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Virginia (2-1) at Pittsburgh (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 12:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Heinz Field (65,000) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: FSN. Home Record: UVA 2-1, Pittsburgh 1-1. Away Record: UVA 0-0, Pittsburgh 1-0. Neutral Record: UVA 0-0, Pittsburgh 0-0. Conference Record: UVA 0-0, Pittsburgh 1-1. Series Record: Pittsburgh leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Cavaliers are set to open their ACC schedule on Saturday afternoon when they visit Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers.
This will also be the first road game of the season for the Cavaliers, who improved to 2-1 following last week's 49-0 win over FCS foe VMI. A win here would give the team its best start through four games since 2007. However, Virginia has lost each of its last three ACC openers.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has won two in a row since a season-opening loss to nationally-ranked Florida State. The Panthers are coming off last week's 58-55, shootout victory at Duke. They'll look to pick up another win here entering next week's bye.
Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 3-2, although this marks the first meeting between these two programs since Sept. 29, 2007.
Through two games, Virginia was averaging just 14.5 points before breaking out with 49 points against an outmatched VMI team. Despite accumulating 580 yards in last week's victory, the Cavs still rank just 104th nationally in passing offense (170.3). First-year starter David Watford has completed 66.3 percent of his attempts for 481 yards, but he has thrown twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns (three). In fact, he was picked off twice in the first quarter against VMI and stared down his intended target both times. Still, Watford went on to finish 18-of-25 for a career-high 206 yards and two touchdowns. With running backs Taquan Mizzell and Khalek Shepherd both unavailable due to ankle injuries, true freshman Daniel Hamm made his collegiate debut and rushed for 136 yards and two scores.
Defensively, UVA ranks second nationally in pass efficiency defense and seventh in passing yards allowed, albeit with last week's shutout win over an FCS opponent factoring into those rankings. When they met up with second- ranked Oregon a few weeks ago, the Cavs were gashed for 350 yards (8.8 ypc) and six touchdowns on the ground, as the Ducks were content to pick up huge chunks of yards with the running game. It was a much different result this past week, when they allowed a mere four first downs and 79 yards of total offense. Anthony Harris led the charge with eight tackles (seven solo), while Trent Corney finished with five stops (3.0 TFL) including two sacks and a forced fumble.
Despite being held to 13 points in their season-opening loss to FSU, the Panthers are currently averaging 40 points per game to rank fourth in the ACC. Senior quarterback Tom Savage has played a big role in that resurgence and is coming off a career-best, 424-yard, six-touchdown effort in the win over Duke. In fact, those six TD passes tied an ACC record as he was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week.
Savage leads the conference in passing yards per game (287.0). He has had the luxury of throwing to a potent receiving tandem in senior Devin Street (league-best 129 receiving yards per game) and freshman Tyler Boyd (104.7 ypg). That duo combined for 320 yards and five TDs on 14 catches at Duke. Freshman running back James Conner went over 100 rushing yards for the second straight game, posting a career-best 173 yards against the Blue Devils.
Obviously, after giving up 55 points, there is plenty of work ahead for the Pitt defense. Through three games, the Panthers rank 118th in the nation in scoring defense (41.0 ppg allowed). Duke essentially moved the ball at will, piling up 23 first downs (11 rushing, 10 passing) and 532 yards from scrimmage. The Blue Devils also came away with touchdowns on all five of their trips inside the red zone. To their credit, the Panthers were able to thwart some of those drives thanks to four interceptions on the day. Jason Hendricks notched one of those picks and finished with a team-best nine tackles. Senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald finished with two tackles for loss and ranks fourth nationally in that department with 2.33 per game.
This matchup has all the makings of a high-scoring affair that could very well come down to who has the ball last. Give a slight edge to the Panthers, who are playing at home and have the more experienced quarterback in Savage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 45, Virginia 35
09/25 10:33:24 ET