Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pitt-Miami preview

No. 19 Miami (1-1) at Pitt (1-1)
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN/KDKA-FM 93.7.
Line: Miami by 3.
Series record: Miami leads 21-9-1.
Last meeting: 2003, Miami 28, Pitt 14.
What’s at Stake: A national ranking — Miami will stay ranked if it wins, and Pitt assuredly would move into the Top 25 if it does. The Hurricanes’ 36-24 loss at No. 2 Ohio State wasn’t unexpected, but coach Randy Shannon was upset about the sloppiness. So upset he ordered all of his players to stop posting messages on Twitter. Pitt lost its opener at Utah, and a 1-2 start would be deemed a failure for a Dave Wannstedt-coached team that was a near-unanimous pick to win the Big East.
Key matchup: Miami’s speed vs. Pitt’s offense and defense. Speed was the one Hurricanes’ asset that Pitt consistently failed to match during its six-game Big East losing streak against Miami that ran from 1998-2003, long before any of these players arrived. The teams haven’t played since Miami moved into the Atlantic Coast Conference. Pitt has upgraded its speed under Wannstedt, but no team on Pitt’s schedule has as much speed throughout its roster as Miami does.
Players to watch: Miami LB Sean Spence. Spence already has four tackles for losses on a team that leads the nation with 25. Controlling Pitt RB Dion Lewis and backup Ray Graham on first and second downs will be a priority for Spence and the Hurricanes.
Pitt RB Dion Lewis. The nation’s leading returning rusher after gaining 1,799 yards last season, Lewis is off to a surprisingly slow start with 102 yards and a 2.9 yards per carry average. He was benched for Ray Graham during the second half against New Hampshire. Pitt is ranked 89th in the country in rushing.
Facts & Figures: Miami’s last loss to Pitt was in 1997 at now-demolished Pitt Stadium. ... Miami has won 32 consecutive games against unranked conference opponents. Pitt is 1-10 against ranked non-conference opponents since 1996.... Pitt DE Brandon Lindsey has two sacks while replacing the injured Greg Romeus (back surgery), the 2009 Big East co-defensive player of the year who will miss most of the season ... Shannon was a LB at Miami when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator from 1986-88 and later was the linebackers coach when Wannstedt coached the Dolphins. ... By winning, Miami would start 2-1 for the third consecutive season.


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