Well it is finally time to address the Big East schools on the schedule. And it brings us to the Pittsburgh Panthers.
What we know
The Panthers are this year’s darling to make a splash in the Big East Conference race for a BCS slot. Much of this is largely based on Pitt’s upset of West Virginia in the season finally 13-9,that effectively ended the Mountaineers chance to play in the BCS championship game. Also coach Dave Wannstedt has been stacking up Top 25 recruiting classes like a weightlifter on a steriod program. Last year Pitt finished with a 5-7 record and 3-4 in conference play with wins over Eastern Michigan, Grambling St, Cincinnati, Syracuse and West Virginia. Losses were to Michigan St, UConn, Virginia, Navy, Louisville, USF and Rutgers.
Things went south for Pitt when QB Bill Stull was lost for the season with a thumb injury and true frosh Pat Bostick was given the reins. Also lost for the year was talented WR Derek Kinder. He is back as is Oderick Turner, burner TJ Porter and they welcome 6’6″ 5-star Jonathon Baldwin. LeSean McCoy was a revelation at RB, rushing for 1300+ yds and 14 TDs. If there is a concern on offense its that the OL returns only one starter. The line needs to gel, but the weapons are definitely there.
The real reason that expectations are high is that the defense has a chance to be special. Last year the D ranked 5th overall in total yards allowed thanks to allowing only 167.2 yds a game, good for 3rd in the nation. The DL is really talented and deep, led by end Greg Romeus, a man who terrorized our line last season as the Panthers got 6 sacks against us last season. The Defense also returns all three starting LBs.
Last year’s 20-17 win by Pitt has squared the overall series at 30-30-3. The game was close throughout with Pitt scoring late to go up 20-10 and then hanging on as the Cuse staged a comeback. Pitt has won 5 of 6 after SU had totally dominated the 90′s.
The University of Pittsburgh officially claims nine National Championships for the Panthers football team: 4 unanimous, (1916, 1918, 1937, and 1976) and 5 shared titles (1915, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936).
Why we can win:
The two teams played a tight affair last season in a game that saw Cam Dantley come in and play well in place of Andrew Robinson. The game being in the dome will definitely help. Despite McCoy running well we hung around. Our offense should be better w/ a stable of healthy backs to prevent Pitt’s defensive line from just having to tee it up on every play.
Why we can lose:
A top notch dline that can reek havoc on an inexperienced oline. A RB that can pound away and get tough yards. Experienced and improved QBs. The promise of a top 25 season and the maturation of several highly rated recruiting classes gives hope for at least an 8 win season and a nice bowl game.
If I drink the kool-aid being served to me by every talking head, this game is the proverbial no-brainer. Pitt should win this game easily. The problem is, I still have some lingering doubt about Wannstedt as a college coach. And not that I don’t think Pitt will be very dangerous going forward. There is also this quote from Browning that has me intrigued, “I have been pleasantly surprised by the talent on hand”. If there was any shred of hope, its the knowledge that the Oline woes can be turned around. And the hope that Browning thinks improvement is achievable this season. By this point we know what we have and whether any of this preseason speculation means anything. I think we can keep this game close and get a late FG by Pat Shadle to secure the early season surprise.
Next Week: West Virginia