As improbable as it seemed not too long ago, the Pitt football team will be playing Clemson in their first ACC Championship Game appearance in school history next Saturday. They did it with an emphatic second half showing last week against Wake Forest, beating the Demon Deacons 34-13 to run their conference record to 6-1 and clinch the Coastal division. Pitt has a great opportunity to cap off this roller coaster of a season with not just one, but two postseason games in the conference championship game and a to-be-determined bowl game. As much as Panther fans must be looking forward to these marquee contests, they run the risk of forgetting a key fact. That is that Pitt still has one other game remaining on their regular season schedule against the revenge-minded Miami Hurricanes. Though Miami are not as dangerous as last year’s division-winning squad, sitting at 6-5 this season, they can still “…[smack Pitt] in the mouth real hard”, to paraphrase Pat Narduzzi, if Pitt gets caught looking ahead. Regardless of what this year’s team has accomplished already, this weekend’s game is vital for several reasons.
Now obviously, we all want Pitt to win this weekend because as fans, we want them to win every game they play. This goes beyond simply preferring an 8-4 regular season to a 7-5 regular season. Firstly, the Panthers are on one heck of a roll right now, having won 5 of their last 6 and 4 in a row coming off of their bye week. In those 4 wins, Pitt beat their opposition by a 41-23 score on average and out-gained them by over 200 yards per game (518-316). This even includes the one defensive outlier of the group where Pitt gave up 45 points and 619 yards to Duke while triumphing 54-45. The fact is Pitt is one of the hottest teams in college football right now and they need to keep it going. With tests coming in the ACC Championship Game and whichever bowl game Pitt gets selected to appear in, they need to come out strong against Miami to keep this momentum going. One needs only look at this same Miami squad to get an example of the affect a let-down in a technically meaningless game can have. Last year, the Hurricanes came...
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