Before I break this down, I just want all of you "Panther fans" to make sure you come to the game on Saturday. There is more on the line than you think. An 0-2 start likely will be the start of the fall. Also of interest is that many people have been saying that Turner Gill (the coach of Buffalo) could be a likely candidate to eventually replace Wannstedt. Gill has Nebraska ties as he worked with Coach Osborne and we already know how that Nebraska connection fits in with our athletics department.
The one key thing about Gill that makes this game dangerous for Pitt is not his run first mentality. It is the fact that Gill is willing to change styles when required to win. Last week in a dominating game against UTEP, Buffalo put up over 200 yards of offense both passing and running the ball. I don't fear any team running against us. I do fear Gill seeing what killed us last week and then using the spread to his advantage. One great thing a coach does is teach his team different ways to play. That allows the team to conquer against another team's weakness. Buffalo does have the ability to use the spread and yes they have used it before.
What you need to know. Drew Willy (a.k.a. Dr. Wily) is their senior quarterback, and he is a good one. He hasn't thrown an interception since early in the 2007 season. After one game he is leading the country in passer rating. If there is one guy we need to watch out for it is him. I can see him using his WR's to destroy the linebacker mismatches we will see. When you see a 4 wide set, don't expect us to break out of our 4-3. That is when Dr. Wily will have his chance to shine.
Sophomore Brandon Thermilus had a very good game last week. He put up over 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. The other backs helped the Bulls combine for over 260 yards on the ground. Hopefully we have shed the "Rhoads' Still Running" awards and hold their game in check. The thing about this group is that they can catch the ball out of the backfield which may just be how the running backs get effective touches in this game. The key to winning this game will be limiting Thermilus and company. If him and the backs have a bad day, that means Pitt will be having a great day.
One more thing about the Bull's offense. Their line is massive. They're the biggest line we've seen here at Pitt since MSU marched their giant offensive line on the field. Hopefully Buddy Morris has the right idea with his philosophy of "fat doesn't mean force". If the hogs from Buffalo take out our DLine, there is no way we will win this game.
Now on to the defense. Buffalo will march out a trio of linebackers will little experience. Despite this, those guys, like the rest of their team, had one great game against Buffalo. They were able to finish their tackles and get some sacks. If they play their backers into coverage, we need to exploit them with Dorin and Nate. Will Wanny and Cavvy recognize that? Probably not. However, Gill isn't afraid to unleash the linebackers on the blitz. That should be something of concern for Panther fans since Joe Thomas just doesn't have problems picking up the blitzing linebackers, he can barely stop the guy lining up directly in front of him. If he struggles early, we need to see Lucas Nix.
If we run Shady to the outside, maybe throw in some misdirections instead of just running up the middle all the time Shady should hit his 100 yards easily. Now if Buffalo lines up 8 or 9 guys in the box, we can not abandon play action. We need to do the things early to keep these guys off guard. Run, run, pass will not work against this and if we see your typical Cavanaugh offense, Buffalo will beat us.
This game really is a toss up. We should win this game, but we should have won the Bowling Green game too. I'm really hoping we win especially after we had some guys from Buffalo post on the PantherLair.com message board talking smack on us. I have news for Buffalo fans, before you start running your mouth, try winning more games against major conferences (except for the one win you had against Rutgers in 2002). Since you were so adamant about calling it the University AT Buffalo, I will refuse to do that. So Buffalo University, thank you for giving us the awful second season of Sorority Life and the only season of Frat Life on MTV. Despite that TV gold, you might want to avoid watching the game this weekend. I have a feeling the Panthers are going to come out angry and with something to prove. Even Matt Cavanaugh came out and said he needs to change the way we approach the game. My level headed prediction says Pitt will win 24-20 in a close clock possession game, the optimist in DPJ is going to say Pitt will win 38-17. A 3 touchdown win should give the team back some swagger and put Buffalo back to a world I like to call reality.
We'll see you on Saturday rain or shine, fireworks or no fireworks.
P.S. look out for the Cat Basket standard on the field.