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Miami-Florida (8-3) at Pittsburgh (6-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 29, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Heinz Field (65,500) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: ABC. Home Record: Miami 6-1, Pitt 4-2. Away Record: Miami 2-2, Pitt 2-3. Neutral Record: Miami 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Conference Record: Miami 4-3, Pitt 3-4. Series Record: Miami-Florida leads, 22-9-1.
GAME NOTES: The regular season will come to a close for both the Miami-Florida Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Panthers on Friday afternoon, as the two meet in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown at Heinz Field.
Miami was considered one of the nation's best teams earlier in the year, as it opened up the season with seven straight victories, allowing it to climb all the way to No. 7 in the AP poll at the end of October. Since that peak, however, the Hurricanes fell out of the national spotlight with three straight losses. They managed to get back on the winning track last weekend in their home finale versus Virginia with a 45-26 victory.
Although Pitt has been largely an afterthought in the ACC this season with a 3-4 league mark, it has won two of its last three games to pull to 6-5 overall and become bowl eligible for the sixth straight season. The Panthers went on the road last weekend and outlasted Syracuse, 17-16.
Miami won the most recent matchup between the squads on Sept. 23, 2010, 31-3, to take a 22-9-1 advantage in the all-time series.
The Hurricanes have had no problems generating offense this season, as they rank fourth in the ACC in scoring (35.5 ppg) and third in yardage (444.2 ypg). Production has been down in recent weeks, however. They amassed just 304 yards in the win over Virginia and managed to score 45 points, but needed two defensive touchdowns to accomplish the feat.
The unit hasn't been the same since Duke Johnson (920 yards, six TDs) was lost for the season earlier in the month with an ankle injury. Dallas Crawford (501 yards) has since taken over as the every-down back, and while he's been impressive in the red zone this season with 12 touchdowns, he's only averaging a modest 4.5 yards per carry.
Stephen Morris has shown flashes of brilliance under center, as he's thrown for 2,572 yards and 18 touchdowns, but his completion percentage (.585) and interception total (12) have hindered his overall production.
Allen Hurns is one of the nation's best big-play threats at receiver, as he's turned 51 receptions into 965 yards (18.9 ypc) and six touchdowns. Herb Waters (28 receptions, 406 yards) and Stacy Coley (27 receptions, 486 yards) have both caught five touchdown passes.
Last week, Miami's defense shined with four takeaways, including the two for touchdowns. On the season, however, the unit has been below average by ACC standards (25.5 ppg, 408.0 ypg).
The Hurricanes are one of the nation's leaders in turnovers generated with 25, with Tracy Howard (four INTs, FF), Ladarius Gunter (three INTs, FF), Rayshawn Jenkins (three INTs) and Tyriq McCord (two INTs, three FF) serving as big time contributors in that aspect of the game. Denzel Perryman has a team-high 98 tackles, while Shayon Green has been a factor up front with 10.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks.
Pitt has been able to make the most of its limited yardage output this season. Despite ranking 13th in the ACC in yards with just 338.2 per game, it's been efficient in placing eighth in scoring (25.5 ppg). Nothing was clicking in last week's loss to Syracuse, however, as it amassed only 239 yards in the low-scoring defeat.
Tom Savage has taken just about every snap under center for the Panthers and has come through with a solid campaign by completing nearly 62 percent of his passes for 2,553 yards with 19 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. He has a pair of excellent receivers he can trust out wide. Tyler Boyd is third in the league in catches (68) and second in yards (903) while scoring six touchdowns, and Devin Street (51 catches, 854 yards, seven TDs) is right on his tail.
The Panthers are yielding nearly as many points per game as they score themselves (25.9), although they have not been quite as active in the turnover battle as Miami with just 16 takeaways.
The anchor of the unit is undoubtedly defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who was named one of the three finalists for the Bednarik Award for the nation's most outstanding defensive player, joining Alabama's C.J Mosley and UCLA's Anthony Barr. He's been nothing short of dominant along the line of scrimmage with 51 tackles, 26.0 TFL, 10.0 sacks, 16 QB hurries, four forced fumbles and a blocked kick.
Ray Vinopal, Anthony Gonzalez and Jason Hendricks also bring solid play to the defense, as the three are in a dead heat for the team lead in tackles with 68 apiece, while Vinopal has also picked off three passes.
Miami has been vulnerable on the road all season long, especially since it has been without Johnson and a reliable running game. Pittsburgh's offense likely won't do much against the Hurricanes' front, but its defense, led by Donald, should be strong enough stop Miami's one-dimensional attack.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 24, Miami-Florida 23
11/27 11:12:36 ET
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