The ACC Coastal Division should get decided on Saturday as the Pittsburgh Panthers host the Virginia Cavaliers. Pitt has a one-game lead over the Cavaliers with two to play and will clinch its second Coastal title in four years with a win. Virginia needs to beat Pitt and get some help to overtake the Panthers for its second Coastal crown in three years.
The winner of Saturday’s game will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker in the division, which will make things much easier as the teams head into the final week if things are still not settled.
Virginia Cavaliers vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
Saturday, November 20, 2021 – 03:30 PM EST at Heinz Field
Missing One Key Guy
UVA’s hopes of catching Pitt will hinge on the availability of their best offensive player. Quarterback Brandon Armstrong, who leads the ACC in total offense and passing yards per game, suffered an undisclosed injury against Brigham Young on Oct. 30, prior to a bye week. While the team has not commented on what’s wrong with him, media reports have emerged saying it might be his ribs.
Armstrong threw the ball a few times on the sidelines prior to last Saturday’s game against Notre Dame but never went through pregame warmups. Instead, true freshman, Jay Woolfolk got the start, becoming the first true freshman starter under center for UVA since 1977.
Woolfolk got intercepted twice by the Fighting Irish, and Virginia managed just three points on the day, its lowest scoring output since 2017. UVA is keeping tight-lipped on Armstrong’s status. "Day-by-day, minute-by-minute, second-by-second," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "It didn't look good early in the week, and it looks better every day...we're not ruling anything out but it literally is day-by-day."
However, Mendenhall’s comments on Woolfolk didn’t sound encouraging for Armstrong’s return in the near future. “We saw Jay now as our backup quarterback becoming our starter, [seeing] where he is, what that looks like now, which is great information going into the finish of the Coastal,” Mendenhall said, not clarifying whether he’s become the starter on a permanent basis.
With UVA’s Armstrong ailing, Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett steps up as the undisputed top quarterback in the conference. Pickett was second to Armstrong in total offense and passing yards and leads the ACC in passer rating.
Pickett’s targets will include receiver Jordan Addison, who was just named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award. He’s fifth in the ACC with 60 catches, second with 1,070 yards, and tied for the league lead with 11 touchdown catches. He’s also scored once running the ball.
They’ll be facing a UVA defense that ranks No. 120 in the nation, allowing 461.9 yards per game. So prospects look good for Pitt to put up points. The question is whether Virginia will be able to match them with their starting quarterback ailing.
Pitt is preparing for Armstrong to answer the bell. The Panthers are coming off an overtime win over another one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks in UNC’s Sam Howell, intercepting him to end the game last Thursday night.
The Panthers aren’t entirely healthy either. Wide receivers Taysir Mack and Jaylon Barden and offensive linemen Gabe Houy and Jake Kradel have all missed time due to injury.
A longtime independent, Pitt joined a conference—the Big East—in 2001. Over the last two decades, the Panthers have had the chance to clinch a conference or division title at home three times. They’ve lost all three, the last coming in 2010. The Panthers would like to end that skid on Saturday.
Pitt is favored by more than two touchdowns, which seems extreme for two teams separated by one conference game. It’s tough to find a case for Virginia, however, the Cavaliers are on the road and will be playing either without their quarterback or with him slowed by injury. For your college football pick, look for Pitt to make a statement and wrap up the division in a home route.
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