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FSU vs. Pitt: Keys to victory, prediction

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Florida State (2-4, 1-4 ACC) host Pitt (3-4, 2-4) at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Doak Campbell Stadium in a game that will televised on the ACC Network.

The Seminoles enter the game as a two-point favorite and a win would ensure that FSU avoids being tied for last place in the ACC at the conclusion of the weekend. Pitt is trying to avoid their fifth consecutive loss. The Panthers hold a 5-4 edge in the series with the last meeting taking place in 2013. This will be the first time the two programs have played in Tallahassee as conference opponents.

The Osceola staff takes a look at some of the keys to an FSU victory on Saturday night against the Panthers:

Balanced offense: FSU’s strength is to run and Pitt’s strength is stopping the run. The Seminoles will likely find it difficult to beat the Panthers solely by running the football and will need to find big plays if not efficiency throwing the ball against Pitt. If Tamorrion Terry is able to play, his addition will also give the Seminoles a chance to stretch the field and challenge a secondary that will be missing safety Paris Ford (he has opted out for the rest of the season). Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham says he has not installed anything new in the passing game but, coming off a bye week, we won’t hold him to his word. We expect FSU to show new wrinkles to the Panthers, especially since they will be starting a freshman at strong safety in place of Ford.

Be Defensive: This is very broad-based but the Seminoles simply must play better defense as a unit and as individual players within the structure of the calls. Pitt’s offense simply hasn’t been very good at all in the two games that quarterback Kenny Pickett has missed. His replacement, Joey Yellen, has completed just 43.8 percent of his passes in his two starts. The Panthers’ offense is also averaging just 2.8 yards on the ground in all games and just 2.6 yards per carry against ACC foes. FSU’s defensive line needs be to dominant at the line of scrimmage vs. the run and put Pitt in some third-and-long situations where it can rediscover its pass rush and make Yellen uncomfortable. Pitt is only converting 34 percent of its third-down opportunities this season. Of course, FSU must also limit big plays that result in scores or set up scores. The Seminoles gave up 559 yards to Louisville but 429 yards was given up on just 13 of the Cardinals offensive snaps. That is a sin that the FSU defense can ill-afford to commit again.

Average Starting Field Position/Short Field: Driving the length of the field against the Panthers could prove to be difficult given how good they are against the run. FSU needs its defense and special teams to help the offense by giving it some short-field opportunities by way of turnovers/blocked kicks or returns in the kicking game. By the same token FSU must make Pitt drive the field given the fact that the Panthers are completing less than 50 percent of their passes with Yellen at quarterback and have one of the most anemic running games in college football. There is a good chance the team that is the most productive in giving its offense short-field opportunities and is the most efficient in converting those opportunities into points will win this game.

Make Your Three-Pointers: As you will see by our staff predictions, we anticipate this to be a closely contested game, which means FSU will have to get points in the kicking game and it has been very inconsistent doing that so far this year. That needs to change against Pitt. FSU must make take advantage of its field-goal opportunities against the Panthers. Parker Grothaus and Ryan Fitzgerald have made just 54 percent their field-goal attempts (6 of 11) this season. Fitzgerald is 3 for 3 inside 29 yards but only 1 of 3 from 30-plus yards. Grothaus is 1 for 1 inside 39 yards but only 1 for 3 on kicks of 40-plus yards.

Predictions

Patrick Burnham – Florida State 25, Pitt 22

Bob Ferrante – Florida State 17, Pitt 10

Jerry Kutz – Florida State 27, Pitt 24

Mark Salva – Florida State 24, Pitt 21

What’s your prediction for Saturday’s game? Give us your thoughts on the Osceola’s message board