Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Week 5 Jones Picks

Current Record: 13-9 (HA!)

So I went 1-6 last week and trust me I felt it in the wallet losing a ton of bets. At least, Penn State lost but I couldn't enjoy it after the events of earlier in the afternoon. Now to more crappy picks for this week:
  • Colorado vs West Virginia: Not super sure about this game. I think WVU is the better team but this should be close and could be a replay of last year. Jones Pick: WVU
  • (22) Michigan vs Michigan St.: I'm still not sold at all on Michigan being a decent team. Michigan St. has been pretty bad this year but rivalry games always bring out big performances. Jones Pick: Michigan St
  • (4) LSU vs (18) Georgia: Best game of the entire week. Georgia has been a very entertaining team this season and LSU might be ranked a bit high. I think the home field advantage plus great play from Joe Cox will carry Georgia. Jones Pick: Georgia
  • (7) USC vs (24) California: Watching Cal implode last week made me laugh so much. They have a Pitt-like knack of ruining every chance of success they have. I expect USC to get back into their usual dominant groove in the PAC 10. Welcome to the next 10 years of USC football, lose a bad road game then run the table in the PAC 10 looking amazing. Also add in crushing Big 10 opponent in a bowl game. Jones Pick: USC
  • Washington vs Notre Dame: I like Washington and how they have looked this season. Remember how well they played against LSU in the opener. Another wonderful loss from ND should be expected here. Jones Pick: Washington
I can't say this enough people DO NOT BET OFF MY PICKS. You can tell I'm a Pitt Alum with the way I can kill any sort of roll I get on in most facets of my life. Back tomorrow with the picks for the Pitt-UL game.

Adding another quarterback to the class

Last night Mark Myers announced that he will be attending the University of Pittsburgh. So far this season the 6'4 left handed quarterback has been able to maintain an impressive record by remaining undefeated and putting up good numbers along the way. He's also a teammate of Pitt commit Brandon Carozzoni.

This now creates some questions for the Panthers. With plans being discussed to move quarterback Kolby Gray to Safety next years quarterbacks will be the following:

Pat Bostick - Jr (rs)
Tino Sunseri - So (rs)
Anthony Gonzalez - (fr)
Mark Myers - (fr)

This is where I have to tread carefully. Myers is the standard Wannstedt style quarterback. A big pro-style guy who would be best suited for our style of offense. Despite this, he is only in his first full year of starting. He did gain some experience during his sophomore year, but last year was 2nd string behind a quarterback who is now playing at Penn.

A recruit such as Myers has a very high boom or bust potential. People on message boards have already started comparing him to Ben Roethlisberger. I am not ready to make that judgement just yet. For every under recruited player such as Roethlisberger or Flacco that we see, there is more of a chance he will end up as a Kevan Smith type player.

It will be interesting to see where we head once "Tino Time" passes. The logical thought is that both Myers and Gonzalez will redshirt and the senior Tino will start. If that is the case we will have both Myers and Gonzalez heading into their redshirt junior year when one is ready to take over. My question on the situation is this, will we stay with what Wanny prefers and use the big, pro-style quarterback, or do we switch things up and go with the smaller running type quarterback who is more likely to succeed in a spread style offense than a pro-style offense?

Gonzalez is a huge recruit, simply looking at his offer sheet proves that. He had offers from some of the nations top programs, and more often than not, when all those schools offer, the kid is usually pretty good. On the other hand, Myers has the potential to be a big sleeper. His only offers were from Pitt, Toledo, and Ball State. I don't want to discriminate against any recruit simply because his only 2 other offers were from MAC schools, but at the same time I don't want Gonzalez to be moved to wide receiver simply because he isn't a pro-style quarterback.

The best option is to give every player a FAIR chance to earn their spot and to let the best player play.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Evaluating the Rest of the Season

I used to do this column two years back and with the events of the past weekend I thought I would look at how the season can shake out. Big East season starts Friday and you can make the case that the losses really count.

at Louisville: I can't see this game being a loss just because of how poor of a team the Cardinals are. Also they can't pass the ball well enough to dominate our defense.

vs UConn: You would think that this is another win because of the fact that UConn will run at us.

at Rutgers: Here is where the problems start again. Rutgers throws the ball out of the spread so that is 400 yards of offense guaranteed. Defensively Rutgers should allow us to score some points.

vs South Florida: If you watched them play FSU you can easily see how they could beat us. That being said Levitt is a goof of a coach who always finds ways to shoot himself in the foot and lose easy games. I could see South Florida coming out and attempting to do nothing but run at us. I also could see them getting 500 passing yards.

vs Syracuse: You wouldn't think this would be a tough game but Syracuse throws the ball. I think that we will have solved some problems by this point and should put in a decent performance. Do not be shocked if we lose this game though.

vs Notre Dame: I'm dreading this game because of the ND fanbase taking over Heinz Field. Weis has embarassed Wanny with the passing game before but I wonder if this ND team will have enough to win this game. Interesting and will probably be a close one.

at West Virginia: Rivalry game against a team coached by Stewart, we will win this.

vs Cincinatti: I don't even want to think about the offense of Cincy against this defensive scheme. I doubt this will even be close.

This season isn't over by any means. I think this is the most flawed team Wanny has coached since 2007. Everything Dave said in his columns are going to come into play throughout the rest of the season. If there is one thing we know about Wanny's tenure here is that nothing will change on either side of the ball. He is what he is as a coach and if his scheme doesn't work he will go down playing his style of football.

Low End Projection: 7-5 (losses to Cincy, ND, South Florida, Rutgers)
High End Projection: 9-3 (losses to Cincy, South Florida)

The Aftermath: Day 2

Yesterday I vented about my frustrations with the coaching staff. Today I will focus on the players. Like you will read on the message boards, the coaches don't run the ball, they don't pass the ball, and they're not the ones who are making the tackles, that is why the players can not be excused from this one.

While it's easy to criticize the coaches for not knowing their limits, the players are exempt from that area of criticism. The reason for that is, even if you have the least talented player in the league, every player wants to be on the field to play. If you have a player who is wishy-washy about playing, then he is in the wrong business. As a competitor you want to be out there for every single play. Knowing where your limitations impact you most should change the way you play to hide those weaknesses. Think about this, Scott McKillop was not the fastest or most physical, but he made up for that by having the best football IQ and best fundamentals possible. That is what made him stick out and be such a great player. Our players need to learn where they are weak and find a way to address that in whatever way possible.

1. After this loss I don't want to hear anyone on this team talk about how great our defense is and how our line is unstoppable. You have been stopped, and now everyone in the world knows how to beat you. The only player that we have seen real consistency from is Mick Williams. He comes to play everyday and is cementing his status as an NFL player. Greg Romeus is simply getting eaten up off of blocks. I still say he should not have been all Big East last year. He had a good season, but it was nothing spectacular. This year with the added hype and pressure, we are seeing him come back to earth since there is more attention on him. I also feel like Jabaal Sheard must not be fully healthy. He is playing tentatively and is not aggressive as he was last year. I felt that Sheard would end up being the better of our two DE's, but now it's looing as if they are equals.

2. We are lucky that the offensive line has been consistent and strong this year. They have allowed Dion Lewis to use his great skills to be a tremendous bright spot for the team. Despite that, we are seeing the offense sputter out from having consistent success in the 2nd half. While it is partly a coaching problem, our offense does not have any consistency and does not perform well in the 2nd half of games. Dion Lewis is a fantastic runner. He hits the hole hard, always keeps his legs churning, and runs the way you teach backs from the moment they learn the position. Without Dion and the Line playing well, we are in a much worse situation.

3. Bill Stull is hurting this team. Through the first 4 games of this season Bill Stull has played tremendously in terms of what is asked of him. We are using him to manage the offense, make the screen passes and short yardage passes. Cignetti has done a terrific job in terms of putting him in position to succeed. Where it is killing us is that we do not have the ability to open up the offense and use the mid/deep pass to put a game away or comeback when needed. I would like to know what his longest completion was minus the YAC (yards after catch) in the last 2 years. I imagine it's the Kinder touchdown against WVU last year. Outside of that I can not think of any other true long bombs that didn't have a large YAC attached to them.

4. The second problem that we see from Stull is something that we don't see from anyone else on the team. This team tends to tense up in major pressure situations. I'm sure part of that is due to coaching, but at the end of the game you need to be able to make plays. This means hitting Dorin inside on those H-Back delay passes so he can catch it on the run, it's hitting the receivers on the screens so that they can run as soon as the ball gets there instead of adjusting first, and mainly it's getting the ball to an area where a player can catch it to win the game. Stull's 4th down pass gave neither team a chance to catch the ball which does not help on the last play of the game. I might get blasted for this but Bostick hit Baldwin against ND last year to make it count for an OT touchdown, he also hit Turner for a game winning TD that was called back on a b.s. pass interference call. Like I said, this is more than just on Bill Stull, we need players to make plays when it counts. We're not going to let Dorin slide by for dropping that 3rd down pass that could have been a td or Ray Graham for tripping when he could have extended the drive by another set of downs. Players need to make the plays when they are called on.

5. While we can all scream about dropped passes, DiCicco missing tackles, Fields being out of position, and the corners playing terribly in many aspects of the game, there is one major thing missing from the team. We all thought we were in good shape with Lewis and Mason/Gunn filling in very well for the superstars they were replacing. The one area where we have not seen anyone fill those open shoes is with leadership. You don't see any of the players showing the same passion and drive for ensuring accountability for this team. When a player misses a tackle, drops a pass, or makes a play that hurts the team, the leader needs to be there to bring everyone back together. The leader needs to be there to rally team to put the ball in the endzone when its 1st and goal from the 8. It seems as if we were a bit too quick to claim the open vacancies were adequately filled. I just hope that this loss can get someone to step up on both sides of the ball to be the leader that we so desperately need right now.

So where does this take us? Well even though we're not in the top 25 like we could have been, maybe we can use this as some strange motivation. We haven't gone undefeated in non-conference play in such a long time that this could have been expected. Now that we have this loss out of the way, let's regroup and get to where we need to be. With this loss we can all stop dreaming about that 1 or 2 loss season and start focusing week by week like we should. Overall record should be the last thing from the team's mind right now. Instead we me focus on opening up the Big East Conference on a strong note by beating Louisville. We just have to play to the best of our ability and hope that if the players do that, the coaches don't hold us back to the point where it costs us another game.

The coaches must be accountable, the players must be accountable, but most importantly we shouldn't lose all hope. The easiest way to get this bad loss out of our mouths is to beat Louisville. It's funny how there was little talk about the Bowling Green game last year after we beat South Florida. Where we go from here is directly in the hands of everyone on the team. Let's see where we end up from here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Really Wanny? Really

I am anxiously awaiting Dave Wannstedt's press conference and hope I can make it down there for it. My main reason for going is this. If you read Paul Zeise's Red Shirt Diaries, he has a very good article written up about disappointing losses and how Pitt fans have come to expect this type of thing. While that piece was very interesting and very true, the most intriguing part of it all falls at the bottom of the article. He quotes some of the players and Dave Wannstedt about the game. You can find the full article here, but this is what Dave Wannstedt had to say after the game.

"Dave Wannstedt - 'Our guys gave enough effort to win the game but we made too many mistakes to win the game. What is so disappointing is the penalties [Pitt had eight for 80 yards], we brought officials in on Wednesday to practice and they followed those guys around. For us to have penalties today, like we did last week, is very disappointing. Defensively, we didn't make any plays. I thought if we would have scored 31 points, we wouldn't have lost this game.

"There is no excuse for these penalties. The pass interference penalties are always debatable but where there is smoke, there is usually fire and you don't get called that many times week after week without there being something there. The penalties we had on defense were mind boggling.' "

This is exactly the opposite of what I was hoping to hear. Instead of taking the blame for adjustments, play calling, and personnel we get the old "the refs took the game away from us" excuse. The refs were not the ones to continue with an ineffective ground game in the 2nd half. The refs were not the ones to allow Wilson to gain 500 yards of offense.

Wannstedt, you need to man up and accept blame for this loss.

The Aftermath: Day 1

2008: Bowling Green, Oregon State
2007: Rutgers, Louisville, Navy
2006: Rutgers, UConn, USF
2005: Ohio, Nebraska
2004: Nebraska, Syracuse, UConn
2003: Toledo, Virginia, Notre Dame
2002: Texas A&M, West Virginia
2001: USF

What are these games you ask? These are all of the games that I have seen us lose since I've become a Pitt fan in which we had no business losing. All of those games were winnable, but for various reasons we let them slip away. Today we can add NC State to the 2009 list.

I'm not saying that we should expect to go undefeated each year, but what I am saying is that we should expect to win games like this. We might even find ourselves being upset in a game every once in a while because it can and will happen. This week was a perfect example of that as many top 25 teams were upset (most notably PSU at home and Ole Miss on the road). However, it just seems like being a Pitt fan we have come to expect this type of game at least a couple times during the season. While there is enough blame to go around, I'm going to focus this article on the coaching aspect of what killed us at NC State.

1. The coaching staff has not learned from their past mistakes. Last year against Rutgers all we heard was how it was going to be a run vs run style of game. In an article last week I wrote that I expected NC State to come out throwing because the same things were being said for this game. So against, Rutgers, they came out passing and torched our defense. It was obvious at that point the secondary was a major weakness. This year against Buffalo, we saw the same scheme deployed. Over the middle passing which turned mid range passes into big gains. Now with the blueprint set on how to beat us, we did not change anything and NC State used the same plan to beat us.

2. If there was anything as bad as our pregame preparation it was our in game offensive adjustments. In the first half our running game was working well and we were able to complete short passes to keep our drives going. This was in part also set up thanks to some great special teams returns. After the first half concluded, we went back out with the same exact plan that we used originally. That is fine unless the defense makes adjustments. What we saw was NC State bringing their linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage which really neutralized our running game. Instead of changing to add more play action passes and more running back/tight end passes over the middle, we continued to play the same exact base offense.

3. When Wannstedt buy something and gets change back, he lets the cashier keep the coin change because he wants nothing to do with the nickel and dime. Why would you switch whenever your 4-3 is letting up 500 yards of offense. That just shows that your way is working.........Um no. Here is why the 4-3 will kill us against non-running teams this year. Teams now know they can line up 3 wide and automatically have a mismatch with a linebacker covering a wide receiver. This also hurts us even more because the db's have to play with their back to the quarterback allowing him to run whenever possible. The crossing routes over the middle killed us against Buffalo and did major damage against NC State. There is an easy solution to this. Have a linebacker spy the quarterback. That way the qb is covered in case he decides to scramble. The second solution to this problem is switching to a zone defense where the players are responsible for a specific area and can play facing the qb. It may allow some short gains, but I'd rather give up a 5 yard run than a 20 yard run when facing 4th and 13. But maybe that is just me.

4. Accountability. The staff has preached this since they took over 5 years ago. Elijah is out of position, Dom misses tackles, the corners never break on the ball, Turner continues to drop passes like it is his job, and bad penalties (deserved or not) continue to haunt this team. However, the same players making the same mistakes are always out there. Once a player has earned his spot in camp, he rarely loses it. The only real time we saw this was yesterday after Romeus' facemask penalty, he was replaced by Brandon Lindsay. If you want to preach accountability, then back up what you say with actions. This also should go for the coaches themselves. Outside of Brian Angelichio (te's) and David Walker (rb's) every other position coach has done a terrible job. Hafley and Bossard are the two most guilty of this. I don't care if you got Josh Evans to take a visit, he's not here and we sure could use him. If you're not getting the job done, get out. Paul Dunn has been the only coach to fall on the sword here at Pitt, everyone else gets a free pass and it's not like other schools are busting the door down to steal our assistants.

5. Awareness. The coaches should know that when the running game shuts down we need to adapt. They should know when a team has a passing-spread offense we need to change defenses. They should know that if our blitz packaging isn't working we need to modify it or drop it. They should know that if there is something wrong with any facet of your game, you fix it. They did not do this against Buffalo, they did not do this against NC State, they have not done this in the previous 5 years of being in charge. We're great at stopping pro-style running attacks, option running attacks, and spread-running attacks. What we can't do is stop the passing attack. During the press conference, Dave Wannstedt must come out and accept full responsibility for the loss. This loss was not due to a few missed tackles, it was not due to Stull throwing the ball away on 4th down, it was not due to one team out executing another. This loss was squarely on the coaches shoulders. We did not adapt, we did not prepare, and not the only thing left to do is accept full responsibility. For as bad as certain players performed yesterday, they certainly did not do as poorly as our coaching staff did.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Live Blog Today

Like we did last year we will live blog the away games. Thoughts on everything under the sun will be coming around 3 pm.

Edit-Instead of a live blog I'm going to just twitter during the game. So follow us at

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pitt vs NC State Predictions

I'm very excited yet also very concerned about this game. Over the past decade Pitt has a history of blowing games whenever we get on a roll and start to feel success. WaHa did it and now Wanny has continued the tradition. On to my thoughts:
  • Dion Lewis is going to bounce back after a sub 100 yard game last week. I think we are going to lean extremely hard on the running game. I would expect Lewis to get his first 30 carry game. Ray Graham is going to get over 10 carries for the first time in his college career in this game too. Lewis: 31 carries, 110 yards, TD Graham: 10 carries, 45 yards
  • I have a feeling that the defensive line will make an impact on this game. At Buffalo, they were spread out and made no impact on the game. This week I have a feeling that Sheard and Romeus will be seen in the backfield making big plays. There will be two turnovers forced by the defensive line.
  • As for Stull's performance tomorrow I have no idea. My money is that Cignetti goes insanely conservative with the offense and forces the run game no matter what. Against Navy we saw Stull at his absolute best but on the road against a team that can get after the QB is a different scenario. If he can put in an efficient game I will have turned the corner on him as a player.
We can't lose this game. If the past is any indication this a bogey game but I'm looking on the bright side. NC State is a very beatable team and if we are actually improved this is a win. You can read everything about this program and our players from this game. A loss here and we are the same team that can't get over the hump. With a win our season has no limit. So try to enjoy this game tomorrow knowing the importance it holds to the program.

Pitt 17 NC State 14

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tom O'Brien Still Sucks

Unless you became a Pitt fan following the ACC raid on the Big East, you probably remember Boston College fielding some of the most disappointing teams in the Big East. Under Tom O'Brien, Boston College continually underperformed, blew big games, and were out coached. What was the reward for his continual blundering? A lateral move from one crummy ACC school to another crummy ACC school.

Maybe it was the high cost of living in Boston, the annoying Bostonian accents, dislike of the Red Sox, or factors that I'm not thinking of that led O'Brien to make a move that can hardly be considered a promotion. That is enough of the O'Brien bashing for now, because while we all know he's a below average coach, it doesn't mean that we can just mark this one down as a win. This is why:

The NC State defensive line will be the first big test for Pitt's Offensive line. This is the first time that we will see legitimate D1 defensive linemen. Willie Young is, in my opinion, their best defensive player and he can be a guy that gives the offensive line fits throughout the game. This match up should work favorably for NC State because if Dion and Ray Graham aren't able to run the ball, then NC State will have solved 1/2 of the equation on how to beat us.

We are set up nicely this year to have a good ball control offense with the way we've been running the ball. If a team is able to shut down our running game, we're going to be counting on the passing game to not only make plays on 3rd and long situations, but to also act as off-set to the running game. When you're running game isn't working, you need to have a variety of passing plays that are quick-outs/screens designed to move the ball for 3-4 yards per play as a running play is designed to do.

If we are unable to move the ball on the ground, the pressure will be huge for Stull and the receivers to step up and make plays to compensate. If Dion and Ray are able to pound the ball effectively, we should be in great shape. With our extreme question marks in the secondary, we will need to eat up clock on offense to reduce the chances of multiple big plays from hurting us as we saw in the Buffalo game.

That leads us into the second part of the game. O'Brien blows as a coach, but he's not stubborn enough to try and keep running the ball because he thinks that is the only way to win. I have a feeling that this will be set up just like last year's Rutgers game. All we are hearing this week is how we have two teams that are going to line up and play smash mouth football. Instead, I think we will see 1 team play smash mouth football and the other team line up and throw the ball 50 times.

The thing that stood out to me on the stat sheets for NC State is how they get many different people in the offense. They have several players with over 10 rushing attempts and just a plethora of players who have caught passes from Russell Wilson. Now, Wilson looked like he could have been the best QB in the ACC until Jacory Harris showed up this year.

So here is how NC State can do damage against Pitt. I have not seen anything in the last 5 years to lead me to believe that we will break out of our base 4-3 defense. This will play perfectly into NC State's hands if they choose to spread the field and pass over the middle. Having our linebackers cover the receivers all game long is something that will eventually burn us. Now Max Gruder, Greg Williams, and the Adam Gunn/Dan Mason combo has performed well this year, but this will be their toughest challenge yet.

For this game we need to bring some new elements into the defense that haven't been seen yet this season. We have seen some delayed blitzing, but not much else outside of that. In this game we need to bring pressure to get Wilson off of his game. If he has time to throw, I feel that he will be able to tear up our secondary.

That is the last thing our defense must do. We must get better play from our defensive backs. We can't afford to let any type of interference calls go against us (legitimate or not). We can not have Chappel/Gary getting beat on 1 on 1 coverage. Lastly, DeCicco and Fields must play in position and make the tackles when they get the chance. Don't forget the fundamentals of tacking. Wrap you guy up and don't expect to just shoulder the guy down. Solid secondary performance is crucial for us to stop the big play and to force NC State to play into our strength (stopping the run).

If the secondary performs, Wilson doesn't turn into Mike Teel, and Dion/Ray are able to run the ball, we should win this game. I'm still going to say that 28 points will be the minimum we need to win this game. We have the team that can pull this off, but that is why games are played on the field and not on paper.

Pitt wins this game 28-24.

Week 4 Jones Picks

Current Record: 12-3

Last week I did a little worse than I expected. I was convinced that Nebraska was going to beat Virginia Tech and West Virginia blew that game against Auburn. So this week I will stick to my instincts and never pick West Virginia in anything. On to the picks:
  • (4) Ole Miss vs South Carolina: I'm a huge fan of Ole Miss to make a big impact in the SEC this year. This will not be blowout but Ole Miss will easily win. Jones Pick: Ole Miss
  • South Florida vs (18) Florida State: If USF could win this game it would be quite the statement for the Big East. Florida State has been two different teams this season but I think the team that beat BYU last week will show up. Jones Pick: Florida State
  • Arkansas vs (3) Alabama: This is going to be absolutely fantastic. I think Arkansas will put up a fight like they did last week against Georgia but the nation will see how great Alabama is. Jones Pick: Alabama
  • (6) Cal vs Oregon: Cal is going to be a tough team to beat. Jahvid Best might be the front runner for the Heisman. Jones Pick: Cal
  • (9) Miami vs (11) Virginia Tech: The game of the week on paper. Both these teams are ranked too highly, nobody in the ACC is a top ten team yet. I'm not sure Miami is all the way back like the media has started to hype but they are better than Tech. Jones Pick: Miami
  • Iowa vs (5) Penn State: We all saw the upset last year that denied Penn State a place in the BCS Title game. I think Penn State gets the win back this year. Jones Pick: Penn State
  • Texas Tech vs (17) Houston: I thought Tech played much better against Texas than what was too be expected. Houston had that amazing win against Oklahoma State week 2 but I think they lose this game and their top 25 spot. Jones Pick: Texas Tech
Back with the Pitt game predictions tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Importance of NC State

Since the start of the season I've been trying keep my enthusiasm after each win at a reasonable level. On paper Navy, Buffalo, and Youngstown State are cupcake games and we went out in each game and won convincingly. Now we play a team with comparable athletes at each position.

The most important storyline of the NC State game is can the offensive line continue being successful. In 3 games Stull has rarely had to deal with sustained pressure. The new offensive line has acquitted themselves very well to the level of players they have had to deal with. NC State will not be undersized and they will not be much inferior athletes. Can the offensive line hold up and continue to keep Stull off his back? Also can the offensive line create holes for Dion Lewis? In a game like this the offense is going to rely heavily on the run game to move the ball. Cignetti likes to manage the situations where he calls on Stull to make a play and having a running game to get us 4 yards or more each snap is essential.

Can the secondary hold up to a team that spreads them out and passes? Buffalo was a big wakeup call for what the weakness of the defense is. Secondary play has been a problem, at points, in every game so far. Is DeCicco going to be able to make the tackles when a wide receiver gets open? Can Chappel play well enough to keep the guy he is covering out of the endzone? More importantly, is the defensive line going to get enough pressure to make throwing the ball difficult? Lining up in the base 4-3 all game didn't work against Buffalo because of how difficult it is for linebackers to cover wide receivers. NC State will definitely gameplan for the speed of our ends so Sheard and Romeus need to have better games than they did at Buffalo. Sacks and disrupting the QB is priority 1 on defense.

My other concern about this game is will the coaching staff play aggressive and loose enough to win the game. Being 3-0 is a situation Wannstedt hasn't been in at Pitt. Will the ultra conservative gameplan be brought out this week due to the nature of how we won the first 3 of the season. Going into the shell and shutting it down in the 3rd quarter might not be a good idea this week.

Back tomorrow for some picks.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cat Basket Podcast Number 24

Here it is sorry for the delay.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Brytus signed

Dave Brytus was just signed by the Baltimore Ravens. That's some good news for him as his Lincoln Navigator was stolen and trashed last week. Now he'll have an NFL check to get himself 1 or 2 more.

Congrats to Dave.

The Podcast will be up after the Pens game tonight.

Late Pitt-Navy Thoughts

3-0 feels good. I can get used to the experience of opening the season on a roll. Now the real season starts and the real successes can be had. On to the thoughts:
  • Dan Mason is an absolute beast. I love the way he plays and he was quite impressive filling in for Gunn. Next year when Mason gets to play full time he could be an All Big East player.
  • Bill Stull is on fire right now. Enough can't be said about the playcalling of Cignetti factoring into Stull becoming a productive QB. You watch his footwork and his presence in the pocket and it is like a different player out there. He has put two great performances together and has changed my perception of what he can actually do.
  • Jonathan Baldwin showed what he can do when he gets the ball. The physical tools that he has are legit 1st round pick level. Getting him the ball is one of the keys to success in the Big East.
  • Dion Lewis is human but he is still playing such good football right now. For a freshman to be able to step in and immediately take so many carries is quite impressive. I still wish that Graham could get some more carries as he has a gamebreaker style that is a great compliment to Lewis.
  • The defense completely shut down the Navy running game. I expected that to be the case because of how well our defense plays against the run. This week we will see if the troubles against the past have been fixed.
As has been the storyline all year this is the week where we find out how this season will play out.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pitt-Navy Predictions

Sorry again for missing last week just so you know I wouldn't have picked us to score 54 points. This is a very intriguing game considering the last two games against Navy. Will it be a close game like 2007 or a blowout like 2008? Here are my thoughts on the game:
  • Dion Lewis will continue the hot start to his college career. There is no way Navy can stand up to our offensive line just due to the size differential. Cignetti is focusing heavy on the run in the first half so I would expect another 15-18 carries before halftime for Lewis. 24 carries, 124 yards 2 TDs.
  • Stull will not throw 3 TDs again but he will play a very similar game to Buffalo. Expect nothing but screen passes and under 12 yard routes. Hopefully, the 10 or so passes Stull floats and throws to bad spots on the field just fall to the ground like last week. 12 for 19 125 yards 1 TD 1 INT
  • I expect the defense to have trouble keeping Navy out of our side of the field but Navy will struggle to score. As we have seen in the past the triple option can eat huge chunks of yards out of the field but struggles to put the ball in the endzone consistently. Our defense is going to have trouble making all the tackles to slow down this offense but in the end Navy will be kicking many field goals and going for it on 4th and 3's.
  • Cam Saddler is going to return a kickoff for a touchdown. He has been fantastic this season as a kick returner and is averaging almost 30 yards a return. With the significant speed advantage this is the game Saddler takes a seam and breaks the big one.
At points this game will be close but I think we have too much for Navy to handle. Hopefully when we get up in the second half we don't completely shut it down like last week. No sitting on 21 point leads anymore.

Navy 13 Pitt 34

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Week 3 Jones Picks

Well I'm 7-1 after two weeks so the bottom is about to drop out on these picks.
  • (14) Georgia Tech vs (20) Miami: This is a tough game to call because of how even (crappy) the ACC is. My guess is that the home field advantage will carry Miami to this win. That being said Miami's defense looked bad in the opener against FSU and if the triple option starts working Georgia Tech can easily win. Jones Pick: Miami
  • Tennessee vs (1) Florida: The payback for all the trash Lane Kiffin talked in the offseason is coming. Florida is going to dominate every aspect of this game but I don't expect it to be the 30 to 40 win that everybody else does. This game will be within 14 points until the half. Jones Pick: Florida
  • Michigan State vs Notre Dame: Here is the thing about picking this game, both teams are down and not any good. Charlie Weis is weeks away from being fired at Notre Dame but I think this game will be a bit of a reprieve. Without a doubt this is the toughest game I have had to pick in this picks because of how little I think of both teams. Jones Pick: Notre Dame
  • (19) Nebraska vs (13) Virginia Tech: I really like Nebraska and I think they are going to win the Big 12 North. Virginia Tech is the class of the ACC. So I'm going to use my patented system of hating the ACC. Jones Pick: Nebraska
  • (17) Cincinatti vs Oregon State: I think Cincinatti will do a great job representing the Big East in this game. Tony Pike is easily the best offensive player in the conference. Oregon State is maybe the 3rd or 4th best team in the Pac 10. Jones Pick: Cincinatti
  • Texas Tech vs (2) Texas: This is not going to be a replay of last year. Texas is going to absolutely put it on Tech. I would expect a 3 to 4 touchdown win. Jones Pick: Texas
  • West Virginia vs Auburn: I'm going to shock everybody with my pick here. I don't think Auburn is any good. West Virginia will be able to score enough in this game to win. Jones Pick: West Virginia
For the rest of the season I will make more picks. If there is a tough game I will pick and if there is another game you want my opinion on just let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Anthony Gonzalez Picks Pitt

Some great recruiting news today with the commit of our top QB target Anthony Gonzalez. This is a huge get for the 2010 class and will add to the depth at the position. ESPN's recruiting site compares him to Tim Tebow which is quite high praise. Having an athletic QB down the line could be quite interesting in terms of how that fits into the current offense.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cat Basket Podcast Number 23

Review of the Buffalo game.

Late Buffalo Thoughts

I want to apologize for not doing predictions for the Buffalo game things got really hectic before we had to travel. This will be the last game I will miss getting all the articles out the week leading up to the game. Now onto my thoughts on the Buffalo game:
  • Dion Lewis might be the real deal. Another fantastic game from the true freshman with 236 yards of total offense. The 80 yard touchdown run in the second half put this game out of reach for Buffalo. He is a deceptively strong runner for a guy his size. Hopefully he can continue this early success and put up a huge season.
  • That was as good as we will ever see Bill Stull play. Cignetti has devised a gameplan where Stull isn't getting the opportunity to make mistakes. Everything is either a screen pass or a simple read. I kept commenting during that for once Stull looked comfortable in the pocket and throwing the screens. All that being said Stull still had 5-7 horrible passes (most notably throwing two bubble screens 6 feet in front of the wide receiver), 2 of which could have been picked off. If the first pass of the game was picked off the story of this game for Stull would have been much different.
  • The defense had a horrible game. Buffalo found a way to negate the pressure from the defensive line and put on a clinic on how to exploit us in the passing game. I have said this a million times since we started the site, when teams pass the ball out of the spread our base defense system doesn't work. You can't expect outside linebackers to cover slot wide receivers for more than 3 seconds. That spot in the middle of the field that Buffalo kept attacking will always be there unless we add another secondary player or get to the QB faster.
  • Losing Taglianetti for the season is a blow to our depth but now we get to see Elijah Fields. He needs to seize this final opportunity to be a productive college player. I'm very interested to see how this goes.
  • Enjoy the early success. As of now everything is still on course for successful season. Sure the defense had a bad game and the final score hides how close this game was but don't worry. 54 points from our offense is like 145 points from another team. Cignetti has had two successes as a playcaller. The defense can come around with slight tweaks. I'm reasonably optimistic about this season.
I'm in the process of getting the podcast up which will cover the game a little more in depth. Thanks again for reading and I'll be back tomorrow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Week 2 Jones Picks

Last week I went 3-1 with the only loss being Georgia. Here are my picks for this week:
  • (3) USC vs (8) Ohio St: You know eventually Ohio State will win one of these big out of conference games by luck. This will not be the week, the USC rushing attack is going to be way too much for a team that got gashed open by Navy. The real story will be if OSU can keep this close. Jones Pick: USC
  • (18) Notre Dame vs Michigan: The hype on Notre Dame if they win this game will be comical. That being said both these teams still suck despite what the media tells. Charlie Weis vs Dick Rod is a battle I will take Dick Rod in. Jones Pick: Michigan
  • Clemson vs (15) Georgia Tech: I love watching the Georgia Tech offense but I have a feeling this could be a close one. My guess is that Georgia Tech has enough to take it. Jones Pick: Georgia Tech
  • (19) North Carolina vs UConn: I'm very intrigued by how UConn will play in this game. I have a feeling UNC is a top 2 team in the ACC but you can never tell. Jones Pick: UNC
Back tomorrow with predictions for Buffalo.

Breaking the MAC Curse

The last two times we have gone on the road to play a MAC team we have left the stadium as the loser. The first time we had ever lost to a MAC team was against Toledo when the Panthers were ranked #7 in the nation at that time. An injury to Brandon Miree and Walt's refusal to run the ball while trying to pad Larry's stats ended up being the killer for us. The second loss came in Wannstedt's first year as Ohio U beat Pitt in overtime. It was a game where we did not look in many phases of the game. A last minute touchdown drive led by Tyler Palko was quickly forgotten as he threw a pick 6 that ended the game and left Pitt with an 0-2 record after being destroyed by Notre Dame beforehand.

Add that in with the completely atrocious loss to Bowling Green last year and you can see that the MAC has not been too favorable to us in the last few years. Last year against Buffalo we saw a very close game. It was not until the start of the 4th quarter following the introduction of Sweet Caroline that Shady scored a touchdown and Pitt took the lead for good.

Here we are a year later. Instead of coming into this game following a major let down, we're coming in as favorites who just beat on a team that we should have. This year we will face a different challenge. Instead of having the homefield advantage we will be making the 4 hour trek to Buffalo, NY. If there is one game that the 25,000 seat stadium will see fans excited for, it is our game. Sure we are not the most high profile D1 team around, but still take a look at who else is coming to play at Buffalo this year. Central Michigan, Gardner-Webb, Akron, Bowling Green, and Ohio are not exactly the worlds most exciting opponents.

So while the crowd will be a very important factor in this game, so will the Buffalo coaches and players. Starting running back James Starks was lost for the season putting pressure on first year starter Zach Maynard. Maynard had a pretty good game last weak at UTEP, but he is no where near the player Drew Wiley was last year for the Bulls. Pitt has the better players overall and that will be a huge factor for winning this game.

The other factor is Turner Gill. I do not see why there is so much hype on this guy. Without a few key turnovers against Ball State, they do not win the MAC Championship. Last year against Pitt, Buffalo was in great position to win the game until Turner Gill unexpectedly changed the game plan and didn't adapt to Pitt's changes. To me, that is a sign of a poor coach. I don't understand why everyone is screaming for him to land a job, because to me, I think he is a below average coach.

Last year Buffalo had Pitt on the ropes in many ways. They held a lead heading into the 4th quarter, they were facing a vulnerable Pitt team who had just lost a game against Bowling Green, and were playing well for the first 3 quarters, but yet couldn't put it all away. This year the game is on their turf, but they lost 2 of their top performers to injury and graduation. We have a significant drop off without the combination of Shady on offense and Scott McKillop on defense, but our replacements are much more capable than Buffalo's.

I think that this game will be closer than the - 11.5 that the odds makers are giving us. They played us close at home last year. This year we're on the road in a hostile environment. This is a game where I can really see Wannstedt playing conservatively to ensure that potential chances don't come back to haunt us. I just hope that we keep the offense open wisely. We need to take chances when they prevent themselves, but not break away from what works for us. The defense alone should be enough to win this game, but the offense must put points up against this inferior defense.

I believe Pitt wins this game by a score of 24 to 17. Don't take my word on the prediction as Jason Jones has been much more accurate in his predictions thus far this season.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


First AP poll came out today and we received 82 top 25 votes. After the thrashing Cincinnati gave Rutgers yesterday the Big East has a top 25 team. I would imagine with an impressive win next week at Buffalo and the usual shakeups with the teams above us we can be ranked by Navy. MAC teams on the road haven't exactly been easy wins in the recent past though.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cat Basket Podcast Number 22

We are finally back with our first podcast of the new season. Everything that was the Youngstown State game is covered. There is lots of talk about the next few weeks and where we stand as a team.

Cat Basket Podcast Number 22

The feed on Itunes and at Podomatic is still active so you can get it from the usual places.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Quick Pitt-YSU Thoughts

We recorded a podcast earlier today and I will put it up on the website by tomorrow. The podcast will have way more detailed thoughts from both of us. Here we go with some thoughts:
  • Adam Gunn looked fantastic at middle linebacker. I have been a huge supporter of Dan Mason getting a chance to start but I was wrong. If Gunn can play with the speed and physicality that he brought yesterday he can be an All Big East performer. Very impressive return from injury for Gunn.
  • Dion Lewis looked good. The whole problem with scheduling such a cupcake, YSU is bar none the worst team I have ever seen play at Heinz Field, is that you can never take stock in the numbers put up. Lewis looked really good but he didn't look like Shady did two years ago when he exploded on Grambling. What type of back Lewis is going to be will be apparent after watching him against a defense with speed.
  • Stull played exactly like you would expect Stull to play. The booing was the big talking point after the game but I don't see it as a big deal. Stull can handle it and the public perception of him will change if he wins games. Were the fans too quick to boo yesterday? Probably, but Stull has no good will built up with the fanbase and his performance was below average at best.
  • Sunseri looked good but he really needs to work on getting out of the huddle faster. I highly doubt we will see him throw many more passes this year but getting to watch him for a half yesterday was an interesting look into the future of the program. The pass to Baldwin was a great play.
So there we are 1-0 and we dominated a game we should have. Next week the real season starts at Buffalo. Can we please never schedule a middle of the road FCS team? It isn't like we need a cupcake on the schedule because of how even the Big East. Utah will be a much better opener next year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pitt-YSU Predictions

Well the time has finally come for the opener. I can't tell you how excited I am to get back to watching Pitt play with all the ups and downs. I've done this column for two years where I guess some stat lines and the final score of the game. Here we go:
  • There will be a 100 yard rusher tomorrow. The feeling in camp was that Graham is the home run hitter type back so I expect him to break a few big ones. Lewis has a ton of speed and could be too much for the defense of the Penguins. Lewis 14 carries 75 yards Graham 11 carries 101 yards 1 TD
  • Jonathan Baldwin is going to explode in this game. He is the type of player who can completely dominate a warm-up game like this. The only thing that can stop Baldwin in this game is the playcalling and the ball getting to him. 5 catches 99 yards 2 TDs
  • Look for a huge day from the defensive line. I would expect Romeus and Sheard to combine for 4 sacks. The Penguins are going to turn the ball over multiple times and maybe even give a defensive TD.
  • Stull is going to play exactly like he did in the opener against Bowling Green last year. He will complete the easy passes but he will continue to have the problems he had last year. First bit of pressure the Stull we all know will come out. 11 for 23 135 yards 2 TDs 1 INT.
  • Expect big things from the return game. With Saddler as the kickoff returner we are constantly a threat to score special teams TDs. Aaron Smith got rave reviews in camp as the punt returner.
This is as close to a gimme game as we could have possibly scheduled. Rule number 1 in the Wanny era is never expect a blowout but I think this could finally be the opening day where we look to dominate against a much inferior opponent.

Pitt 35 YSU 3

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Week 1 Jones Picks

I thought I would start a new column this season where I give picks for the top games of the weekend. Then I will track my progress throughout the season to see how awful my picks ended up being. Feel free to give your picks in the comment section.
  • South Carolina vs NC State: I'm actually very excited about this game because it gives us a look at how NC State plays at home. Jones Pick: South Carolina
  • (16) Oregon vs (14) Boise State: If Boise State wins this game they become the front runner for BCS buster aka team that is cheated out of a shot for the National Title. Jones Pick: Boise State
  • (13) Georgia vs (9) Oklahoma State: How great of a game is this? Popular opinion is leaning towards the Cowboys winning this game but I'm going against the grain. Jones Pick: Georgia
  • (5) Alabama vs (7) Virginia Tech: I feel like we saw this game last year with the Clemson-Alabama game. That being said Virginia Tech is a solid team who can easily win the ACC. Jones Pick: Alabama
I will be back later with predictions for Pitt-YSU on Saturday. Enjoy the beginning of the college football season tonight.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cat Basket betting lines

I was doing my daily Pitt round up and came across Zeise's article where he has confirmed what Jason and I have been screaming about for year. Wannstedt always says that guys are going to play but that we just didn't have any situations where we could get that player out there (see: Dickerson, Cross, Fields, Nix, etc.). So that led me into a conversation with a co-worker trying to guess about how much playing time we would see Tino get if the game ended up going to garbage time. So, I'm presenting some Cat Basket lines for you and you can take your picks in our comments section.

# of bubble screens: Over 6.5/Under 6/5

# of draws: Over 13/Under 13

# of plays for Chris Jacobsen: Over 3/Under 3

# of plays for Dan Mason: Over 2/Under 2

# of plays for Tino Sunseri: Over 1/Under 1

# of pass attempts for Bill Stull: Over 20/Under 20

# of pass attempts to Jonathan Baldwin: Over 9.5/Under 9.5

Bill Stull completion percentage: Over 45%/Under 45%

# of sacks by the defensive line: Over 3.5/Under 3.5

# of interceptions thrown by Bill Stull in the game: Over 2/Under 2

# of Punts from inside the opponents 50: Over 1/Under 1

Well folks, there are many other I could come up with, but we will leave it at that for now.