Pittsburgh (1-1) at Duke (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 12:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Wallace Wade Stadium (33,941) -- Durham, North Carolina. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: Pittsburgh 1-1, Duke 1-1. Away Record: Pittsburgh 0-0, Duke 1-0. Neutral Record: Pittsburgh 0-0, Duke 0-0. Conference Record: Pittsburgh 0-1, Duke 0-1. Series Record: Pittsburgh leads, 9-8.
GAME NOTES: The Pittsburgh Panthers will be looking for a more favorable reception from a team in the Atlantic Coast Conference as they face the Duke Blue Devils in league play at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Pittsburgh is in its first year in the ACC after spending the previous 22 seasons in the now defunct Big East. The Panthers opened the season against No. 8 Florida State, but the first game against a team in their new league went sour as they were handed a 41-13 whipping, during Jameis Winston's breakout party. Pittsburgh bounced back with a 49-27 win over New Mexico last weekend. Now the Panthers hit the road for the first time this season.
Duke did not have a strong opening to its ACC schedule as its 2-0 overall start was ruined last weekend against Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils were dropped 38-14, by the Yellow Jackets to kick off a four-game homestand. Duke earned wins against FCS foe NC Central (45-0) and Memphis (28-14) in the first two games of the campaign.
This game marks the 18th all-time meeting between these programs. Pittsburgh owns a slim, 9-8, edge in the previous matchups.
After scoring only 13 points on 297 yards of total offense against the Seminoles, the Panthers needed a bounce back offensive performance. They certainly achieved that against New Mexico. The Panthers tallied 527 yards and scored more than 45 points for just the third time since 2009.
Tom Savage has not exactly shined as the new starting quarterback for head coach Paul Chryst. The redshirt senior has completed a respectable 62.2 percent of his pass attempts, but for only 437 yards, while he has had a pair of interceptions in each game.
Part of the issue is that Savage has not been spreading the ball to multiple receivers. With Devin Street on the edge it is difficult to blame him. Street has hauled in 11 passes for 221 yards this season. His yards-per-reception average (20.1) is among the five best marks in the ACC. Freshman Tyler Boyd (eight receptions, 160 yards, TD) is the only other player with more than four receptions and 40 yards.
The Panthers prefer to run the ball though and for good reason. Isaac Bennett (23 carries, 136 yards, two TDs) and James Conner (21 carries, 153 yards, two TDs) have provided a nice tandem in the backfield.
While the offense enjoyed a resurgence against New Mexico, the defense was equally rejuvenated. The Panthers allowed just 270 yards of total offense against the Lobos, collected three sacks and held them to just 6-of-16 on third down attempts. It was quite the improvement from the 533 yards the Panthers allowed to Florida State.
Todd Thomas and Jason Hendricks each totaled 10 tackles and two for loss against New Mexico. Aaron Donald was even better in terms of creating negative plays with four tackles for loss.
The showing the Blue Devils had against Georgia Tech was an alarming negative step back for the offense. The Blue Devils finished with just 254 yards in the contest. Duke had put up more than 400 yards in the two previous games. The task now is to get back on track.
If Duke hopes to accomplish that goal, it will need to get Jamison Crowder the ball as often as possible. Crowder leads the ACC in receptions (23), while sitting fourth in yards (240). Tight end Braxton Deaver (10 receptions, 107 yards, TD) has been a nice option as well.
Jela Duncan (34 carries, 196 yards, two TDs) has added more strength to the skill positions and was one of few players to have success against Georgia Tech. Juwan Thompson (116 yards, TD) gives the Blue Devils depth in the running game.
With Anthony Boone out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, Brandon Connette now has the quarterback job all to himself. Connette had 29 pass attempts in the first two games (Boone had 36) but he nearly matched that total against Georgia Tech. On the season Connette has completed 59.6 percent of his pass attempts for 375 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception.
On defense the Blue Devils are allowing just 296.7 yards and 17.3 points per game. However they did not replicate that against Georgia Tech by allowing 469 yards. Kelby Brown is the leader for the unit in terms of tackles (31), although he is one of four players with 20 stops already. The Blue Devils have just three sacks as a team and need to produce more in the pass rush.
This game features two of the best wide receivers in the ACC so expect Crowder and Street's name to be called often. Though Duke is at home, Pittsburgh has the more well-rounded squad outside of its star receiver.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 24, Duke 20
09/18 10:37:22 ET