Pittsburgh Preview

The winner of this game will at least share the Big East title. This will be Miami's last game in the Big East, as they will move to the ACC beginning next season. They would love nothing more than to win their final Big East game and win the Big East. Last week Miami defeated Rutgers 34-10 behind 28 points in the third quarter.

The Hurricanes recorded two blocked punts during the quarter and scored touchdowns inside the redzone, something they have struggled with this season.

#10 Miami Hurricanes (9-2, 5-1) vs. #21 Pittsburgh Panthers (8-3, 5-1)
Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
November 29 – 8:00 PM Eastern on ABC Regional

Pittsburgh defeated Temple 30-16 in Philadelphia. The Panthers were led by tailback Brandon Miree who rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald led the air attack with seven catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns.

Last year Miami defeated Pittsburgh 28-21 at the Orange Bowl. Willis McGahee had 159 yards rushing to lead the Hurricanes. Pittsburgh's last victory in the series was in 1997 when the Panthers won 21-17 in Pittsburgh. Miami has won 13 of the last 14 games against Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Panthers - Notes and Quotes

Pittsburgh would benefit tremendously with a win over Miami and by winning the Big East Conference. Their program has been on the rise for years and this win would help them turn the corner. It won't be easy.

"This week we are playing against a great football program and a great team." head coach Walt Harris said. "They look really fast on defense. Their secondary is outstanding. Their linebackers will be high draft choices. I am really impressed with the speed they have up front and the size, especially with (Vince) Wilfork. Offensively, I think their quarterback (Brock Berlin) played one of his better games last week. They don't have to do too much on offense because they can rely on their defense. They do have talent on offense especially with (Kellen) Winslow. We love their receivers, (Ryan) Moore, (Roscoe) Parrish and (Kevin) Beard. Their special teams have always been a problem when we have played them. Last year they returned a punt for a touchdown against us."

Coach Harris understands the challenge at hand, but is excited for the opportunity.

"We got ourselves a heck of a challenge but we are excited about the opportunity for at least a piece of the conference championship," Harris said. "That is what we are trying to do here. It has taken us a long time, but we are excited about the opportunity."

Heisman Trophy candidate Larry Fitzgerald has had an amazing season he has impressed his coach every week.

"If everyone had the chance to see the plays that he has made throughout the year, then I doubt there is anyone as a spectacular football player," Harris said. "Every defense has been thrown at him and every week people realize what a great football player he is. I just think he keeps his disdain for his body. His ability to go get balls at their complete high point without any disregard to his body. It is amazing to see his display of courage. He will block also and tends to make big-time blocks throughout games."

Pittsburgh has struggled in stopping the run this year and will need to have a strong performance in order to put pressure on the Miami passing attack, which has struggled at times this year.

"Every week our focus is to stop the run," Harris said. Against a talented team, like Miami, with their quickness and speed, it is even more important to stop the run. It will be a challenge for us to stop their running game because of their talented lineman and talented backs."

Last week running back Brandon Miree returned to the lineup and helped the team out in a big way gaining 188 yards on the ground.

"I think Brandon Miree coming back makes us a better offensive football team," Harris said. "He makes our rushing game better and it became evident last week. Temple has been good against the run especially when we play them."

Miami Hurricanes - Notes and Quotes

Miami knows what kind of challenge that Pittsburgh will be.

"The University of Pittsburgh has some great talent," head coach Larry Coker said. "Rod Rutherford is an outstanding quarterback that has been there forever, it seems. He is an excellent passer and is also very mobile and is a great leader. Larry Fitzgerald, their wide receiver, is about as good as I have seen. It is going to be an outstanding football game. Their punter is leading the Big East in punting. It is going to be a tremendous challenge and we have to go to Heinz Field to play. It should be an outstanding football game."

The last few years Miami has been in contention for a spot in the national championship game. This year is a bit different with the Hurricanes already having two losses.

"It is real different," Coker said. "The last three years we have been competing for a spot in the national championship game. It is a little bit different this year, but we still have some goals that we would like to meet. We have a shot to win the Big East Championship and be in a BCS bowl game."

The Panther defense has struggled this year in stopping the run ranking last in the Big East. Miami has been running the ball better in the last few weeks and looks to keep the ball on the ground.

"We want to run the ball every week," Coker said. "It is important for us to run the football this week. We are doing a good job of getting better each week. Tyrone Moss has stepped up and of course Jarrett Payton has done a nice job. We are playing better at offensive line and we are playing more physical. There is no doubt that we will challenge our offense this week. If we do that, it helps our passing game."

Panther wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been torching his opponents all season long. Miami's secondary has been great all year and it will be interesting to see how the two powers collide.

"I have looked at all of their tapes and nobody has really stopped him, " Coker said. "You have to try and somewhat slow him down. Rutherford does a great job of throwing the ball up in the air. Fitzgerald has extremely strong hands and we will do the best we can to try and stop him. We have to take advantages of our opportunities and stay with him off the line of scrimmage. He is certainly a great player." The Hurricanes will likely face cold weather in Pittsburgh, which is something they are not used to. The cold could become a factory, but Coker disagrees.

"I don't know that we don't like the cold," Coker said. "Nobody has ever told me that. We are not going to worry about the weather, it is hot here and it is cold there. As long as we are playing on the same field, it wont make a difference. We cant let that bother us and we cant let the crowd bother us. Those are factors that we have no control over. That is our philosophy. We expect to play hard and we expect to play well."

Miami Hurricanes – Projected Starters

QB Brock Berlin Junior
TB Jarrett Payton Senior
FB Kyle Cobia Junior
TE Kellen Winslow Junior
WR Kevin Beard Senior
WR Ryan Moore Freshman
LT Eric Winston Sophomore
LG Vernon Carey Senior
C Chris Myers Junior
RG Joe McGrath Senior
RT Carlos Joseph Senior

LE Bryan Pata Freshman
LT Baraka Atkins Freshman
RT Vince Wilfork Junior
RE Thomas Carroll Sophomore
WLB D.J. Williams Senior
MLB Jonathan Vilma Senior
SLB Darrell McClover Senior
CB Antrel Rolle Junior
CB Alfonso Marshall Senior
FS Sean Taylor Junior
SS Maurice Sikes Senior

Hurricane Injury Status

WR Roscoe Parrish (Knee) Probable
OL Vernon Carey (Ankle) Probable
FS Sean Taylor (Shoulder) Probable
OL Joel Rodriguez (Leg) Out
OL Derrick Morse (Shoulder) Out
CB Travarous Bain (Shoulder) Out
CB Glenn Sharpe (Knee) Out
DT Santonio Thomas (Knee) Out
FB Talib Humphrey (Achilles) Out
TB Frank Gore (Knee) Out

Team Leaders

Miami

Passing – Brock Berlin (2067 yards 61% 11 TD 14 Int)
Rushing – Jarrett Payton (723 yards 5.1 avg 6 TD)
Receiving – Kellen Winslow (54 rec 548 yards 1 TD) Ryan Moore (39 rec 572 yards 3 TD)
Defense – Sean Taylor (71 tackles 7 Int) Jonathan Vilma (108 tackles) Javon Nanton (6 sacks)
Kicking – Jon Peattie (19-23 FG 32-32 XP)

Pittsburgh

Passing – Rod Rutherford (3227 yards 59% 33 TD 10 Int)
Rushing – Brandon Miree (436 yards 5.3 avg 6 TD)
Receiving – Larry Fitzgerald (84 rec 1569 yards 21 TD) Kris Wilson (38 rec 544 yards 8 TD)
Defense – Lewis Moore (118 tackles, 3.5 sacks) Brian Bennett (110 tackles) Shawntae Spencer (2 int)
Kicking – David Abdul (9-17 FG 46-47 XP)

Notable Team Statistics

Pittsburgh – 7th in Big East Rush Defense (175.36)
Miami – 5th in Big East Rush Offense (167.27)

Pittsburgh – 1st in Big East Pass Offense (299.45)
Miami – 1st in Big East Pass Defense (142.18)

Two Key Match-ups To Watch

When Pittsburgh has the ball…
WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. CB Antrel Rolle

Fitzgerald is having a better season at wide receiver than anyone else in the country. He is a solid receiver with great hands and the ability to make big-time plays. Fitzgerald has a touchdown reception in every game this season and is a Heisman Trophy candidate. Rolle has the privilege of going up against the top receiver and he is ready for the challenge. Rolle is a great cover corner with good footwork, speed and size. It will be a great matchup to watch all game long.

When Miami has the ball…
QB Brock Berlin vs. LB Lewis Moore Berlin needs to have a strong game in order for the Hurricanes to win, it is as simple as that. He cant afford to have the bad interceptions that have haunted him all season long. Berlin and his receivers need to make catches and they need to make them early to ease the pressure off of the running game. Moore is the Panther leader on defense and is sometimes all over the field. His ability to get to the ball is tremendous and it will be important to keep Moore away from the receivers.

Keep Your Eye On

Pittsburgh WR Kris Wilson – Wilson is second on the team in receptions and receiving yards behind Fitzgerald, but he is someone you have to pay attention to. Wilson has the ability to stretch the defense. Wilson had 111 yards on six receptions this year against Virginia Tech.

Miami OL Chris Myers – Myers will be the starting center for the Hurricanes after Joel Rodriguez broke his leg last week. Myers started at center in the game against Syracuse and did an admirable job. This week with full-time duties as a center, his responsibility is even greater.

Coach Larry Coker's Final Word

"If they awarded Larry Fitzgerald the Heisman Trophy this year, I would not say ‘boy, he does not deserve it.'"

Player Quote of the Week

Cornerback Antrel Rolle on Larry Fitzgerald.

"If you let him touch the ball, it is pretty much caught."

Christopher Stock is a Staff Columnist for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@grassy.com

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