CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Pittsburgh was determined to make up for an embarrassing loss on national television against Penn State in Week 2 and did so with a strong performance against Georgia Tech. When the Panthers visit North Carolina on Saturday in its home opener, the Tar Heels are hoping to do the same after a humiliating 41-19 loss to East Carolina on Sept. 8 followed by a cancellation of last week's game against Central Florida due to Hurricane Florence.
TV: 12:20 p.m. ET, Raycom Sports. LINE: Pitt -4.
After surrendering 44 unanswered points against the Nittany Lions in a 51-6 thumper in a primetime Saturday night game two weeks ago, Pitt jumped to a three-score lead in the first half and beat Georgia Tech 24-19 last week. The Yellow Jackets finished with over 300 yards rushing but made it into the red zone just twice, and the Panthers defense recovered a fumble, had an interception and made two stops on fourth down. "Obviously a great week. At least a lot better Sunday this Sunday than last week," Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi told reporters earlier this week. "Defensively, it's only been two other teams that you look at in the last 39 games that played as good as our Panthers played this weekend. They were the likes of defenses like Clemson and Georgia. You look at the last 39 games against them, shutout in the first half, only Georgia and Clemson has done that to them. North Carolina lost its opener 24-17 at California and then was blasted at East Carolina, surrendering 510 yards of total offense and 11-of-19 third-down conversions in addition to being outscored 20-0 after intermission.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (2-1, 1-0 ACC)
Senior Qadree Ollison ran for 91 yards and two TDs on 17 carries against the Yellow Jackets and has 283 yards for the season to go along a 6.3 yards-per-carry average. However, junior Darrin Hall may get extra reps this week after gashing the Tar Heels for 121 yards and four touchdowns last season. After a horrible outing against Penn State (55 yards passing), sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett completed 16-of-23 passes for 197 yards and an interception against the Yellow Jackets.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (0-2, 0-0)
In addition to the Tar Heels' defensive struggles, Antonio Williams rushed six times for 96 yards before getting ejected for targeting and the rest of the backs managed 65 yards on 19 carries (14 in the second half), prompting Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora to push reset after an extra week off to deal with their performance and the effect of Florence. "We've got to make it that way," Fedora told reporters this week. "It's an unforeseen break, and we've got to turn it into a positive. It enabled some guys to maybe get healed up, get extra rest, as we go into the rest of the season. Every game we've played against Pitt in the past has always been close, every single one of them …we've got to have our team prepared to play and we're going to have to do the best job we can." Quarterback Nathan Elliott completed 22-of-38 passes for 219 yards and defensive back Myles Wolfolk led the defense with 11 tackles against the Pirates.
1. North Carolina is 9-3 in the all-time series, including 5-0 in Chapel Hill, and has wins in five straight overall, including 34-31 last season. The last seven meetings, however, have been decided by a combined 28 points.
2. Pitt DE Rashad Weaver recovered a fumble against Georgia Tech, his third of the season, which ties him for the national lead.
3. North Carolina WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams had 230 all-purpose yards against Pitt last year, including a 99-yard kick return for a TD. "Ratliff-Williams will make plays, he'll go up and get it. He's the guy we're going to have to stop," Narduzzi told reporters.
PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 27, North Carolina 23