Duke (6-1) at Pittsburgh (4-4)Nov. 1, 12:00, ESPNU
Here's The Deal: No. 24 Duke sits atop the ACC Coastal Division, winners of back-to-back games over Georgia Tech and Virginia. But just a half-game behind the Blue Devils is Pitt, which means the Panthers have an opportunity at home to turn an already log jammed division into an absolute free-for-all. Surging Duke is going to be a tall order for an inconsistent Pitt team that’s won just a single game since the middle of September. The Panthers must also have short memories after being crushed by Georgia Tech, 56-28, last week in the sloppiest game of the Paul Chryst era.
Why Duke Might Win: The Blue Devils and the Panthers are going in opposite direction as the season unfolds. It was just a week ago that Pitt lost six fumbles, and was embarrassed on the ground by Georgia Tech. Duke, to the contrary, has been very steady, especially on defense. Panther RB James Conner better be prepared to carry the team on his shoulders, because QB Chad Voytik will not have success through the air versus a Blue Devil secondary that’s No. 4 nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Why Pittsburgh Might Win: The Duke offense? Ehh. Unimpressive in October. What’s up with QB Anthony Boone? After starting fast, he’s flat-lined with just two touchdown passes over the last four games. Now, the Panthers were atrocious on D last weekend, but it was an anomaly attributable to the offense’s half-dozen fumbles. Prior to the Georgia Tech game, Pitt was exceeding all expectations on defense. Opponents are completing just 51% of their passes, an indication Boone’s slump will continue.
Who To Watch Out For: Okay, so Duke is not triple-option based Georgia Tech. But the Blue Devils are underrated on the ground, averaging 5.8 yards per carry behind QB Anthony Boone, big-play rookie RB Shaun Wilson and veteran backs Josh Snead and Shaq Powell. If Pitt tackles and fills gaps even remotely as bad as it did last week, it has no shot of ending the weekend above .500.
What’s Going To Happen: Duke is better coached and better prepared. It’s the edge the Blue Devils need in a matchup of teams with similar pools of talent. Duke is gushing with elite talent. But when it’s crunch time, the team executes, a tribute to David Cutcliffe and the staff. While Pitt will improve upon last week’s implosion, it won’t be enough to topple a visiting Blue Devil team that’s locating its second-half groove.
Prediction: Duke 27 … Pittsburgh 23
Line: Pittsburgh -4 o/u: 51