Virginia Tech vs. Pitt prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Hokies and Panthers on Thursday in Pittsburgh, PA.
Virginia Tech vs. Pitt Game Preview
When: Thursday, Oct. 27 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
TV Broadcast: ESPN
The Hokies (5-2, 3-1 ACC) are in control of the ACC Coastal division after their home win over Miami last Thursday night. Quarterback Jerod Evans threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third in the 37-16 victory over the Hurricanes. The Hokies are tied atop the division with UNC, and own a head-to-head win over the Tar Heels. It’s quite a strong start to the Justin Fuente era.
Meanwhile, the Panthers (5-2, 2-1) had last week off following their wild 45-31 win over Virginia in Charlottesville. Running back James Conner ran for 90 yards and two touchdowns, and the Panthers shut Virginia’s offense down in the second half. However, Pat Narduzzi’s defense remains a liability, so it will be interesting to see if he can get that unit shored up for the stretch run. But it’s more likely that the Panthers will find themselves in shootouts the rest of the 2016 campaign.
In last year’s meeting, Pitt rode Qadree Ollison’s big day on the ground to victory. He ran for 122 yards on just 19 carries, filling in for the injured Conner in a 17-13 road victory.
What To Know About Virginia Tech
The Hokies received a big day on the ground from Travon McMillian against the Hurricanes. He ran for 131 yards, which was his biggest day on the ground since recording 127 and a score versus Tennessee. The Hokies installed some new plays on offense, and it’s important to note that Evans is producing each week in an offense that is not even fully installed yet. So the future is bright for Evans in Fuente’s system. Defensively, VT sacked Miami eight times and limited the ‘Canes to 42 rushing yards on 29 carries (with a lot of the lost yardage due to the sacks).
What to Know About Pitt
The Panthers broke Virginia’s two-game win streak in their last contest, as they have now scored at least 36 points in six consecutive games, which is a program record. But the pass defense consistently allows opposing offenses to go up and down the field. Cavaliers signal-caller Kurt Benkert had a big first half, but he seemed to get rattled after the Pitt defense sacked him three times quickly after halftime. A strong pass rush will always help a secondary, so that’s something that Narduzzi hopes can help a unit that has been porous this fall.
Offense: Even. Both units are very good, with Pitt averaging 38.4 points per game and VT putting up 35.6 points per contest.
Defense: Virginia Tech. The Hokies are allowing just 17.9 points per game.
Special Teams: Pitt. The Panthers received a 93-yard kickoff return from Quadree Henderson in the win over the Hoos.
Coaching: Virginia Tech. The nod goes to Fuente for having such a strong first-year impact on the program in Blacksburg.
Intangibles: Virginia Tech. Fuente’s squad knows it can play for an ACC title because it is a complete team, so a win against the Panthers is crucial.
Matchup To Watch
Evans vs. Pitt secondary
This is a game in which Evans could flourish through the air. If the Panthers are able to generate a pass rush, Evans could beat them with his legs. But if he has time to throw, he could pick apart a secondary that has been struggling all season. Pitt allows almost 300 passing yards per game, putting Narduzzi’s squad at No. 122 in the country in pass defense. As I mentioned, this offense isn’t even fully implemented yet, but I expect Fuente to let Evans take some shots down the field. And if VT can connect on a few big plays through the air, the Hokies will be able to escape the Steel City with a win.
Spread: Virginia Tech -3.5
Over/Under: No Line (as of post)
Virginia Tech vs. Pitt Prediction
The Panthers will give Bud Foster’s defense a hard time if the ground game is productive and allows quarterback Nate Peterman to have manageable third-down distances. But the Panthers will have problems containing the dual-threat capabilities of Evans, who has a big day of total offense in a VT victory on Thursday night.
Virginia Tech vs. Pitt Score Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Pitt 30