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Tar Heels Face Challenge at Pitt

Sharon Thorsland
November 13, 2019 - 12:31 pm

It's a prime time showdown for North Carolina on Thursday night. The Tar Heels face one of the top defenses in the country when they take on Pitt at Heinz Field. Kick-off is set for 8:00 on WBT.

The Tar Heels (4-5, 3-2 ACC) had a bye last week, and are coming off a close loss to Virginia. Now they get one of the nation's top defenses in the Panthers, who are 6-3 (3-2 ACC) on the year.

The Panthers are hot right now, they've won 5 of their last 6 games thanks in large part to their outstanding defense.

Pitt features a ferocious pass rush that ranks 3rd in the nation with 40 sacks. Patrick Jones and Jaylen Twyman are two of eight Pitt players with multiple sacks.

That's bad news for UNC quarterback Sam Howell, whose front line hasn't done the best job protecting him this season, allowing 3.2 sacks per game. So a huge key to the game will be blocking this Pitt defensive front.

The good news is, the Tar Heels have been effective running the ball, averaging 168 yards per game. But Pitt has been even better stopping the run, ranking seventh in the nation allowing just under 86 yards per game.

So the Heels will look for Javonte Williams and Michael Carter to carry the load Thursday night to take some pressure off Howell.

Pitt has a pair of star receivers in Maurice Ffrench (yes, that's how you spell his name) and Taysir Mack, who rank first and fourth respectively in the ACC in catches.

That's in spite of having a quarterback who hasn't been particularly effective - junior Kenny Pickett has thrown just nine touchdowns with eight interceptions this season.

The Tar Heels have been dinged up in the secondary of late, so containing French and Mack could be a problem. Pitt's ground game has been solid, with A.J. Davis leading the way with 407 rushing yards. Freshman Vincent Davis has also stepped up recently.

This should be a good matchup. Eight of North Carolina's nine games have been decided by one score or less, Pitt has had six such games themselves.

The Tar Heels are 6-0 against the Panthers since they joined the ACC and all six of those games have been decided by a touchdown or less, including last season's 38-35 win in Chapel Hill. It won't be easy to continue that streak, but I think Mack and the boys can do it. Go Tar Heels!​

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