UNC Football: Staff Picks Game Eight: vs Pittsburgh

Rodney Hammond Jr. (6) and M.J. Devonshire (12) of the Pittsburgh Panthers react as the West Virginia Mountaineers walk off the field after falling to the Panthers 38-31 at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA on September 1, 2022.Pitt Vs West Virginia Backyard Brawl
Rodney Hammond Jr. (6) and M.J. Devonshire (12) of the Pittsburgh Panthers react as the West Virginia Mountaineers walk off the field after falling to the Panthers 38-31 at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA on September 1, 2022.Pitt Vs West Virginia Backyard Brawl /

Chapel Hill will be buzzing on Saturday night, as the UNC football team hosts the Pittsburgh Panthers.

It is time for the home stretch of the football season.  Following their second and final bye week of the year, the UNC football team is in an outstanding position.

Carolina will play as a ranked team on Saturday for the first time in over a year and is in the driver’s seat in the Coastal Division.

With plenty of favorable results last weekend, UNC currently holds a two-game lead over the rest of the division and has the inside track to Charlotte.

Will the Tar Heels defend their home turf against last year’s ACC Champion and strengthen their hold on the Coastal?  Find out what our staff thinks below!

Nick Delahanty

Yes, the UNC football program has been pretty bad in games after a “bye week” since Mack Brown returned to campus, but hey, what better week to change that than this week?

The Tar Heels should come into this one highly motivated, given their two-game lead in the ACC Coastal Division with five conference games left to play. Playing in front of the home crowd, this is a game that North Carolina should be prepared for, and should ultimately win.

For the Tar Heels, the key is to keep Drake Maye on his feet. Pittsburgh has done a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback (averaging three sacks per game), which could be an issue for North Carolina’s offensive line. If the big men up front can give Maye enough time (and avoid any major hits on QB1), I believe the Tar Heels will be alright in this one.

I expect an offensive slugfest, but I ultimately see the UNC football program coming out with another big conference victory.

Prediction: North Carolina 41, Pittsburgh 37

Isaac Schade

This North Carolina / Pittsburgh series has quietly been a lot of fun for quite some time.
UNC leads the all-time series 10-5, but Pitt has taken each of the last two. Interestingly,
the last 10 games between the schools have all been decided by seven or fewer points.

The last game between the Tar Heels and Panthers with greater than a one-possession
margin of victory was on October 10, 1998, when North Carolina won by 19. All that to say:
I don’t expect anything different in this game. So for those hoping for the Tar Heels to
play a “non-heart-attack” type game after several recent close calls, I’m afraid you’ll
have to wait another week.

The good news though: while Carolina struggled to win those tight games last year
(such as an OT loss at Pitt), the 2022 Tar Heels have shown a knack for making just
enough plays to seal a victory.

Watch for each team’s electric offensive centerpieces to be the story of the game. For
UNC, it’s Drake Maye and his bevy of receiving weapons, led by Josh Downs and
Antoine Green. For Pitt, it’s running back Israel Abanikanda. The Panthers will look to
use that ground attack to keep Maye and the offense on the sideline.

While they will somewhat limit the Tar Heels’ possessions, Maye still does enough with the time he does have to put UNC over the top on Homecoming.  UNC covers the three-point spread with a 35-31 victory, just enough to take the over (O/U 65).

Prediction: North Carolina 35, Pittsburgh 31

Mark DeMott

North Carolina has a golden opportunity to put a stranglehold on the Coastal Division this Saturday.  With a two-game lead on every team in the division, the Heels control their own destiny in the division and are the current favorites to head to Charlotte for a likely shot at Clemson.

Saturday’s opponent, Pittsburgh, is the defending ACC Champion, but they have taken a significant step back thus far after last year’s quarterback Kenny Pickett went off to the NFL.  The Panthers filled that void with USC transfer Kedon Slovis, but he has not met expectations thus far.  The Panthers rank 82nd in the country in passing yards per game, and Slovis has thrown five interceptions to go along with just five touchdowns.

Pitt’s strength thus far has been on the ground, as running back Israel Abanikanda is 4th in the nation in rushing yards per game.  It will be crucial for Carolina to build an early lead and force the Panthers to become one-dimensional and play from behind.  Linebackers Cedric Gray and Power Echols have been very good thus far but will face one of their toughest challenges of the year with the Pittsburgh running game.

Pitt’s defense has been decent thus far, but I have a hard time believing any team in the ACC Coastal can shut down this Carolina offense.  After consecutive good (but not perfect) offensive performances by Drake Maye and company prior to the bye week, I expect the Heels offense to be sharp as ever and put a ton of points on the board.  Through seven games I firmly believe that Carolina has not only the best quarterback (Maye) but also the best wide receiver duo (Josh Downs and Antoine Green) in the ACC, and that will be the difference in this one.

Pitt will give UNC their best shot, but Carolina will pull away in the second half.  The Heels will move to 4-0 in ACC play and have Charlotte on their minds entering the final month of the regular season.

Prediction: North Carolina 45, Pittsburgh 27

Aaron Conrad

Once again, we are going to talk about my prediction by talking about the defense. Always, always, always the defense.

This one makes me nervous. Pitt has a ground attack that could really gash the Tar Heels. While the defense has looked just a little bit better and shown signs of getting an occasional stop, I do not like this matchup.

The offense for the Tar Heels is never a question. So the question will be can they score more than Pitt is sure to score. I also don’t like how they have performed traditionally after a bye week.

It pains me to say it, but I am going to have to go with Pitt in this one.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 45, North Carolina 42

Staff Standings

Isaac: 6-1

Mark: 6-1

Aaron: 6-1

Nick: 5-2

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