I feel like I know what a lot of Pitt fans are thinking this week.
“It would be so ‘typical Pitt’ to beat Clemson and lose at home to Duke the following week.”
Perhaps I’m wrong about that. If I’m right, I get it. We’ve been treated to our fair share of confusing losses over the years.
But I don’t think Saturday will be one of them. Pitt is too good offensively. Let’s break it down.
You know the story on offense by now. Pitt is just about as unstoppable as it gets. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada continues to add new wrinkles each week, and it’s throwing opposing defenses for a loop.
In the first half of the season, we saw the jet sweep featuring Quadree Henderson terrorize defenses. Now that opponents have geared up to stop that, Canada and company are breaking big plays up the middle with James Conner and via shovel (shuttle? shuffle?) passes to targets like George Aston and Scott Orndoff. Nate Peterman has been throwing the ball downfield with a little more regularity, too.
Whatever the opponent tries to stop, Pitt has a number of other options at its disposal to be successful with. The ACC’s best offensive line paves the way.
Duke doesn’t appear to line up with any type of scheme that will stop this Panther offense from getting its points.
The Blue Devils are 58th in the country, allowing nearly 400 yards of offense a game. They’re 59th in passing yards allowed (224 yds/game) and 69th in defending the run (170 yds/game). Pitt should be able to exploit this whichever way it chooses.
The Duke offense doesn’t have much to write home about, either, sitting 69th overall in yards per game (406). That number is made up of the 67th ranked passing offense, and 66th ranked rushing offense.
The Pitt defense will finally catch a break this week, it seems, as they won’t be facing first-round NFL talent in the passing game. Literally thank God, because this has been ridiculous. Think about the type of talent this secondary has faced recently…
Mason Rudolph, Mitch Trubisky, Ryan Switzer, Jerod Evans, Bucky Hodges, Brad Kaaya, Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams…
The pass defense obviously needs to be better, but let’s step back and realize how good the guys on the other side of the ball have been.
This week, Pitt gets a redshirt freshman at QB and receivers on the edge that shouldn’t create such a mismatch size and talent-wise. Thank heavens.
Dan pointed out something really interesting in our Pitt-Duke preview episode: Duke’s kicker, A.J. Reed, is 3-for-8 this season with a long of just 38 yards, and he hasn’t even attempted a field goal in the last three games.
Pitt should have a big advantage in the kicking game. And there’s always that “little number 10,” as Dabo Swinney so affectionately referred to Henderson by, ready to take one to the house at a moment’s notice.
I think Pitt wins this one. Maybe big.
I’m not worried about them overlooking this game. Pitt has been really good under Narduzzi in avoiding any type of letdowns. In fact, if they have any reputation, it’s that they play really hard for four straight quarters.
I expect this one to be similar, and as I said on the podcast, I’ve got a 38-24 Pitt win.