After a bye week the Heels will host Pitt for their homecoming game. A win for the Heels is crucial if they want to reach the six wins necessary to reach bowl eligibility. The Panthers are an average ACC team in a year when the conference is somewhat mediocre as a whole, especially in the Coastal Division. Pitt's strengths are its rushing attack but its defense has gotten noticeably worse in the past two games.
Pitt is coming off of a bye week of its own. Two weeks ago Pitt lost in double overtime to Duke at home. Pitt's offense is centered around its run game. Its passing game is very weak, 109th in the nation in terms of total yards and 104th in the country in terms of yards per game. The Pitt passing game is led by sophomore quarterback Chad Voytik. Voytik is an average quarterback and all signs point towards this being a developmental year for him before he takes over next year and in his senior season. Voytik completes more than 61% of his passes and has thrown 11 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions in Pitt's nine games this season. Voytik can not beat the Heels with his arm but he can not be counted on to lose this game for Pitt. Voytik is something of a dual threat quarterback, although he will not be directly relied upon as a runner, Voytik has more than 350 yards rushing on the season with 2 touchdowns.
Pitt's rushing attack is where they will look to generate the majority of its yards and points. Pitt ranks 18th in the country in rushing yards per game with 247.7 yards per contest. Pitt has 23 touchdowns on the ground this season, tie for 26th in the country. Pitt's ground attack is led by sophomore running back James Conner. Conner is one of the best running backs in the country, with the third most rushing yards of any player in the country. Conner averages 6.1 yards per rush one of the best in the country for a back with the amount of carries he gets, with more than 24 carries per game. If the Heels can bottle up Conner, a tall order for this defense, then they may be able to win this game.
On defense the Panthers are one of the better teams in the country, only allowing 334 yards per game. This defensive prowess mostly comes from its 7th ranked pass defense, which only allows 176.8 yards per game. The Heels should be able to hurt Pitt on the ground, Pitt allows 157.2 yards per game the 64th mark in the country. Some of this is most likely a function of the Panthers playing in close games. Games in which their opponent would try to control the pace by running the ball rather than throwing on most drives. Pitt's defense does not create a lot of turnovers, they've only intercepted eight passes all season and only recovered three fumbles on defense all year. The Panthers instead prefer to play conservative reliable defense which has so far led them to one of the better marks in the entire country.
Win the game:
This looks to be a pass/fail assignment, the Heels have to win this game if they want any hope of a post season. It's simple and sweet but necessary if this is not to be considered a total failure of a season.
Control the game by scoring early:
By scoring early in the game the Heels would be able to force Pitt to throw the ball to catch up. Doing this would neuter the strengths of the Pitt offense and provide an easier path to a Carolina victory.
The past few games have seen the Heels be dreadful in the kicking game, with the Heels missing multiple field goals as well as an extra point. The Heels will have to play better in the kicking game if they want to win the game and eventually become bowl eligible.