies who will be without starting first team All-ACC cornerback Kendall Fuller, who underwent surgery on his right knee on Tuesday, but the Hokies can’t allow Boyd to have a big game. In just two games this season, Boyd is averaging over 10 catches and 100 yards per game. Another game like that for Boyd and it could get ugly for Virginia Tech.
3. Beamer Ball- Beamer Ball doesn’t show up on Saturday’s nearly as much as it used to, but if VT makes a big play or two on special teams it will go a long way to a Hokies victory.
Prediction: I don’t like Pitt going into Lane Stadium and coming away with a win, but with the bad weather on the slate and a Virginia Tech team that seems a mess right now, I like their chances.
Quarterback Brenden Motley has filled in nicely for injured starter Michael Brewer, but he is facing a Pitt defense that through three games is is ranked in the top 25 in sacks; in rush defense; in total defense; and in third-down conversion defense. The Panthers defense will make a big play in the fourth quarter and Pitt will get the ACC season off on a good note. Pitt 24, Virginia Tech 20.
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports