Panthers, No. 25 Hokies meet in key ACC division battle

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              Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker (2) recast after scoring a touchdown on a short run in the first half of an NCAA football game against the Georgia Tech Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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Pittsburgh (7-3, 4-2 ACC) at No. 25 Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2), Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST (ESPN2).

Line: Virginia Tech by 4.

Series record: Virginia Tech leads 10-8.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Some Coastal clarity. The winner moves into a tie with Virginia atop the division standings. Pittsburgh lost to the Cavaliers in the season opener, so would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker, but Virginia Tech and the Cavaliers play in the final week of the regular season at Virginia, which would win the division by winning that game.

KEY MATCHUP

Hendon Hooker vs. Pittsburgh’s defensive line. The Panthers lead the nation in sacks with 45 and are among the national leaders in numerous other categories, which has been the spearhead to their winning six of their last seven games. Hooker has dual-threat abilities at times, but needs protection to be most effective.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Pittsburgh: QB Kenny Pickett. He is averaging 256.8 passing yards per game, which ranks 25th nationally and third among ACC quarterbacks, but will be going against a Hokies defense that is also pretty strong in the pass-rush department, ranking 11th nationally with 3.3 sacks per game..

Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech RBs: The Hokies haven’t had a dominant runner, but the combination of Deshawn McClease and Keshawn King needs to be effective enough to keep the Panthers, who arrive with the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense, from pinning their ears back and going after Hooker. The Hokies have rushed for 200 or more yards in four of their past five games.

FACTS & FIGURES

Since taking over as Pitt’s head coach in 2015, Pat Narduzzi has directed the Panthers to 24 victories in ACC play, trailing only Clemson (38) and Miami (25) during that span. … The Panthers beat the Hokies 52-22 last season and have won seven of the last 10 meetings. … The Hokies will honor their few seniors before the game, but it’s also longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s final home game. … Hooker is 5-0 as a starter with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in those games. … Virginia Tech has allowed one rushing touchdown in its last five games.