Unranked Pitt ends No. 2 Miami’s undefeated season
Taking on the 4-7 Pittsburgh Panthers, owners of one of the worst defenses in the FBS, the second-ranked Miami Hurricanes dug too deep of a hole.
Pat Narduzzi's Panthers shut down quarterback Malik Rosier en route to a 24-14 win, ending the Hurricanes’ undefeated season in convincing fashion and creating an interesting scenario next weekend: Is an 11-1 ACC champion guaranteed a playoff spot?
No chance for two ACC playoff teams, but conference’s risk of missing the four-team field reemerges
When Miami ran onto Heinz Field on Friday afternoon, the Atlantic Coast Conference appeared to be cruising toward another College Football Playoff spot — if not two. With one-loss Clemson and undefeated Miami set to meet in next weekend’s conference title game, the (unlikely) two-team scenario still had a pulse. That farfetched possibility flatlined in Pittsburgh.
The conference’s playoff outlook remains strong — two one-loss, top-10 teams are set to square off in seven days, after all — but Pitt’s upset throws a minor wrench into the equation.
First, Clemson still needs to get past No. 24 South Carolina on Saturday. A Tigers loss to their intrastate rival would all but eliminate their own playoff hopes, and either end Miami’s with another ACC championship win or call the Hurricanes’ strength of record into question if they win their first ACC title. The Hurricanes’ best wins at the moment are against a three-loss Virginia Tech team and a two-loss Notre Dame squad limping down the stretch.
With the likes of Georgia, Auburn, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Ohio State hanging around the top 10 — not to mention undefeated Alabama — the ACC is not yet outright guaranteed a spot. Perhaps the worst-case scenario for John Swofford’s league: What happens if Georgia takes down Alabama in the SEC Championship? Will the committee really take one-loss Miami (dropped by 4-7 Pitt) over one-loss Alabama (dropped by CFP participant Georgia)?
Conference titles have a way of boosting resumes, but the Pitt-Miami result was far from beneficial for the ACC.
Miami’s struggles finally show in the win-loss column
The Hurricanes were an undefeated mess throughout the month of October.
Before the headline-stealing magic of the turnover chain in statement wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, Mark Richt’s team specialized in nail-biters against middling league opponents, beating Florida State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and North Carolina by a combined 18 points. Though undefeated, Rosier’s offense sputtered without star running back Mark Walton.
Miami entered Friday’s game ranked 33rd nationally in scoring after eclipsing the 40-point mark in two straight weeks, but that production came to a screeching halt as its offense found few answers and its opportunistic defense capitalized on fewer chances. Rosier, the first-year starter who was benched for a series, finished the game 15 of 34 for 187 yards and two touchdowns — numbers boosted by a garbage-time connection with Braxton Berrios that never truly threatened Pitt’s upset alert. His game-ending fumble capped a disappointing outing and short-circuited the Hurricanes' comeback prayers.
The fact that the Panthers, of all opponents, solved Miami makes the loss even more inexplicable. Though Narduzzi’s team had been much more competitive during the second half of the 2017 schedule, this was still a defensive unit ranked 113th nationally against the pass and allowing more than 27 points per game. This was the first time the Panthers held an opponent under 200 passing yards and a 45 percent completion rate since October 2015. The opponent in that instance was Georgia Tech.
Top-3 teams should avoid Pitt at all costs
Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Clemson know the feeling.
The other instance? Narduzzi’s group beat No. 3 Clemson just last season — the only blemish on the resume in Dabo Swinney’s championship run. The Hurricanes will be looking for history to repeat itself by running the table from here on out.