|Miami puts 15-game streak on line at Pitt|
Every time Miami ventures north of the Georgia-Florida line in November, it seems mandatory that the Hurricanes be forced to address the issue of weather and how they are going to cope with the "cold."
With a temperature expected to be in the 40s, however, that doesn't appear to be much of a problem when the Hurricanes (10-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) play at Pittsburgh (4-7, 2-5) this time.
What is more on Miami coach Mark Richt's mind is dealing with the short work week and getting his players ready for Friday's noon kickoff at Heinz Field.
"We don't have a lot of time," Richt said. "Pitt doesn't either. These guys know. They know they have to get their rest, take care of their bodies."
Because of the juggling of the schedule created when Hurricane Irma hit South Florida in September with one game (Arkansas State on Sept. 9) canceled and another postponed (Florida State to Oct. 12 from Sept. 16), the Hurricanes lost an early open date and thus will be playing a 10th consecutive weekend with an 11th coming up Dec. 2 in the ACC Championship Game.
Richt said coaches must take that into consideration.
"We, as coaches, have to be wise and not do things to wear them out but still do enough to be prepared," he said. "They have to take care of themselves."
After posting their 15th consecutive win dating to last season with their come-from-behind 44-28 win over Virginia last week, the Hurricanes will be facing a Pitt team that saw its chance of keeping alive hopes of reaching bowl eligibility lost. The Panthers could not punch it in from a yard out in four tries in the closing seconds in a 20-14 loss to Virginia Tech.
But coach Pat Narduzzi expects his Panthers to be ready for the Hurricanes, who were No. 3 in last week's College Football Playoff rankings and are No. 2 in media and coaches' polls this week.
Narduzzi expects an emotional atmosphere at Heinz Field with 14 players being recognized on Senior Day, plus "playing a tremendous football team with a ton of speed, ton of confidence, and obviously playing at a high level right now," he said. "It will be a great challenge.
"We'll use Miami as a measuring stick as to how far we've grown through the entire year."
The failure to get the ball into the end zone on its final series against Virginia Tech is kind of emblematic of the season the Panthers have gone through. Though averaging a not-terrible 148 yards a game rushing, the Panthers had only 55 against the Hokies just one week after amassing 267 against North Carolina and 336 against Duke two weeks earlier.
The game against the Hokies marked the fourth time they have failed to get to the 100 mark on the ground.
Narduzzi noted that his Panthers will be going up a veteran Miami defense that is fast and talented. And yes, he is aware of the gold turnover chain that is draped around the neck of a Miami defensive player who comes up with interception or fumble recovery.
The Hurricanes have had 19 takeaways over the last five games and 27 for the season, tied for third nationally.
"They've got confidence they're going to get turnovers every time they walk out onto the field, so that's certainly going to be a key to victory -- don't get them started -- pass that chain around and have 10 or 12 guys have that chain around their neck," Narduzzi said. "We've got to make sure that things stays wherever they keep it when they walk out onto the field. Keep it in that box."
Narduzzi isn't sure who will start at quarterback for Pitt. Freshman Kenny Pickett, who finished against Virginia Tech, and sophomore Ben DiNucci are separated by "or" on the depth chart.
"We've got to get a run game going," he said.
It will be interesting to see how Miami rebounds after last week's close call at home to Virginia. The Hurricanes twice trailed by 14-point margins before pulling out the victory.
"They beat the team we just played, 31-14, I believe,'' Richt said of the Panthers. "That's about all you need to know."