Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina Prediction, Game Preview

    Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina prediction and game preview. The surprising Panthers look to stay hot as they host the Tar Heels.

    October 27, 2015


    The Pittsburgh Panthers (6-1) and the North Carolina Tar Heels (6-1) duke it out at Heinz Field in a key Coastal Division showdown. Check out the North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh prediction and game preview.

    North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh Prediction & Preview

    Broadcast

    Date: Thursday, October 29
    Game Time: 7:00 ET
    Network: ESPN

    Follow and/or Contact @Rich Cirminiello 

    Why You Need To Care

    Carolina at Pitt. The undercard to next week’s Florida State-Clemson showdown in the ACC. Who saw this coming?

    The Tar Heels and the Panthers have been the ACC’s two biggest surprises so far in 2015, sharing identical 6-1 records. And since both schools have yet to lose a conference game, Thursday night’s outcome could go a long way to determining who eventually takes the Coastal and plays the Nole-Tiger winner in Charlotte on Dec. 5. Pitt has mastered the art of surviving close games under rookie head coach Pat Narduzzi , winning four in a row decided by a touchdown or less.

    Carolina hasn’t lost since opening night. But who have the Heels played? They’ve handled a pair of FCS opponents, and they’re best win was over Georgia Tech, which is still two games below .500. For Larry Fedora and his kids, Thursday night on national TV is a crucial show-me opportunity. Win and the Heels replace Pitt in the Top 25. Lose and they’re labeled an overrated product of a soft first-half schedule.

    Why North Carolina Will Win

    Pitt can’t match Carolina’s offensive options.

    There’s no doubt the Heels have improved on defense with Gene Chizik as the coordinator. But offense is still the calling card in Chapel Hill. Carolina is averaging 11 points more per game than Pitt, and its balance creates headaches for opposing defenses. The Heels have by far the more dangerous quarterback, dual-threat Marquise Williams, a power back in Elijah Hood and four wideouts with at least 300 receiving yards. And they’re third nationally in yards per play, a level of big-play, field-stretching pop that the Panthers haven’t seen this season.

    Why Pittsburgh Will Win

    No, the Panthers do not do any one thing great. But they just keep finding ways to win, and that’s more powerful than any statistical comparison.

    Pitt is learning how to win, powered by a self-made defense that has Narduzzi’s fingerprints all over it. The team runs the ball assertively, is outstanding in pass defense and is just better than the other guys down the stretch. Pitt wins. And with Narduzzi overseeing the D, NT Tyrique Jarrett, DE Ejuan Price, S Jordan Whitehead and linebackers Matt Galambos and Nicholas Grigsby have evolved into all-league-caliber performers. Unlike many of the Heels’ games this season, they’ll have to earn every first down and point against Pitt.

    Player Who Matters

    Who on Carolina draws Pitt WR Tyler Boyd, arguably the most NFL-ready athlete in the building this Thursday?

    Boyd is one of the country’s more polished receivers, though even a quarterback switch to Nathan Peterman hasn’t helped goose his production. Boyd has averaged less than 10 yards a catch in all but one game, ironically enough against a very good Iowa secondary. Now, he’ll be facing a Carolina secondary leading the ACC in pass defense and ranking No. 10 nationally in pass efficiency defense. Can Boyd break out, in turn helping create space for RB Qadree Ollison?

    What’s Going To Happen?

    Yes, Carolina has the better personnel on offense. But there’s something special about this Pitt team. And the Panthers are itching to demonstrate it at home and with a national TV audience watching.

    Even on a short week, Narduzzi will come up with a wrinkle or a package to slow down Fedora’s attack. And the offense will get just enough from Ollison, Boyd and PK Chris Blewitt to put points on the board. In the end, it’ll be close and competitive, and that scenario clearly favors Pitt this season.

    North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh Prediction

    Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, North Carolina 24, Line: North Carolina -3, o/u: 54.5
    Must See Rating: 5: Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church ; 1: The Peanuts Movie … 4

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