Preview: Pittsburgh at Northwestern

When: 2:00 PM ET, Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York




NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL STORYLINES

1. After playing in the highest-scoring game in FBS history, No. 23 Pittsburgh will look to light up the scoreboard again when it faces Northwestern in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl played at Yankee Stadium in New York City on Dec. 28. The Panthers averaged 10.9 yards per play in piling up 11 touchdowns in a 76-61 win over Syracuse in the regular-season finale Nov. 26 - the most points scored by a Pitt team since beating Temple 76-0 in 1977. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada, the mastermind of the offense which enters the contest ranked 10th in the country in scoring (42.3 points per game), will join LSU in the same position right after the bowl game to resurrect a dormant Tigers offense.

2. The Northwestern defense will provide Pitt a stiff challenge, ranking 23rd in FBS in points allowed (22.1 per game) despite yielding 402 yards per game. On the other side of the ball, Wildcats sophomore quarterback Clayton Thorson (2,968 yards, 21 TDs, 8 INTs) will try to take advantage of a Panthers defense that ranks 127th in passing yards allowed (343.1 per game). His primary target will be former walk-on Austin Carr, a first team All-Conference pick who caught 23 passes his first three seasons but led the Big Ten in receptions (84), yards (1,196) and receiving touchdowns (12) as a senior in 2016.

3. Pitt, which is playing in its ninth consecutive bowl, finished the season on a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2004 and had the distinction of being the only team to beat two Power-5 conference champions (42-39 over Penn State of the Big Ten; 43-42 over Clemson of the ACC). The Wildcats became bowl-eligible for the seventh time in the last nine seasons with a 42-21 triumph over Illinois on Nov. 26 behind 173 yards rushing and three touchdowns by Justin Jackson. The junior (Big Ten-leading 1,300 yards, 12 TDs) won’t be the only elite running back in the game, as Pitt’s James Conner ran for 1,060 yards and scored 20 touchdowns after sitting out all but one game in 2015 with a torn ACL and a bout of lymphoma.

TV: 2 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Pittsburgh -5.5

ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (6-6, 5-4 Big Ten): Jackson, a first team All-Big Ten running back, posted his third consecutive 1,000-yard campaign and has 3,905 career yards rushing, 27 rushing TDs and a 4.7 per carry average. Thorson, who had seven TD passes and nine interceptions as a full-time starter his freshman season, was completing just 53 percent of his passes with five TDs and four picks during the Wildcats’ 1-3 start in 2016, but the sophomore finished by completing 60 percent of his tosses with 18 TDs against just four interceptions in the final eight games. On the defensive side of the ball, first team all-conference defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo tied for the league lead with 10 sacks while junior linebacker Anthony Walker, Jr. had 98 tackles but is averaging 9.4 tackles per game over his last eight.

ABOUT PITTSBURGH (8-4, 5-3 ACC): Conner (ACC all-time leader with 56 touchdowns), a first-team all-conference performer, was given the Brian Piccolo Award for the “most courageous” football player in the ACC. Senior quarterback Nathan Peterman (59.7 percent completions, 2,602 yards, 26 TDs, 6 INT) threw 12 touchdowns against two interceptions in season-ending victories over Clemson, Duke and Syracuse and completed the season with a passer rating of 161.2 - tops in the ACC and ninth nationally. The Panthers pass defense is suspect, but one standout has been first-team all-conference defensive end Ejaun Price, who ranks second nationally in tackles for loss (1.8 per game) and fifth in sacks (1.0) with half of his 42 tackles this season being behind the line of scrimmage.



PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 38, Northwestern 35

Stats and Records

Team Comparison

  W/L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Pittsburgh 8-4 W3 42.3 35.6 6-1 2-3 8-3 0-0 5-3
Northwestern 6-6 W1 25.6 22.1 3-4 3-2 5-4 0-0 5-4

Last Meeting

Pittsburgh Northwestern
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
No Previous Meeting.

Player Stats

Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP% YDS TD INT
PITT N/A
NW N/A
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
PITT N/A
NW N/A
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
PITT N/A
NW N/A
TDs Player TD
PITT N/A
NW N/A
Season
Passing Player COMP% YDS TD INT
PITT N. Peterman 59.7 2602 26 6
NW C. Thorson 58.1 2968 21 8
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
PITT J. Conner 208 1060 5.1 16
NW J. Jackson 266 1300 4.9 12
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
PITT J. Weah 34 795 23.4 9
NW A. Carr 84 1196 14.2 12
TDs Player TD
PITT J. Conner 20
NW A. Carr 12

Quickchart Matchup

Pittsburgh Off vs  Northwestern Def
447.5 yards
401.6 yards
5.4 yards/rush
3.7 yards/rush
8.9 yards/attempt
6.8 yards/attempt
Northwestern Off vs  Pittsburgh Def
392.9 yards
452 yards
3.9 yards/rush
3.4 yards/rush
6.6 yards/attempt
8 yards/attempt

Matchup Stats - Full Matchup

Pittsburgh Overall Northwestern
8-4-0 W/L 6-6-0
5-7-0 ATS 7-5-0
11-1-0 O/U 4-8-0
42.3 Pts For 25.6
35.6 Pts Against 22.1
Pittsburgh A/H Northwestern
2-3 W/L 3-4
3-2-0 ATS 3-4-0
5-0-0 O/U 1-6-0
38.0 Pts For 19.7
41.2 Pts Against 17.7