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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 2, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Pitt 3-1, Georgia Tech 3-1. Away Record: Pitt 1-2, Georgia Tech 2-2. Neutral Record: Pitt 0-0, Georgia Tech 0-0. Conference Record: Pitt 2-2, Georgia Tech 4-2. Series: Pittsburgh leads, 5-2.
GAME NOTES: The Pittsburgh Panthers and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will square off on the gridiron for the first time since 1976, as the two are set for a Saturday night Atlantic Coast Conference showdown at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Pittsburgh is off to a 2-2 start in its inaugural season in the ACC. The Panthers were in action at Navy this past weekend, where they dropped a 24-21 decision on a last-second field goal. Following this tilt, the Panthers will close out their regular-season schedule with three of their final four games at home.
Georgia Tech is seeking a third straight win after notching a 35-25 road win at Virginia last weekend. This contest marks Homecoming weekend for the Yellow Jackets, who need one more victory to clinch six wins and a .500 or better record in the regular season for 17 straight years. They'll get a bye next week before traveling to Clemson on Nov. 14 for their final scheduled road game.
Pitt owns a 5-2 advantage in the all-time series between these programs.
The Panthers' offense has been inconsistent from week to week. Quarterback Tom Savage found some success through the air against Navy last week, as he completed 20-of-27 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. However, running back Isaac Bennett was bottled up to 77 yards on 22 carries (3.5 ypc) and no Panthers player had a run longer than 12 yards on the day.
Pittsburgh enters this week ranked 95th in the nation in total offense (362.7), and the team has been held to 21 points or fewer in three of its last four contests. One player who warrants the attention of any defense, however, is senior wideout Devin Street, who reeled in nine passes against Navy to become the Panthers' all-time receptions leader with 186. He is 370 yards away from passing Antonio Bryant to become the school's all-time leader in receiving yardage (3,061 from 1999-2001).
Pittsburgh will face an opposing offense predicated on the option attack for the second straight week. There were some positives and negatives in last week's narrow loss to Navy. But when the Panthers were clinging to a six-point lead in the second half, they allowed Navy to take a fourth-quarter lead on a touchdown drive that covered 91 yards and lasted more than eight minutes. They'll need to limit such possessions against a Georgia Tech squad that averages an ACC-leading 315.6 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth nationally.
One player who can certainly impact things at the point of attack is senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the nation's active career leader in quarterback sacks. One of only two defensive tackles selected as a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, Donald boasts eight sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss on the season, both of which rank in the top-five nationally.
Georgia Tech enters the tilt ranked third in the nation in time of possession and has won the clock battle in six of eight games this year. The Yellow Jackets' current rushing average (315.6) and total offense average (439.6) both rank fourth in school history. While they are capable of draining the clock with long drives, the Yellow Jackets also have 15 touchdown drives this season that lasted five plays or less. Last week against Virginia, Zach Laskey (133 rushing yards, two TDs), Robert Godhigh (111 yds, TD) and David Sims (107 yds, two TDs) all went over 100 yards on the ground.
Defensively, Tech ranks 17th in the country and third in the ACC in fewest yards per game (342.3). The Yellow Jackets are strongest against the run, allowing only 117 yards per game (second in the ACC and 18th in the country). They have allowed only five running plays of 20 yards or more all season long. They have also shut out two opponents in a season for the first time since 1985.
Senior Jemea Thomas is coming off a big game against UVA, as he was named the ACC Defensive Back of the Week after racking up a career-high 15 tackles. It was the most tackles by a Georgia Tech player since 2009, and his 12 solo stops were the most at Tech since 2003. He also broke up a pair of passes. Thomas is the team's leading tackler (52) on the season and has also broken up a team-best seven passes.
The Panthers' game against Navy should serve as a nice prep for Tech's triple- option attack. However, the Yellow Jackets have the stronger defensive unit, and they'll be playing in front of the home crowd.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Tech 35, Pittsburgh 17
10/30 10:36:05 ET