Miami-Pittsburgh: Hurricanes' Keys to Beating the Panthers

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Miami-Pittsburgh: Hurricanes' Keys to Beating the Panthers
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

After a bye week, No. 19 Miami (FL) heads to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers. The Hurricanes are 8-1 overall against the Panthers, last losing to them in 1997.

Pittsburgh started the season having one of the best running backs of last year in Dion Lewis. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, Lewis has had a less-than-stellar start, only gaining 102 yards on 35 carries.

The keys to beating the Panthers start with stopping the running game as well as the Panthers' huge wide receivers.

Alongside Lewis is sophomore Ray Graham, who against New Hampshire had nine carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

Although Lewis has had a rough start, Miami has to treat him as though he is still one of the best running backs in the game. Lewis had a monster freshman year, running for 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Pittsburgh can also hurt you with the passing game. The Panthers' top two wide receivers, Jon Baldwin and Mike Shanahan, are both 6'5" and over 220 pounds.

Baldwin has 10 receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns so far this year. Shanahan has seven catches for 89 yards and no touchdowns. Although those aren't eye-popping numbers, Baldwin and Shanahan are both threats with their size.

Of course, that's if sophomore quarterback Tino Sunseri gets the protection he needs to get those receivers the ball. Sunseri, in his first starting season, has 459 yards passing and three touchdowns in two games.

On the defensive side, the Panthers were dealt a huge blow with the loss of Greg Romeus, who is going to have back surgery. Last year, he was the Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

The Hurricanes just need to play mistake-free ball. 

Against No. 2 Ohio State, Miami committed too many penalties and turnovers to stand any chance of beating the Buckeyes.

The offensive line looked impressive and if they can give Jacory Harris time to throw, there should be no problem putting points on the scoreboard.

I also believe Miami needs to run the ball better. Lamar Miller and Damien Berry need to establish some sort of run game.

Berry had a good game against the Buckeyes, running for 94 yards on just 16 carries. Miller only carried three times for just eight yards.

They need to have the two-headed combo come out and run, Berry inside and Miller outside, which will allow the passing game to open up.

So as long as Miami can mentally play better and stop the running game of the Panthers, they should leave Heinz Field with a 35-17 win.

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