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.