Friday, November 27, 2009

Same old Pitt

Well that loss hurts. This is a game we've come to expect to lose. Despite the set back in coaching and performance all is not lost.

We need to focus every ounce of energy into beating Cincinnati. We need to play perfect on both sides of the ball.

If we are unable to, it could be a rough December with a trip to either Charlotte, Toronto, or Birmingham. Personally I'd rather go to Miami, New Orleans, or Phoenix.

Let's buck up and win this game next week.

Pitt-WVU Predicitions

Here is it everybody. The 102nd playing of the Backyard Brawl. For the first time in many years Pitt is the team with everything to lose when we travel to Morgantown. 7 PM National TV on ESPN after the awesome Duke-UConn NIT final sets up for a classic in this series. Next week is the Big East Title game for Pitt but today is for more than a bowl, this is all about pride. WVU hates us and we hate them. Games like this are what we live for as college football and most importantly fans of our Panthers. On to the predictions:
  • Turnovers are going to decide this game. Playing on the road in a hostile involvement it will be important for us to control the ball. Creating turnovers against WVU would go a long way to slowing them down. Romeus and Sheard have had some great games against WVU in the past and this year will be no different. Brown has been coughing the ball up against lesser defenses so this game will be more of the same.
  • Dion Lewis needs to chew up yards like he has done every game this season. WVU will not be able to handle our power game. The more yards we can gain in the rushing game the more we can control the clock. As he has done all year expect a few big plays from Dion, he is going write himself into the history of this rivalry. 27 carries 184 yards 2 TD
  • Bill Stull has to continue playing the way that he has all season. There are going to be spots in this game where we need a play in the passing game and he needs to provide that play. I'm not sure if he will have a huge statistical game but where you can measure his success is how well we move the ball. I have faith in Stull to make the big play when necessary.
  • We have to continue to make the right coaching decisions. Stewart is in way over his head at WVU and has made it a habit of blowing games with his own incompetence. Don't become the Wanny of old here and everybody knows what I mean.
I'm very excited. Any chance we have to stick it in WVU's face is always a good one. Big game for the program in terms of perception too. Be careful if you are going to Morgantown today and if not enjoy the game. I will probably do some tweeting during the game depending on how drunk I get.

Pitt 28 WVU 10

LET'S GO PITT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jones Picks Week 13

Current Record: 34-26

Very sorry for the lack of updates here at the website. The long absence was not planned it just happened. Last week missing my picks was all on me for forgetting. This week I will pick a bunch of games to make up for it. On to the picks:
  • (3) Texas vs Texas A&M: There has been some hype in the media about this game being a possible upset. I respect that A&M has a great home field advantage but this is a blowout. Texas has that National Title game spot completely wrapped up. Jones Pick: Texas
  • (5) Cincinnati vs Illinois: This is going to be a comical blowout and I will enjoy it. The bottom of the Big 10 is like the MAC. Way to schedule a cupcake the week before the Big East title game to preserve that undefeated record. Jones Pick: Cincinnati
  • (2) Alabama vs Auburn: If I was going to pick a big upset here is where it is. Bama has made every game this season closer than it should be. Rivalry games usually mean the game is even closer. This could come down to the final drive. Jones Pick: Alabama
  • (18) Clemson vs South Carolina: I have a deep hatred of how the ACC is ranked in the polls. This Clemson ranking is an absolute joke. They are not a good team and they did a great job of proving that earlier in the season. South Carolina still has a good enough defense to shut down Clemson. Jones Pick: South Carolina
  • (25) Ole Miss vs Mississippi State: I've been so disappointed by Ole Miss this year. Miss State is on their way to building a competitive program under Dan Mullen. This is very much a crapshoot game to me. Jones Pick: Miss State
  • (12) Oklahoma State vs Oklahoma: The popular wisdom here is that Oklahoma is way better at home and that Ok State has too much to lose. I really doubt this is going to be an upset for Oklahoma though. Jones Pick: Oklahoma State
  • (17) Miami vs South Florida: USF doesn't want to hear this but if they want to get to the next level they have to fire Jim Levitt. He just isn't a guy who can win you all the big games consistently. This is a big game for USF so guess what I am expecting. Jones Pick: Miami
  • (21) Utah vs (19) BYU: I think they home field advantage for BYU here will be the decider. Jones Pick: BYU
  • Arkansas vs (15) LSU: This is a very intriguing game to me. I think that Arkansas can pull the upset just because LSU has lost motivation. Jones Pick: Arkansas
  • Georgia vs (7) Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech has not impressed me all that much this season. This is a big time rivalry game but I think Tech wins. Jones Pick: Georgia Tech
  • Notre Dame vs Stanford: Welcome to the unemployment line Charlie Weis. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Jones Pick: Stanford
This should make up for not picking last week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cat Basket Podcast Number 27

Here it is the post ND game edition.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Pitt vs Notre Dame preview from a ND Fan

Last year before we took on the Irish, my friend (and Irish fan even though he goes to Florida State) wrote a recap for the Basket. His prediction was wrong as Pitt won the game in South Bend. This year, Kent Brown is back again with his Pitt/ND preview. (spoiler - He picks ND to win again).

Pitt hopes to keep momentum as stumbling Irish come to Heinz Field

By Kent Brown

It was supposed to be the biggest home game in Dave Wannstedt’s career.

The 7-2 Fighting Irish coming to town against, looking for a BCS Bowl Game and sporting a top 20 ranking. College Gameday in the Steel City. The Panthers with an 8-1 record, a top 10 ranking and 5 straight wins.

Perhaps the biggest game Pitt has played since they upset WVU 13-9 and spoiled the Mountaineers goal of playing for the national championship.

There was just one little problem, Navy 23 Notre Dame 21 in South Bend, Indiana. College Gameday gone and off to Forth Worth for Utah @ TCU. Notre Dame goes from a clear top 20 team to out of the top 25.

Does the appeal go away? A bit. But this is still a huge game for both teams. And I would say it is safe to say that this game means a lot more for ND than it does for Pitt. This is a non-conference game for Pitt and all that truly matters is the remainder of the Big East season.

In fact, this game is not just big for the Irish, but it is monumental for Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis. If he loses this game, it may be the end of the road for him in South Bend.

So what will happen? Will the Irish come to Pittsburgh motivated and play to “Win one for Coach Weis.” Or will the Panthers do what they’ve been doing all season, and dominate the opposition. Make no mistake, Pitt has been the better team this season. But are they much better than Notre Dame? I don’t think so.

For Notre Dame to win this game, quite a few things must happen. First and foremost, the Notre Dame offensive line must to a great job of blocking Pitt’s front four. Mick Williams, Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard are all having very good seasons. In Notre Dame’s 2nd loss of the season, USC routinely got into the Notre Dame backfield with just 3 and 4 rushes. If this occurs again, expect the Panthers to win.

One more key is what will Notre Dame do when they get into the red zone. It’s clear that Notre Dame lost last week’s game because of their ineffectiveness in the red zone. The Irish have had 39 red zone trips this season and have scored only 20 touchdowns. When you have future 1st round picks in QB Jimmy Clausen, WR Michael Floyd, WR Golden Tate, TE Kyle Rudolph, you should be better than that.

It’s clear that the one game this season in which Clausen was held in check was Boston College. Note, Clausen was 26 for 39 with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. However, the BC defense forced Clausen to dink ‘n dunk. The Irish needed long, sustained drives. This should be Pitt’s strategy. If they bring the blitz, it will almost definitely be a long day for the Panthers defense because their cornerbacks will not be able to keep up with Floyd and Tate one-on-one.

And finally, how will the Irish contain potential All-American RB Dion Lewis? If Lewis establishes himself early, I really do not see any way the Irish will keep Pitt under 30 points. What the Irish need to do is hold Lewis to about 100 yards rushing, but make him earn those yards. Any big yardage plays will mean the Irish will be hesitant and that will open things up for Dickerson and Baldwin. And believe me, Dickerson is going to have a big game. I would imagine somewhere near 8 -10 receptions, 120-140 yards and 1-2 TD’s. Baldwin had the big 4th down catch in the 4th quarter last season and I have no doubt that Pitt will look for Baldwin in those red zone situations this season.

What I expect to happen is both teams will move the ball, especially between the 20’s. The big difference will be who can punch it the end zone when both teams are in the red zone? I am still not sure, but I do expect Notre Dame to abandon the run, for the most part, with just 1 scholarship Tight End healthy. Notre Dame’s TE Kyle Rudolph is out for the game and the Irish will probably not be able to run the ball that well on Pitt anyway.

Not too mention, Notre Dame’s best bet to beat Pitt is through the air. If there is a glaring weakness on Pitt’s team, it’s the secondary. Notre Dame’s best strength is their passing attack. Coming off of a loss to Navy in what could be a “must-win” game for head coach Charlie Weis, I expect the Irish to come out fighting with everything they have. This is not to say Pitt won’t play hard, but they may not need it as much.

However, the Irish defense is not talented enough to shut down Pitt. But once again, if they can hold Pitt’s red hot offense to FG’s in the red zone rather than touchdowns, expect the Irish to pull out a close victory.

My final prediction is a high-scoring, close game that should go down to the final couple of minutes. Jimmy Clausen has been as good as any team in the country this season. And he has been remarkable in the final minutes of every game. With the Irish in must-win mode against a good Pitt team, there is no reason to expect anything other than a close game.

Pitt will score plenty, as will Notre Dame. With that, I think Notre Dame score touchdowns in the red zone, rather than field goals. Add in the fact that I believe Notre Dame will win the turnover margin. Since Charlie Weis has taken over as Irish head coach in 2005, only one team has had more games without a turnover, and that is Florida. Last week’s -3 turnover margin vs. Navy was not typical and I don’t expect more than 1 turnover this week.

I would not be surprised if either team wins, however I would be very surprised if it's a blowout. I'm going with Clausen and the Irish passing attack to outshine the Panthers Saturday night.

Final score: Notre Dame 34, Pitt 30.

Pitt-Notre Dame Predictions

So here it is. Tomorrow will be the highest attended game in Heinz Field history. In a base sense this game means absolutely nothing to our bowl aspirations (outside of making it harder for the Gator Bowl to choose ND). The grander scheme of the program this is a watershed moment. Our attendance problems have been well documented and the city hasn't embraced this team in the way we would all hope. Beating Notre Dame in front of a packed house gives us an opportunity to put the fairweather and bandwagon fans on notice, Pitt is back. Tomorrow means the world for the program in an abstract sense. On to some predictions:
  • Dion Lewis is going to have a monster game. ND was pushed around and outplayed by Navy's offensive line last week. I'm expecting us to give them a big dose of the running game in an effort to control the clock. A big game here could mean an All American season for Lewis. Stat Line: 30 carries 185 yards 2 TDs
  • We will find out what the defense is very quickly tomorrow night. I'm of the opinion that our defense hasn't been tested by a proficient passing attack since NC State. ND has a fantastic passing attack that will hit us where our defense hasn't been successful under Wannstedt. Golden Tate is the best player we have had to defend against this season and he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Bad tackling and missed assignments in the secondary is going to mean a touchdown. There is no margin for error against a team that can sling it the way ND does. Can the defensive line get enough pressure? Can we break up the big passes? Can we make the tackles necessary to slow this offense down? Those are the questions I think need to be answered.
  • I expect Stull to get some chances to make the big play tomorrow. ND is going to stack the line and allow our wide receivers to get into single coverage. Stull needs to continue his great play in order for us to win this game and I think he will. Whatever you can say about Stull this year you can say he has made the necessary plays. More than any other player on the field this is a game that can frame Stull's legacy at Pitt.
I'm very optimistic about our chances tomorrow. ND matches up very well against us. Wannstedt needs to find a way to win this game for the fans and for the program. Shutting down Notre Dame's passing attack would answer every question I have about our team this year. The NC State loss will no longer live in the back of all of our heads if we prove our improvement tomorrow. Everybody enjoy that atmosphere and getting to play in front of the eyes of college football.

ND 24 Pitt 31

Let's Go Pitt!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Week 11 Jones Picks

Current Record: 30-25

Last week I called the Oregon upset on the podcast after I had them winning on the website. That was not me hedging my bets that was just me being dumb and thinking I put Stanford to win that game. There are more good games this week so hopefully I can have a decent week.
  • (25) West Virginia vs (5) Cincinnati: I have been of the opinion since his first game in charge at WVU that Bill Stewart is the worst coach in the country. If everything was equal I would say WVU has a great chance to pull the upset here but Stewart is their coach so do that math. Don't expect a blowout but Cincy will keep rolling. Jones Pick: Cincinnati
  • (10) Iowa vs (11) Ohio State: Here is what I love about the way the Big Ten is covered by the media. I'm led to believe that it is impossible to win against Northwestern if you lose your starter like Iowa did. Those bottom tier Big 10 teams are so tough, in fact they are so tough they lose tons of games just because. This will be a horrible game and all we will hear about next week is how OSU is back and everybody was wrong about Pryor. Jones Pick: Ohio State
  • (2) Alabama vs Mississippi State: The SEC will not let Alabama lose no matter the circumstance. The blown interception call against LSU was as close to fixing a game as I have ever seen. This game is going to be very close and I'm guessing a phantom call keeps MSU from winning. Jones Pick: Alabama
  • (16) Utah vs (4) TCU: This is a tough one to call. All the pressure of the college football world is now on TCU's shoulders. Utah is a very good team and capable of pulling this upset. It kills me to pick this way because I always hope for the BCS to get ruined. Jones Pick: Utah
  • (17) Arizona vs California: Rule number 1 of college football. PAC 10 teams that have something to lose always find a way to lose during road games. It is a tradition as old as the conference itself. So scratch plans of Arizona winning out getting to the Rose Bowl. Jones Pick: California
Tomorrow I will do the predictions for the Pitt-ND game. If all goes well there will be a podcast up before midnight on Friday night previewing the game.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cat Basket Podcast Number 25

Review of the time we missed on the podcast plus a little Syracuse preview. Enjoy!

Cat Basket Podcast Number 25

Pitt-Syracuse Predictions

I don't know about everyone else but it feels great to have everything to lose in a game like this. The 6 years I have been watching Pitt play I have always dreaded the games against Syracuse. Not because we lose them but because they are usually so tough to watch. This is 150% a trap game and finishing Syracuse off early is a priority. On to some predictions:
  • Syracuse quietly has a good run defense. I would expect their gameplan is going to make Stull beat them by stacking the box to stop Lewis. This is going to result in a huge day for Stull and the playmakers in the passing game. Baldwin will continue his streak of breaking off huge plays every game and Dickerson will add to his touchdown total. Stull 25 for 30 295 yards 4 TD
  • On the other side of the ball Syracuse is a mess. I can't see how they are going to move the ball on us without a dangerous passing game. In no way am I forgetting the leaky faucet that our passing defense resembles at times but Cuse will have trouble exploiting that weakness. I'm expecting a few turnovers created from the defense as well.
  • I have an odd feeling that we may come out a little flat just due to the bye week and looking forward to the big final stretch. Expect the score to be close in the first quarter and then we will blow it wide open.
I realize this is a noon start but I'm really hoping for a decent turnout. This is a top 15 team with everything to gain in the next 4 weeks and the city getting behind them in a game like this would be great. There may be a special surprise up on the website later tonight if everything goes to plan.

Pitt 34 Syracuse 7

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pitt making some changes

It is almost as if Wannstedt is reading the blogs and message boards with some of the changes we are seeing. This week it was announced that Jarred Holley will be starting at safety. This is a move that almost all Pitt fans have been asking for as he has proven he is probably the best safety we have at the moment. I don't think that we will see Fields moved to linebacker at any point as we probably need Holley to move to cornerback next year along side either Buddy Jackson or Antuan Reed.

After the USF game there were a bunch of fans saying that Fields was playing linebacker. I hate to break it to those fans, but even coach Wannstedt said that we were playing a nickel package. That's right folks, the defensive scheme that Jones, myself, and other fans have been legitimately screaming for since he took over was finally implemented. We game planned for USF perfectly by switching to that package because you could tell USF was completely unprepared for it. By having the extra defensive back in the game as well as using Adam Gunn to spy the quarterback the entire game, it shut down the USF offense. Don't be surprised if we do the exact same thing against Cincy later in the year. To be honest, I wouldn't mind if we used that package all season long. Fields seems to play best by moving around and being able to make plays on the ball instead of being set in specific positions for the package. I also believe it is more of an upgrade having him out there as the 5th DB versus having Max Gruder as the 3rd linebacker.

Speaking of linebackers, Dan Mason was finally moved to the outside. This has 2 positives and 1 negative associated with it. The first positive is that Adam Gunn has played extremely well showing that Jason and I were completely wrong when we felt that Mason should start over him. Gunn has been the most improved player in the conference this year and really has excelled as the middle linebacker. The second positive is that the staff trusts Mason to still be the back up in the middle if needed, but to also give him a chance to learn to play the outside spot (even though Dell is listed as the back up). Mason is one of the most talented players on the defensive roster and when it is all said and done, will be one of the better players in Pitt history.

The negative of all of this is that Max Gruder has been very disappointing this year. It has gotten to the point where now we have to consider other options to try and have someone ready should he continue to struggle. I always root for all of the Pitt players to succeed, but I'm pulling for Gruder extra hard because we really need him to step up for Pitt to have an even stronger defense.

With those changes plus us finally utilizing our play makers (especially Dorin) and not asking players to do things they are not capable is showing that, Wannstedt is adapting. There will always be things we disagree with, but this 2009 is showing that we finally have an upper level of talent that is being coached correctly and using appropriate play calling.

We have a long way to go this year, but as long as we don't revert back to our old ways, there's no reason to believe that we shouldn't be able to achieve our goal.

Week 10 Jones Picks

Current Record: 29-23

I was a bit off on my picks last week. The Tennessee and Auburn upsets really saved everything for me. This week is probably not going to be a comeback week for me since there are so few good games. Here are the picks:
  • (8) Oregon vs Stanford: Mark my words here people Oregon will not a be a factor in the final BCS Title picture. They are not as solid of a team as people want them to be after beating USC. Beating USC is quite the accomplishment but that team flat out quit on Pete Carroll and we know what happens when you score points on USC. This is a game that Oregon can very easily lose. I'm not calling the loss but don't expect a blowout here. Jones Pick: Oregon
  • (16) Ohio State vs (11) Penn State: The Big 10 has never been worse and I'm enjoying every second of it. Watching these two teams over the past few weeks puts the outcome in doubt. OSU has been an absolute joke and Penn State had trouble with Northwestern last week. I hope Ohio State wins just for the comedy that will ensue in Happy Valley but they won't. Pryor is being misused to an amazing degree. Jones Pick: Penn State
  • (9) LSU vs (3) Alabama: Really big game. Bama has been the team I have been hyping hard on here like I did with Florida last year. Watching Bama play you get the feeling that they can find a way to win in every situation. LSU is an extremely tough team to beat just due to the talent on both sides of the ball. I expect a great game. Jones Pick: Alabama
Sorry I only picked 3 games this week but the rest of the games are pretty uneven. I could pad my record with some easy picks but I will not. I will be back tomorrow with another column then the predictions for Cuse-Pitt on Friday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Squeezing the Orange

Thanks to Mike Williams choice to leave the team, Pitt now sits in a great position to win this game a bit more easily than we should have expected to. I just hope that the coaches and team aren't over looking Syracuse the way I am. Last year at the Carrier Dome Syracuse took it to us in the 1st half before falling apart in the 2nd half.

This year Syracuse has much better coaching and more talent across the field than we have seen before. It is hard to get a good estimate of exactly how good of a coach that Doug Marrone is, but I can tell you one thing, he is certainly a whole hell of a lot better than Greg Robinson was.

The one thing that should help Pitt this week is that Greg Paulus has absolutely sucked since Big East season has started for the Cuse. He's been bad enough that they've switched to backup Ryan Nassib for a few series to get the offense started. Now with Mike Williams off the roster, their next leading receiver is Donte Davis who has managed to get a solid 180 some yards over the first 8 games of the season. Now Syracuse is going to have to rely on mediocre running back Delone Carter to carry the offense until someone else can step up and help the passing game. I think Marcus Sales is talented enough to help, but I don't think that anyone will make that big of a dent for them the rest of the season.

Everyone had to expect that it would take a while to rebuild Syracuse after Greg Robinson did such a fantastic job of tearing them down. Now the job is just getting a bit harder. Marrone can come out with a game plan to sling the ball around all game long, but the fact is Paulus isn't talent enough to do it and the receivers are unproven to the point where they shouldn't scare anyone, even our below average (but improving) secondary.

Syracuse will need to try and run the ball until they can get things figured out which is not the best idea against our defense. The line should be able to snuff all of it out and if we let Adam Gunn spy the quarterback this game as we did against USF that should contain any runs by Paulus. That is simply all we will have to do to shut them down because their inability to pass will force them to play into our hands.

Looking at their defense it is hard to accurately judge them. They didn't let Cincy run all over them like I thought they would, but they also had a tough time stopping Northwestern from scoring, so who knows what team will show up. I do believe that we have the 2nd best offense they will see (Only Cincy is better, not PSU go take that Nitters). With that said, we have by far the best running game they will see all season. I think they will get a healthy dose of Dion followed up with some extra pounding with Ray Graham. That is a combo that they have no chance of stopping.

I'll let Jones stick to the predictions, but there is no way we should lose this game, especially at home heading into the biggest game of the season vs Notre Dame on national television.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Best Receiver in the Big East is Gone

That's right folks, the statistical leader in the Big East, Mike Williams, has left the Orange. If I were a coach, I'd avoid wide receivers named Mike Williams like the plague. Williams has had a crazy run at Syracuse.

2 years ago, Mike Williams showed that he was probably the best player on the worst team in the Big East under then Greg Robinson's Syracuse squad. He followed up that hot start by getting in some academic trouble and then missing the entire 2008 season.

This season he was playing well. Despite being suspended for the Akron game, he was still leading the Big East in receiving. That is quite impressive considering that he does have some stiff competition in the league for that spot.

What we have now is a team without a great player. It is a shame for Syracuse too because they seemed to be finally making some strides after firing the worst coach in the Big East. Williams had even stated that he planned on returning for his Senior year which would have been nothing but positive for the Orange.

This move may actually be a positive for former Pitt recruit Marcus Sales. Once considered a Pitt lean, Sales headed for the Cuse once Pitt pulled in a trio of talented wide receivers. It was around the same time when Averin Collier, Pitt's Kevan Collier's brother, decided going to Syracuse would be better as well.

Sales has gotten some meaningful playing time as of late and will now be needed even more to pick up the slack from where Williams left off. It will all depend on if Greg Paulus can get him the ball.

Speaking of the former Duke hoopster, Syracuse is having their own Boogate as well. In his press conference today Doug Marrone was whining to the media about how the fans were booing after Paulus threw one of his 9 million interceptions when Syracuse was in the red zone last week. I'm so sick of this. If you're a college athlete you better get used to some booing from time to time. College sports is becoming such a big time money product, that the fans are starting to react to it like professional sports. They demand perfection from the players like they are being paid to play. Now I'm not going to get into the argument over whether or not booing is ok, I'm getting into the issue of the coach bringing it up.

Here is my idea, if you don't want it to become a bigger deal, then don't mention it. Paulus will now have to play under more scrutiny now because of Marrone deciding to talk about the booing. It is a great way to alienate your fans. Just take a look at Pitt. After the Sun Bowl we all had a bad taste in our mouths. We come out in the 2009 season starting off looking much like we had finished 2008 and the fans let the team (specifically Bill Stull) hear about it. This was fueled by an off season of reporting that Stull was being out performed in camp (which he was). It was fueled even further by the coaches and media bringing it up.

If you want it to go away, then don't talk about it, don't even hint at it. If you ignore it and your player performs, it will go away. Just ask Ricky Stanzi after last week's 1st half performance against Indiana.