Miami at Pittsburgh: Prediction, pick, line, odds, TV channel, live stream, watch online
Miami looks to cap an undefeated regular season at Pitt on Black Friday
After back-to-back home wins under the lights in front of a rowdy, packed Hard Rock Stadium crowd, Miami was questioned by the college football world at large: can the Hurricanes replicate that energy and high level of play in back-to-back early kickoffs to close the season undefeated?
In roaring back from two-touchdown deficits twice and winning by 16 points against Virginia, Miami capped a perfect home record for the 2017 season and all-but-guaranteed a "win-and-you're-in" scenario for the College Football Playoff in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson. Now the environment changes again, with a short week and early kickoff on the Friday after Thanksgiving at Pittsburgh.
The Panthers played Virginia Tech close last week (a 20-14 loss in Blacksburg) and knocked off Virginia earlier this month. The Hurricanes appear to be on the verge of closing out the program's first undefeated regular season since 2002, but this last win could end up being just as tough as those primetime wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame given the opponent, location and timing of the contest.
Date: Friday, Nov. 24 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Heinz Field -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN
Miami: The ACC Coastal is locked up, and last week's win against Virginia guarantees that Miami is, at worst, a one-loss conference champion if they beat Clemson in Charlotte on Dec. 2. Given the College Football Playoff landscape, that worst-case scenario probably still leaves the Hurricanes in the top four of the final rankings, playing on New Year's Day in one of two semifinals for the national championship.
But that's not a message that's going to get through to this Miami team.
Mark Richt and his staff have done a tremendous job of getting the Hurricanes laser-focused on the task at hand, and the insulation they've established around the program has prevented the hype from impacting their play during this late-season rise up the rankings. A solid, talented and somewhat inexperienced team has matured into a legitimate national title threat over the course of the last 12 weeks. Championship teams don't lose in spots like this, so even if a title chance is still on the table with a loss, it won't provide much confidence that this group is ready to finish the job.
Pitt: The Panthers have some history knocking off top teams with the 2007 win against West Virginia and last year's epic shootout victory against Clemson both getting some additional attention, but right now, the focus for this group is on finishing the season strong after a crushing loss to Virginia Tech last week. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett -- the third starter under center for the Panthers this year -- got the ball to big-play threat Jester Weah on a 74-yard pass play to set up first and goal from the one-yard line with 30 seconds to play as the team was down by six points only to get stuffed four times by the Hokies defense. Losing on a goal-line stand like that can be deflating, particularly as it dropped Pitt to 4-7 on the year.
So where is the mentality of this Pitt team? Will a win on senior day or playing spoiler be enough for the Panthers to raise their collective level of energy and intensity to a point where they can overcome Miami's many advantages in the matchup? There is a lot of attention on Miami's mindset and talk about a potential letdown spot, but if Pitt doesn't show up, it won't take much for Miami to secure a victory.
Team speed is going to be a real concern for Pitt in this game. After all the talk about motivations, stakes, energy, letdown spots and more, I think this game comes down to a team speed. Even if Miami comes out a little bit sleepy with the early start on Black Friday, any deficit will be a wake-up call, and last week showed how quickly this team can flip the switch and respond to a deficit. South Florida players may not favor the conditions, but there's a warrior mentality on this team that prevents me from siding with abstract, off-field factors in a game I expect Miami to win. Pick: Miami -13.5
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