Losing to then 1-8 UNC football team (they’re 2-8 now) who previously had no ACC wins was arguably the lowest point of all the low points the Panthers have hit throughout this season. Now being 4-6 and needing to beat Virginia Tech and Miami in back to back weeks to secure bowl eligibility this upcoming weeks game is a huge game for Pitt.
Virginia Tech is coming off of a 28-22 loss to Georgia Tech that knocked them down to 7-3 on the season and out of the top 25. The week before Georgia Tech wasn’t much better for the Hokies as they took a 28-10 loss to Miami.
If Pitt had beat UNC last week, heading into this game I would say Pitt has a lot more momentum than the Hokies as they would have won three straight, however, this isn’t the case.
Both teams have had trouble on the defensive side of the ball as Virginia Tech gave up 401 total yards of offense, 261 yards on the ground and 140 in the air. While, the Panthers gave up 366 total yards of offense, 270 yards through the air and 96 on the ground.
There are two big takeaways I have from those numbers.
A Look at the Numbers
The first is the difference between those two statistics is the pure fact that Pitt was playing a struggling UNC team, while Virginia Tech was playing a very good offensive team in Georgia Tech.
The second is that Pitt struggled last week with pass defense just like they have in previous weeks. What scares me there is that this Hokies team is primarily a passing offense as Josh Jackson already has 2,382 yards in the air this season. It is the exact opposite for the Hokies, they struggled with the rush defense last week which is exactly what Pitt has been excelling in as of late. Pitt halfback Darrin Hall ran for four touchdowns last week against UNC and has ran for a touchdown in each of the last three games.
This is all being said this game is going to come down to a few keys surrounding these facts if either team wants to come away with a win.
Pitt’s Keys To Victory
- Darrin Hall Needs To Have a Big Game
- Hall has been tearing it up as of late and a big game from him would really allow this Pitt offense to get going. I expect him to put up some crazy numbers as he has in the previous weeks.
- Limit Mistakes on the offensive side of the ball
- Last week against UNC a critical fumble inside the two yard line by Quadree Henderson at the end of the first half took away seven points for this Panthers team. I don’t know how big of a difference it would have made and it’s in the past now, however, this week something like that can’t happen.
- Quadree Henderson Crucial In The Return Game
- On that note, Henderson is going to be crucial in the return game this week. Big returns from him could really kickstart this offense and I expect that to happen. Henderson is an extremely talented player, look for a big game out of him.
- The defense needs to limit Josh Jackson
- As stated earlier, this Hokies offense is a passing offense and the defense has had trouble containing the passing game throughout most of this year. If the Panthers want to win they are going to need to contain Josh Jackson.
Virginia Tech’s Keys To Victory
- Limit Darrin Hall
- This is the most important key for Virginia Tech, if they want to win this game they don’t have to totally shut down Darrin Hall because I don’t think many teams will be able to do that, however, they will need to at least limit him.
- Control Time of Possession
- The Panthers have done it week in and week out, they have controlled time of possession. It has worked to their advantage at times. The Hokies are going to have to not allow this to happen and they are going to have to be in control in the time of possession battle to have a better shot at winning.
- Josh Jackson needs to have a big game
- As stated earlier, the Pitt defense has struggled against the pass this year and if Josh Jackson can have a huge game it will make it very hard for this Pitt team to come away with a win. This is definitely one of the biggest keys for this Hokies team.
- Protect Josh Jackson
- On that note, for Jackson to have a good game, the offensive line needs to give Jackson time in the backfield. Last week at times the pocket collapsed rather quickly which forced some poor decisions from Jackson.
After looking over all the keys and thinking about the game, I believe that Pitt is going to execute every single one of those keys besides one. That one is limiting Josh Jackson. I believe that this is where Pitt is going to get hurt. I think Jackson is going to have a big time game. At the same time, I believe that Darrin Hall and Quadree Henderson are going to have big time games to help out the Pitt offense. Which is why I see this game being an extremely high scoring and fun game to watch.
I am going to have to pick against Pitt though. I do see this game being a toss up game and I could see Pitt winning it, however, I just think Jackson is going to be too much for a struggling Pitt defense. I have Virginia Tech winning 49-42, however, despite that prediction I am still putting Virginia Tech on upset alert as I could easily see this Pitt team coming away with a close win.
The game can be seen on ACC Network at 12:20 on Saturday.