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Matchup breakdowns: Virginia at Pittsburgh

Matchup breakdowns: Virginia at Pittsburgh

Virginia Louisville Football

Virginia wide receiver Keytaon Thompson crosses the goal line to score a touchdown against Louisville on Oct. 9.

A look at who has the edge in Saturday's ACC Coastal Division clash between Virginia and Pittsburgh.


The status for UVa’s Brennan Armstrong (ribs) is still up in the air, with Hoos coach Bronco Mendenhall having earlier in the week said he hoped Armstrong was closer to second-to-second than day-to-day. If Armstrong does play, it sets up a terrific quarterback encounter with Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett. Armstrong enters with 3,557 passing yards and 27 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. Pickett has 3,517 passing yards with 32 touchdowns compared to four interceptions. If Armstrong can’t go, the Cavaliers will start freshman Jay Woolfolk for the second straight week. Edge: Pittsburgh

Running backs

Another member of the Cavaliers with uncertainty heading into Saturday is running back Wayne Taulapapa, who Mendenhall said is dealing with a concussion. In place of Taulapapa, if he can’t play, the Cavaliers can use sophomore Mike Hollins or Harvard transfer Devin Darrington. Neither is a lead back, so unless Taulapapa is ready, Pitt’s group of Irsael Abanikanda and Vincent Davis have proven to be more effective. Edge: Pittsburgh

Receivers/tight ends

These two receiver groups boast plenty of star power with UVa’s Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson and Pitt’s Jordan Addison. All three rank in the top seven in the ACC for receiving yards. Addison is a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award as he’s tallied 60 catches for 1,070 yards and 11 touchdowns, having emerged as Pickett’s top target. Wicks’ 22.8 yards per catch tops the ACC and he has nine scoring grabs. Thompson has 59 catches for 756 yards. Edge: Push

Offensive line

UVa’s veteran offensive line felt like it surrendered too many sacks last week against Notre Dame, but for the most part the group has helped stabilize protection for Armstrong and has an understanding of what it needs to do better in front of Woolfolk if Woolfolk plays again. Pitt has rushed for more yards than UVa and given up fewer sacks than the Cavs, though. Edge: Pittsburgh

Defensive line

On their starting defensive front, the Panthers have two pass rushers with at least five sacks and defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado leads their team with eight and also has 10.5 tackles for loss. He’s disruptive and the Cavaliers haven’t gotten production like that from anyone on their front. Edge: Pittsburgh


Where UVa has gotten plenty of production from is inside linebacker Nick Jackson, whose 95 tackles are second most in the ACC. Between Jackson and outside linebacker Noah Taylor, who has tallied 61 tackles and eight tackles for loss, the Cavaliers should feel good about their second level. Pitt’s Phil Campbell III has 43 tackles. Edge: Virginia


Coen King’s development has provided UVa with needed help in its secondary considering safety De’Vante Cross has been ruled out for the year with a knee injury. King has started at free safety, corner and nickel this fall, and has been a nice complement to Joey Blount and Anthony Johnson. Pittsburgh safety Brandon Hill leads his team with 65 tackles. Edge: Virginia

Special teams

Pittsburgh’s special teams have typically posed a dangerous threat under special teams coordinator Andre Powell, a former Virginia assistant during the George Welsh era. The Panthers haven’t returned a kick for a touchdown yet this year, but since 2015 when Powell arrived, they have seven scores via the kick return. That sets up an intriguing collision with UVa’s kick-return defense, which ranks fourth in the country this fall. Edge: Push

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