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Three ways Pitt can beat No. 23 Virginia

November 24, 2018

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi or any of his players aren’t talking -- at least, publicly -- about the possibility of moving into first place in the ACC Coastal on Friday night in Charlottesville, Va.

That’s because there’s too much season left (four games), and a victory against Virginia is not nearly enough. Pitt (4-4, 3-1 ACC) needs to stack victories, and two more and mere bowl eligibility is not the goal. Pitt should and will accept a bowl bid at 6-6, but it won’t be with a sense of accomplishment.

But let’s not pour cold water on Friday’s game.

The nation’s pollsters are noticing Virginia (6-2, 4-1), which is 23rd in the Associated Press poll and No. 25 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

If Pitt wins, the Panthers might not be ranked with four losses, but they will be relevant in the national landscape of college football. Here’s how they can do it:

1. Play Carter

Narduzzi hasn’t called looking for advice in this matter, but V’Lique Carter should play until he no longer can help the team. That’s assuming he’s healthy.

Trying to finesse Carter’s playing time so he doesn’t appear in five games and burn his redshirt is silly. If that happens, no big deal. He still would have three years of eligibility remaining and that’s a lifetime in college football.

If he’s not around for the 2022 season, Pitt’s coaching staff should worry about that after the ’21 season, not when the ACC Coastal title is at stake.

Maybe Narduzzi is concerned the element of surprise that worked so well for Carter against Duke is gone. It is, but speed and elusiveness win games. Without Carter, Pitt doesn’t have enough of it to defeat tough opponents.

2. Stop Bryce Perkins

Recruited to Arizona State by Todd Graham, Perkins has turned into one of the most productive players in the ACC after transferring from Arizona Western Community College.

He’s another in a long line of mobile quarterbacks who gives Pitt headaches. Trace McSorley, TaQuon Marshall, McKenzie Milton and Eric Dungey have rushed for six touchdowns against Pitt, and Perkins is as good as any of them.

3. Let Pickett grow

Even if Carter plays, Pitt might try to rely on running backs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. That usually is good strategy, but Virginia’s run defense allows an average of 113 yards. Time for a new plan.

Pickett completed only eight passes against Duke, but half of them were in the final, winning drive. He brought Pitt from its 18 in only 69 seconds.

This is the ninth game, Pickett’s 10th. He has a lot of growing to do, but he’s no longer inexperienced. Playing Virginia at night with so much at stake is a lot for Pickett to overcome. But if Virginia’s run defense is as good as advertised, Pickett might be Pitt’s best chance.

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