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.