Pitt vs. Virginia prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Panthers and Cavaliers on Saturday in Charlottesville, VA.
Pitt vs. Virginia Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 15 – 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA
TV Broadcast: ACC Extra
The Panthers (4-2, 1-1 ACC) were involved in yet another tight game in the fourth quarter last week in a home win over Georgia Tech. Tight end Scott Orndoff caught a game-tying 74-yard touchdown pass from Nate Peterman with 3:50 to play, then a defensive stop on fourth down helped set up Chris Blewitt’s 31-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. In its last five games, Pat Narduzzi’s squad has played games that have come down to the wire, including the brutal last-second loss to ACC foe North Carolina. Fortunately for the Panthers, last week against GT had a different outcome.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers (2-3, 1-0) are coming off of a bye last week following a 34-20 win over Duke. First-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall saw his team intercept five passes and force six turnovers in the road win over the Blue Devils. The five interceptions tied a program record, which was last done against Miami in 2010. After three straight losses to begin the season, the Hoos have wins over Central Michigan and Duke in their last two contests.
In last year’s matchup between these teams, the Panthers used a late defensive stand, forcing Cavs quarterback Matt Johns into four straight incompletions, to preserve a 26-19 victory. Each team has won on its home field in the series since Pitt joined the ACC in 2013.
What To Know About Pitt
While James Conner is certainly the star of the Panthers’ backfield, the team has plenty of depth, which is huge for what Narduzzi wants to do on that side of the ball. Conner was held to 60 yards and failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 14 games last week against the Yellow Jackets, but eight different Panthers had at least one carry. Freshman Chawntez Moss has had an increased role starting with the game against UNC, while sophomore Quadree Henderson continues to be an all-purpose back/receiver. The Panthers have taken a step back defensively, though. Even with a balanced offense, how many ACC shootouts can this team win?
What to Know About Virginia
The Cavaliers’ last game saw quarterback Kurt Benkert throw for 336 yards and three touchdowns, as he finished 23 of 41 through the air to help the Hoos snap their 17-game road losing streak. It was a team that did not in any way resemble the one that was badly outplayed by FCS foe Richmond in the season opener. So Mendenhall deserves credit for getting his squad to regroup after a rough start. Benkert has been a productive passer since transferring from East Carolina, but he needs to take care of the football better.
Offense: Pitt. The Panthers and Cavs are both in the Top 45 nationally in red zone offense, but Peterman has been taking care of the football a little bit better than Benkert.
Defense: Pitt. The Cavs are giving up 471.6 yards per game.
Special Teams: Pitt. Henderson is lined up in a variety of ways on offense, and he is always a threat to run a kickoff back for a touchdown.
Coaching: Even. Mendenhall took every one of his BYU teams to a bowl game, while Narduzzi was the perfect fit for the Steel City when the Panthers hired him.
Intangibles: Even. Both teams are on two-game win streaks.
Matchup To Watch
Pitt ground game vs. Virginia rush defense
Pitt is averaging 244.2 yards per game on the ground, which ranks second in the ACC behind Louisville. The Cavs, meanwhile, are No. 71 in the FBS in rushing defense, giving up 162.0 yards per contest. The depth that Narduzzi has in the backfield allows him to keep multiple backs fresh, and it allows for such a balanced offense, especially when Peterman plays clean as he has been doing lately. Virginia will need to make this offense one-dimensional and put Peterman in unenviable third-down situations if the Cavs want to deliver Mendenhall his third consecutive win.
Spread: Pitt -3
Pitt vs. Virginia Prediction
The Panthers can ill afford a second loss in the Coastal division this early in the season. UVA has looked like a completely different team over the last two weeks, and I think that improved play will continue. Ultimately, though, the offensive balance for Pitt is too much to overcome, as the Hoos won’t be able to keep up in a shootout. Pitt takes home a much-needed road win.
Pitt vs. Virginia Score Prediction: Pitt 34, Virginia 24