Monday, September 27, 2010

The reality of being a Pitt fan

Year 6 of Wanny and we are still rebuilding. That is the only way to look at this year's team. I spent the weekend refraining from all of the Pitt message boards, didn't listen to any local media outlets, and tried to clear my head to allow myself to think clearly about the realities of the program.

Last night I watched the game again and felt like I was stuck in Groundhog Day. The same issues we are seeing in year 6 are the same we saw from Wannstedt throughout his career. The offense is completely ineffective, the quarterback isn't given any opportunity (from coach or line), and the defense is based all on the defensive line.

In the past 6 years we have accumulated some great talent at running back and defensive line. What we haven't done is find a quarterback who can win games with his arm, we haven't found and developed offensive line depth to play at a high level with capable backups ready, and we haven't found a back 7 on defense that can do much.

The entire problem stems from the offensive philosophy. We are doing what Wannstedt thinks should be done regardless of whether or not we have the players to do so. Our interior line is by far the worse since I started following Pitt football in 2000. This group prevents us from running the ball and controlling the clock. That is what is needed to win under the Wannstedt system.

Miami and Utah sold out their defensive backs to stop the run, especially up the middle. What did we see when they did that? Well Pitt decided to run the ball up the gut play after play. We had a situation in the 3rd quarter where Dion ran a sweep and gained 12 yards. The next play was power-16 right up the middle for no gain. Round hole, meet square peg.

The inability of the offense to dominate the time of possession forces the defense into a position where they can not win since we decided long ago to play a "bend, don't break" style of defense.

Last season we saw Cignetti get creative with his weapons. This season with a new quarterback, the loss of our star Flex-TE, and several new starters, we have become more bland on offense than anyone could have expected. When we do switch it up, we use a play that everyone was ready for when Greg Cross was tackled for a loss on his reverse pass. Part of me feels that Wannstedt used that play not caring if it failed because if it did then he could use that as an excuse as to why we have to stick with our base power-run offense. If it did work then he could say he does use different wrinkles when appropriate (even if it is only 1 time per game).

At the end of the day, none of this matters. Nordy and many blue and gold sunglasses fans are happy because they have a coach who would rather tell you about how he was successful in different places because of Jimmy Johnson and while painting everything blue and gold rather than focusing on winning a game.

Dave Wannstedt is not suited to be a head coach. He failed with the Bears, he failed with the Dolphins, and he is failing at Pitt. With him in control we can expect one or two 9-10 win seasons every 5 years with several 5-7 win seasons mixed in between. The worse part about it is that the people who can make the choices don't seem to care.

I have given up faith not with Pitt football, but with the Pitt administrators who seem to have made every bone head choice with Pitt football since the 1980's. I have lost faith with the fan base who accept mediocrity because they're paranoid that no other person would want to coach a division 1 team in a BCS conference. These fans would rather embarrass Pitt in national TV games instead of hearing that their coach is wanted by another school. The sad fact of the matter is of the division 1 schools, none of them are trying to hire Dave Wannstedt.

This is what we have folks. We have an average team with depth at running back and defensive line. We have a coach who is well below average at what he does. We have an administration who is not willing to make the moves or invest the money to improve Pitt back to a national power. So while we talk about how great we were in the late 70's, we can give future generations of Pitt fans new memories that we are a basketball school that once had football tradition.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pitt vs Miami preview

Well folks we are 2 days away from what should be our toughest game of the season. The U returns to Heinz Field after their last trip here prevented Pitt from making the Orange Bowl. The big difference these days is that Miami is not the powerhouse, national championship contender, they once were. Today they are a shell of their former self with a few good play makers but many average college players.

Both teams have already been tested in big games with the Panthers falling at Utah and the Hurricanes falling against Ohio State. You don't see two BCS teams like Pitt and Miami heading into their 2nd big game of the season after 3 weeks of college football, usually that time is reserved for cupcakes (just ask VTech).

The story of the game is how the Panthers will stop the overrated Jacory Harris. Let's set this straight folks. Harris just isn't as good as he is made out to be. He can make plays and does show some good flashes now and again, but doesn't do enough, or enough of it consistently to be an elite quarterback.

What he does possess is the skill set to defeat the Panthers. He is a mobile qb who can throw the ball out of the spread. This spread is something different than what we saw vs. Utah as the Hurricanes offense tends to go for longer plays putting more pressure on the defensive backs than Utah did. So while both spreads could hurt us, they are different styles. The good thing about their system is that it helps bring back the defensive line into the game instead of eliminating them through quick passes.

I don't think Randy Shannon is dumb enough to ignore our major weaknesses in the back 7. I expect to see Miami come out with different looks and different over the middle passes that we haven't seen from them yet this season.

Now on the offensive side of the ball for Pitt expect to see a little more of an even split between Dion and Ray. The key is does it matter with the way our line is playing? Lippert and Turnley should be seeing some time this week over the injured Karabin and the struggling Greg Gaskins.

On a prime time Thursday night game, I fully expect Wanny to go into all out conservative mode like we saw against Utah before the end of regulation. If we don't adjust to the stacked box, we won't be seeing Dion have too much success for the 3rd straight game as we are playing directly into the opponents hands.

Overall I see Miami frustrating us with their passing ability. This countered with stopping the run is the recipe of disaster for the Panthers.

The game will be close at first, but eventually I just see Miami pulling away with a score of 31 to 20.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blowing a redshirt

With the struggles on the line, how great would it have been to include John Malecki and Joe Thomas on this team. Sure they were seniors last year and their time is passed, but guess what. We had a chance to have them on this team.

In Thomas' case, he played a significant amount of time his freshman year so technically we didn't blow the redshirt. In the case of Malecki, he played about 4 plays on defense his freshman year. What we were left with is a huge hole in the middle of our offensive line.

Now with Greg Romeus potentially out for the season there is talk that we may burn TJ Clemmings redshirt. Now don't get me wrong, I think that Clemmings is going to be a fantastic player by the time his career at Pitt ends. The issue here is that the DLine has been our deepest position for a few years. Now with one star going down, we're talking about blowing a redshirt for what surely will only be a few plays.

Wannstedt almost never plays the freshmen. Look at the team this year, we do not start any true or redshirt freshmen. The youngest players we start are true sophomores Dion Lewis and Dan Mason. The rest of the team is made up of redshirt sophomores and older guys.

To "fake" use Clemmings for a couple of plays this year would be counterproductive for future success. I really hope Wannstedt does not blow it in this case.

Mason's mysterious suspension

Well I shouldn't really call it mysterious, but who doesn't love some alliteration. Dan Mason was with Jason Douglas when he was involved in the DUI/Hit and run. Since he was there and was involved by association, there was a price to pay.

Today Dave Wannstedt announced that Dan Mason would be moved to the 2nd team for Miami. That probably means something like the suspension that Rod Rutherford had for kicking out that girl's window at Philthy McNasty's way back in the day.

My guess is that Mason only misses a series or two.

Think about this Pitt fans. Against Miami, our starting linebackers will be Tristan Roberts and Greg Williams on the outside with Max Gruder playing middle linebacker. That is scary.

Romeus out indefinitely

The good news keeps rolling in for Pitt. Senior defensive end Greg Romeus had surgery on a disc in his lower back. Right now it is unknown how long he will be out for. Dave Wannstedt said he hopes to have him around for the conclusion of the season.

Given how secretive Pitt is with injuries it is hard to know exactly how much time he will miss. If he is unable to play for the rest of the season he may be eligible for a medical redshirt. 99% of the time he would most likely go pro after the season regardless of the injury based on his potential, but the high likelihood of an NFL lockout may have him consider his options a little more carefully.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Extra room at running back

Well this can not be good. As reported by Chris Peak at, freshman running back Jason Douglas found himself in some trouble. On a personal level for the kid, this could be disasterous. Two major felonies might not just mean the end of his career at Pitt, he could be looking at some serious penalties in life for this type of action.

For Jason, I hope he can learn from this and eventually avoid situations such as these in the future.

For the Pitt program, our Fulmer Cup standing will likely increase. We will really need the Graham/Lewis combo to stay healthy as these two will be the work horses. We should be able to find a kick returner relatively easy given our depth at the skill positions. Lastly, I hope that Savon Huggins sees this and knows there might just be some extra room for a 5 star running back here.

Kick them back to the 'Shire

After a tough loss, serving up a FCS school is exactly what the team needed. It allowed some of our guys to rest (Romeus), it allowed the coaches to see players perform in real game action (Tino), and allowed guys to get back into their groove (The D-Line/Ray Graham).

What the game didn't allow us to do was see improvement in our 3 most needed areas: Interior O-Line, Linebackers, and Secondary.

For the second straight game, Pitt chose to run heavily up the middle with Dion Lewis. The Panthers failed again to create holes for him and he was limited to very small yardage against a team we should have dominated. To make matters worse, Chris Jacobsen left the game with what appeared to be a lower leg injury. With a big game coming up against Miami, this would be a good time to see if Ryan Turnley can play as well as he appeared to play this week against a legitimate FBS team. If Jacobsen can go, then it is absolutely time for the staff to sit Gaskins. He appears to be too timid and shys away from contact. Those are traits that an offensive lineman can not have.

There is a vocal group of Pitt fans who seems interested in switching to Jack Lippert as the center. While I think it would have been a good idea to do last week if there was a chance he was needed, this is not the week to do so. Against Miami, we will need a group of linemen with some experience ready to go. I don't see the need in starting a red-shirt freshman in his first year at the position at the division 1 level against Miami in a prime time game. This is one situation where experience/age trumps potential ability.

The defensive line was a bright spot shutting down a successful offense. We were able to get to the quarterback 6 times after failing to do so against Utah. Like I've been saying all off season, this team will only go as far as the D-Line takes them.

I'm lumping the linebackers and D-backs together in one group. This really is a huge weakness for the team. In all of the games we will lose this season, I can promise you will see poor O-Line play, and defensive breakdowns in the back 7. We are simply asking guys to make plays they can not. It appears that while Max Gruder may be the "thinking man's linebacker" of the group, where he knows the defense and plays a big role, he just lacks the play making ability. Dan Mason still has potential to grow, but in pass coverage he constantly finds himself out of position. I have no complaints with his run stopping ability, but the other half of his game needs to improve. The Roberts/Williams combo still hasn't shown much for me to say there has been legitimate improvement.

The one area of major improvement which I love seeing was the Panthers coming out and throwing the ball more. Tino showed that he can make the plays when given the chance. We also saw that when we can run the ball, we can use the pass to set up the run. That might not be music to Wannstedt's ears, but it is the truth. Ray Graham exploded for over 100 yards and 2 TD's after we used the early second half passing game to establish the run. I have a feeling we will need to do this for say........every game as we can't trust the interior line to create holes for the running backs.

Overall this was a good game for the Panthers to get back on track. Wanny still used his tired excuses of "we're not where we need to be" and "we are a young team" (despite not starting any freshmen), but with more experience we can move to where we need to be and inexperience is lost. We just need to use what we learned from the 2nd half an apply it to Miami. If we come out slow and conservative, we will not win this game.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Villanova invited to the Big East, and no one cares.

When news leaked about the potential offer to Villanova to join the Big East in football, some fans became angry, some fans became excited, but hopefully most fans were like me and just didn't all.

Let's just be blunt about it. The Big East Conference sucks. In fact most college conferences suck (unless your name is the SEC). Adding Villanova is no better or worse than adding a school like Memphis, ECU, or UCF. Nova is a small catholic school with a small following. Having 7,000 as your enrollment isn't exactly the most exciting number to supporting big time athletics, but hey, more has been done with less in the past.

The supporters are saying this will allow the Big East to corner the Philadelphia market. HA! People in Philly may care about specific schools for Big East basketball, but as a whole, they don't have a market for 1 specific team. Temple, Nova, and Delaware could all make cases to being "Philly's school" if marketed there correctly, but Temple hasn't done it and Nova/Delaware will never do it. You might not like to read this, but most of Philly's college fan base is going to end up going to Penn State.

Another argument in support of this is that we will see the establishment of a Big East TV network. Well, unless the network is going to show 24/7 Big East basketball, then no one cares. Will we show Big East football but exclude Notre Dame? Will we show Notre Dame basketball but ignore their football program? I like to think our gutless Big East leaders would include Notre Dame on the Big East TV deal pot so that they can keep getting extra money from different sources.

Against the Nova Wildcats is the fact they play in a small stadium, lack a true/rich history, and don't have the (to quote Kirky H.) "sexy factor" when being considered as an expansion school. For all of those reasons......well I agree with all of them.

The group that we haven't talked about yet is the conspiracy theorists. I'm shocked that I haven't read too much of the "now that Nova is a football school we can break away from the Catholic B-Ball schools" type postings. So let me give you a little fodder here conspiracy theorists. What if (even though this will NEVER happen), we take Nova for football, scoop up 3 of the Army, Navy, ECU, Memphis, UCF, or Temple group so that we can have our own network, a Big East Championship (HA!) game, and retain dominance in football. Sure we we won't be able to play extra games against St. Johns in the Garden, but who wouldn't love a trip to Philly in early February to see the Panthers square off against the Owls in what surely would be a terrible dominating basketball game.

Really, no matter if this does or does not happen, it doesn't make any difference. The only thing that will change is that we will basically have 2 FCS level teams on our schedule (well 3 if you would have counted FIU) instead of just the 1.

This move means nothing to me, and it should mean nothing to you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

On to New Hampshire

Well one of the things more disappointing than losing a close game on the road is realizing your next game puts your car in the friendly confines of Blue 10 instead of Red 5 (thanks Steelers/Pitt).

This week we have our home opener at 1 p.m. vs FCS team New Hampshire. The Wildcats are coming off of a big win which saw their running back pile up Dion level numbers. This is a team that holds wins over FBS teams in each of the last 5 years and they are looking to make Pitt #6.

While Pitt should win this game easily, it will provide some much needed help for the Panthers. The Wilcats will be running their version of the spread and will be looking to replicate the success of Utah vs. our defense. This will give Pitt a chance to see the type of offense they will be facing for the majority of the 2010 season as most teams are now looking to this type of modern offense and know that Pitt has difficulty covering it as our slow linebackers are forced to line up against slot receivers.

The defensive line needs to have a monster game this week. There is no reason our All-American's shouldn't be able to throw around these division 2 offensive linemen while stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. The play of the front 4 is essential to preventing our back 7 from having to make plays, which is a good thing.

We will get to see how our offensive line plays after a terrible start to the season. Yes we will see 9 guys in the box and yes we will see Dion being forced to run up the middle on several straight plays. If the line can create some holes, Dion should be able to rack up at least 150 yards with a couple of touchdowns to get the train back on the tracks.

If there was a game to let Tino loose and see what he can do, this is it. You don't have to worry about hiding him, or worrying if he does make a mistake because we should be up by a large enough margin to overcome what negative plays occur.

This week, I predict my tailgate party will hear me complain over and over again about the parking situation (screw you blue 10) and Pitt will win the game by a score of 35 to 10.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Post-Utah - The Defense

Overall, one way to describe the entire unit is Terrible.

Our great defensive line decided not to show up for this game. Maybe Sheard/Romeus aren't as great as advertised, maybe the Utah air slowed us down, or maybe we just really missed Mick Williams and Gus Mustakas. Regardless of the excuse the D-Line needs to make more plays. From a unit that lead the country in sacks last season, we were unable to get one this entire game. Pressure on the quarterback was not consistent and filling holes led to runs which should have been stopped sooner. This group needs to get their heads on straight if we expect to have any success this season because they are the anchors of the group.

The linebackers should immediately have Wanny on the phone with every recruit in the country to see if they want to play here. Max Gruder for some reason has his spot locked up despite not being able to shed tackles, not having any tackles for no gain/loss, and looking lost in pass coverage. The only positive thing you can say is that his pass coverage skills are slightly better than Dan Mason's. I really had high expectations for Mason this year after flashes of brilliance last year. Mason will be a fine run stopper, but his pass coverage ability for a linebacker needs to improve fast if he hopes to succeed at Pitt and make it to the next level. The last spot belonging to Williams/Roberts is a huge hole as well. After 5 years of recruiting here, you would think we would have an above average trio of linebackers, but that is not the case. The one redemption for this group is that everyone realizes we are putting them in no-win situations all of the time. We can not expect our outside linebackers to cover slot receivers all game and be successful. The other move that we aren't adjusting to is when a team puts their #1 receiver in the slot, we are not adjusting. That would be like if we lined Baldwin in the slot and had Max Gruder line up for coverage.

In the secondary, Antuan Reed, and Ricky Gary actually didn't play too bad. Don't get me wrong, they weren't great, but they could have been much worse than they were. I think these guys will steadily improve throughout the season and leave us with less complaints through each game. The same can be said for Jarred Holley. The guy is an absolute play maker. He had the best game of any player on the defensive unit and certainly won't draw any complaints from me. If every player had done their job as well as Holley, we would have won this game. The biggest gripe about this unit is the use of Dom DeCicco. Who thought it would be a good idea for him to continually add more muscle to the point where he can't run as a safety should anymore. The guy is now a linebacker playing in the secondary. He continually is out of position and has poor tackling skills. He hurt his shoulder on a play that he typically goes for. Instead of wrapping up properly, he leads with the shoulder trying to knock the player down with the big hit instead of taking him down securely. With his status unknown for the New Hampshire game we will get to see Jason Hendricks get some extra playing time here. Hopefully the return of Andrew Taglianetti gives this group some relief as he has looked like our best option there so far.

There is much to complain about from this group and the coaching should be included as well. Not breaking from the base defense all game, stating we had too much inexperience, and not having accountability is what killed this team. We can not have the same tired excuses game after game, year after year if we want to become and remain a dominant defense. At some point, the words have to translate into actions and plays have to be made. Either that, or someone has to take the fall for the poor execution whether it is a player or coach.

Post-Utah - The Offense

I had a feeling Pitt would lose a close game against Utah, which is why I predicted a 3 point defeat for the Panthers. I just didn't think that while expecting to lose a close game, I could come out of it with such a negative reaction.

I guess I felt that even if we did lose a close game, our 3 hyped studs (Lewis, Baldwin, and Romeus) would all have great games. What we saw was the staff limit the success of the offensive guys, and the defensive line disappear.

On offense, Tino looks like he can be the real deal. He isn't the best quarterback in the country, but he does have the skill set and tools to be a successful college quarterback. His biggest drawback is the handcuffs that the staff has placed on him, and probably won't ever take off given Wannstedt's usage/trust of quarterbacks.

Dion Lewis and Henry Hynoski did as much as they could in their positions. They made the plays that they were given room to make. The staff did a terrible job using them though as they were forced to run against 8 and 9 man fronts who knew exactly what we were going to do. If we continue to play this way for the rest of the season we won't have to worry about Dion's chase for the Heisman because he will be injured and won't have a shot to pile up stats. He was getting crushed out there.

The offensive line was terrible. If your name is not Nix or Pinkston, you should be worried about losing your job. The interior of the line could not have looked worse. They didn't get any push for the run game, didn't provide Tino time to pass, and looked exactly how a group of linemen should not. Greg Gaskins might be the worst lineman to ever suit up during the Harris/Wannstedt era. I never thought I'd wish to see Dom Williams return to play guard, but he would be starting on this team if he were here. Ryan Turnley and Jack Lippert need to be given serious looks this week in practice because if this line does not turn around quickly, we will be hard pressed to win 8 games.

The wide receivers were the bright spot of the offense. When they were given a chance to make plays, they did. The nice surprise was Cam Saddler showing some good ability as a slot receiver. His speed will compliment nicely to Shanahan and Baldwin. Speaking of those two, how can we not be using them more, especially in the red zone? As Paul Zeise pointed out, of 17 red zone passes, only 1 was to the end zone. Even if you aren't planning on throwing to Baldwin, having him on the field in those situations immediately draws the attention of 2 defenders away from him giving your offense more room. There were even situations where he was in single coverage and we refused to utilize him, instead opting for the runs against a 9 man front.

Mike Cruz showed again that he is a pretty good player. He has very nice hands, but shouldn't be counted on to block too much. For that, we were using Brock DiCicco who right now looks just as bad on offense as his brother does on defense. His false start penalties and poor blocking prevented us from sustaining drives that could have been a difference maker in the game. The big question I have from this group is, Where was Greg Cross? If he truly was to replace Dorin's role from last year, this is one game and one time we could have used it. I guess we're hiding it for the big 3rd place showdown against WVU in November.

Overall my biggest complaints are with the coaching and the offensive line. We saw Wanny's achillies heel back in full force Thursday night. I don't care if it was his or Cignetti's game plan, but it was awful. An audible, play action, or mis-direction play might not be in the 1990 Chicago Bears playbook, but it should be in the 2010 Pitt Panther's playbook.

Given our redzone opportunities and expansive set of skill players, we should have put up much more than 24 points. This is what we need to realistically expect from this type of team the rest of the season and the rest of our lives as long as we are playing this type of football. Regardless of what the defense does, we will run our standard offense and try to force our will over theirs, even if we are losing all game long.

Acquired Apathy

For the past 10 years, as a Pitt football fan, I could really never understand why we never had more of a rabid/passionate fan base. We have had many reasons to see great crowds with tremendous enthusiasm, but we never found them.

After the past few seasons I can finally understand why this attitude exists. It always seems that when a Pitt football team is ready to take the next step forward, we end up stumbling.

In 2004 with a top 10 team and the most legitimate heisman contender we have had in 30 years, we lost at Toledo in a game where we were up by a couple of scores in the 2nd half.

With the introduction of Dave Wannstedt, the return of Matt Cavanaugh, and keeping defensive guru Paul Rhoads, the Panther faithful were excited to see what this coach could do with a team coming off of a BCS berth. What we had was a slaughter at Heinz Field at the hands of Notre Dame. While this could have been overlooked due to the introduction of then hot coaching prospect Charlie Weis introducing his offensive dominance, we then saw the Panthers fall in overtime to Ohio University.

In 2008, the Panthers were starting the season after preventing our hated rivals from West Virginia from playing in the National Championship. We were introducing a monster recruiting class and had things lined up to make a play for the Big East title with the last coaching wizard, Rich Rodriguez, leaving for Michigan. What we had was an opening day loss to Bowling Green, giving us our 3rd loss to a MAC team in our entire history. Things did not get better as it took a late 4th quarter comeback to defeat the Buffalo Bulls at home. The season ended with a truly embarrassing 3-0 loss at the Sun Bowl where the Pitt offense hit rock bottom.

In 2009, Pitt had a chance to earn more respect than ever by going undefeated in the Big East and earning its first BCS bid in 5 years. On a cold November night, Pitt lost to a lowly WVU team in a game that fans claimed "Didn't mean anything". That game was followed up by one of the biggest collapses in Pitt football history as a huge 1st half lead was squandered away against Cincy. That allowed the Bearcats to finish undefeated and pushed Pitt back to 3rd place in the Big East.

This season with Brian Kelly gone, a top 20 ranking, 2 great offensive weapons, a vaunted defensive line, and a quarterback fans have been screaming for the past 2 seasons, Pitt was in a position to take that long awaited step forward. You will hear excuses that losing a close game to Utah is not that big of a deal. Those people making that excuse do have a point. The bigger issue is that Pitt had a chance to win the game, but passed instead taking the safe move to play for the tie. When we did take a chance, our first play in over time resulted in an interception leading to a loss.

Now those are just the issues since I've been a Pitt fan starting in 2000. I can see how fans who have been around much longer than myself can lose hope and simply go to root for the team, but not expect too much. Honestly that is the point where Jones and I are right now. We will be at every game as we always have been, we will be cheering our hearts out for the Panthers, but we won't be expecting championship after championship as it won't happen with this program.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pitt vs Utah Preview

Well today is the day. Our Pitt Panthers will kick off the 2010 season in Salt Lake City. This is one of the premiere non-conference games and will be a huge starting point for the victor in this game.

No longer can Utah be looked at as a non-BCS underdog ever since their undefeated season a few years ago with Urban Meyer at the helm. Since that point, Utah has been a force in college football. They have played well enough and garnered enough support to earn them a spot in the PAC-12 meaning, they are now a BCS school.

Leading into the game you have heard all about the superstars for Pitt and the great home field advantage for Utah. We also are waiting to see how new comers such as Tino Sunseri and the back 7 for Utah fare in their first action as starters.

For Pitt to win this game, they need to have a balanced, successful, offensive attack. Utah has a very good defensive line which could cause many problems. The weakness of this Utes team will be in the secondary. We finally get to see the true trust level of this team as Tino is the first quarterback that Wanny has recruited long term for himself. If they let Tino throw as much as Bill Stull towards the end of the season, Pitt should be in good shape tonight. If they hold him back, Pitt is in trouble. Utah knows that we are going to run the ball all day long. A 1 dimensional offense will allow Utah to hide their secondary playing directly into their strength. A few successful passes will push them back a bit allowing more room for the running game. Without the respect for the pass, we will see the Panthers struggling in the run game. Due to this, Pitt should not expect to run the ball all game and expect to win.

On Defense, I expect Pitt to play very well. Pitt has done well against most versions of the spread. This shouldn't be like the Fiesta bowl where all of the misdirections and lack of defensive adjustments leads to a dejected Panther fan base. What we should expect to see is the defensive line controlling the line of scrimmage, stopping the run, and putting pressure on the quarterback. Our main weakness will come from the outside linebacker position and cornerbacks. Dan Mason should be in store for a great season, but if we do not see improvement from Max Gruder and the Williams/Roberts tandem, we are in trouble. We also need Ricky Gary and Antuan Reed to provide consistent, adequate play. We saw our corners struggle ever since the departure of Revis. I don't think any fan is ever expecting to have a cornerback like him year in and year out, but consistency at the position will go a long way in helping the team reach their goal of a Big East Championship.

For this game I don't see Wanny opening anything up offensively since we are opening in a hostile environment with a sophomore quarterback starting his first collegiate game. This over-reliance on the run will pose problems for the offense as our new interior linemen will most like struggle with Utah's front four.

On defense Pitt will hang and play well keeping us in the game. The defensive line will be as good as advertised and be a menace all season long. The linebackers and secondary will have their mistakes, but they will provide enough for Pitt to play solid defensively and remain one of the top units not just in the conference, but in the country.

My prediction:

Pitt 27, Utah 30.