Panther247 takes a look at some of the key match-ups that we will see on Friday at Connecticut. This is a crucial football game for Pitt and their bowl hopes.
RUNNING BACKS: As the running game goes, so do the Panthers led by the tandem of senior Ray Graham and freshman Rushel Shell. UConn only allows an average of (114.2) yards per game. Something has to give in this battle. Graham has returned to the player he was prior to the knee injury. Shell has been brilliant at times for Pitt in only his first season.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Corey King, Arthur Doakes, Ryan Turnley, Chris Jacobson and Matt Rotheram did a solid job on Saturday at Notre Dame. They need to establish the line of scrimmage early and often against a stingy UConn defense.
SECONDARY: Chandler Whitmer throws for a lot of yards, but also has more interceptions than touchdowns. This is an area where the Panthers can make something happen. Lafayette Pitts had a stellar game at cornerback, Jason Hendricks, K’Waun Williams, Jarred Holley, Ray Vinopal and Andrew Taglianetti all played a role in the near upset of the Fighting Irish.
LINEBACKER: Sio Moore, Jory Johnson and Yawin Smallwood are a solid group. To succeed in this game this group has to stop the Panthers rushing attack and screen game. Smallwood makes plays and is very active.
SECONDARY: Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Ty-Meer Brown and Byron Jones have to contain Tino Sunseri and his ability to hit the vertical threats Michael Shanahan and Devin Street. If the front seven contains the Pitt rushing attack this game could come down to Pitt throwing the ball. This is a talented group and they could be the difference in the game.
QUARTERBACK: Chandler Whitmer is a talented quarterback, but he has been inconsistent. He has thrown (7) touchdown passes and (13) interceptions. He has completed (58.5%) of his passes. Whitmer holds the keys to the UConn offense.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
RUNNING BACKS: Pittsburgh
OFFENSIVE LINE: Pittsburgh
DEFENSIVE LINE: Even
SPECIAL TEAMS: Pittsburgh
PREDICTION: On paper this seems like a game that Pitt should win, provided we see the same Panthers that we saw against Virginia Tech and for three quarters against Notre Dame.
Special teams could be the difference in this one. Both teams feature dangerous returners in Lafayette Pitts for the Panthers and Nick Williams for UConn.
This game really is a must win for both teams. Pitt needs to win two of their final three games to become bowl eligible and UConn must run the table. Regardless, as to what is said about teams worrying about bowl eligibility, we aren't buying it.
The money is important. The extra practice time is important for getting to know your players and for recruiting. Kids watch bowl games and there is no better way to sell your program than by having it seen on national television.
PANTHERS 27 UConn 14
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