Pitt (1-1) at Duke (2-1)
Sept. 21, 12:30, ESPN3
Why You Should Give A Hoot: The last time Pitt and Duke squared off on grass, Tony Dorsett was the game’s leading rusher. The schools will become familiar foes going forward now that both are members of the ACC Coastal Division. The Panthers and the Blue Devils will arrive at Wallace Wade Stadium this weekend with divergent mindsets. Pitt has a little momentum following a 49-27 dismantling of New Mexico, an appropriate answer to the Florida State loss in Week 1. Duke, on the other hand, was outclassed on Saturday by Georgia Tech, coming up small in its first true test of the season. This is one of those conference games that could go a long way to determining who bowls and whose season ends on Nov. 30.
Why Pittsburgh Might Win: The Panthers dominated the Lobos in a game that would have been more lopsided had they not turned the ball over four times. Pitt is beginning to meld its veterans with its youth in a promising offensive production. QB Tom Savage, RB Isaac Bennett and WR Devin Street, all upperclassmen, are the ringleaders. But the Panthers are also getting major contributions from rookie RB James Conner and WR Tyler Boyd, who each produced at least 100 yards and a score last week.
Why Duke Might Win: The Panthers sprung leaks against Florida State and then again late versus New Mexico. The Blue Devils will attempt to pick those scabs with help from dual-threat QB Brandon Connette and his cast of playmakers. The replacement for injured starter Anthony Boone can improvise on his own or dish the ball to RB Jela Duncan or WR Jamison Crowder.
Who To Watch Out For: The Duke O-line has been a bit of a disappointment so far. Life won’t get any easier with DT Aaron Donald heading to Durham. The senior is a disruptive force, already collecting five stops for loss and three sacks in two games.
- The emergence of Boyd has been a godsend for the Pitt passing game. Now, if Duke decides to load up on stopping Street with CB Ross Cockrell and others, Savage can make it pay by attacking the other side of the field.
- Conner’s agility for a 230-pound big back has essentially earned him a co-starter’s role with Bennett. Neither is Rushel Shell, but Pitt has done a nice job so far of replacing its would-be starter, who decided to transfer.
What Will Happen: Pitt showed something last week. Unfortunately for Duke, it did, too. The Panthers, while youthful and at times sloppy, have the potential to get better as the season progresses and the kids mature. The Blue Devils, to the contrary, do not appear to have a high ceiling in 2013. Pitt will confidently roll into Wallace Wade Stadium, leaving later in the day with its first-ever ACC victory.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 30 … Duke 23
Line: Pittsburgh -4 o/u: 51.5