In the past when Pitt was coming off a big win it meant we had to wonder about our habit for blowing the next games – no matter what quality level the next opponent was it seemed. That was part of the old Same Old Pitt that we fans hated so much.
But today, Friday, and just a day away from playing the Big 12’s Oklahoma State Cowboys, I really don’t have that nagging feeling any longer. Maybe it’s because I was wondering if Narduzzi was going to be able to get the kids up and playing strong right out of the tunnel last Saturday after that tepid game against Villanova the week before.
Well, we saw what happen then with the Panthers building a commanding 28-7 lead at one point in the 1st half and then holding on to beat the Nitters 42-39. So that made me feel better about what I was concerned Pat Narduzzi could do in the big games – especially since that aspect of his coaching was lacking in his first year. (Hey, all you have to do is watch the video attached below to see how he gets these kids going this year!)
But isn’t that what experience in a job brings – the luxury to draw on your past performances, good and bad, to better your abilities? That sure seems to be the case with our head coach this season. And it will be needed because we are in the midst of four consecutive tough games in our schedule and winning tomorrow, after logging our first two wins, gets us ready for the more important ACC conference games – starting in Chapel Hill next week.
We do have this game to play first and because we are on the cusp of breaking into the Top 25 by dint of being on the ‘others receiving votes’ listing this week when we gathered 39 AP votes this game holds some importance to the program. You’ll see that the team that lucked out and beat OSU last week on a referees’ error, Central Michigan, got votes also which to me signals that these polls are certainly popularity contests.
Our opponent next week, North Carolina, is in there also and is currently sitting at 1-1 due to a close loss to Georgia in their first week of play. If we both win today then our game with them on Sept will most probably be nationally televised also and would make it three weeks in a row Pitt has had national exposure… which is what programs need to really expand their recruiting base.
But for that to happen we have to win tomorrow’s game.
We had a “Know The Enemy” article up yesterday on here where I previewed the Cowboys’ team and its strengths and weaknesses. I think they are a better team than their 1-1 record they are even if their two opponents don’t strike fear in the hearts of opposing coaches. That’s the thing about college ball – it is pretty much unpredictable week to week.
As of 8:30 am this morning here are the latest odds on this game:
You can see that Pitt is a 4.5 point underdog (that could change by game time) and most probably three of those points are the home field advantage OSU holds tomorrow. So in essence the bookmakers are saying this game is pretty much a toss-up. Look at the over/under 0f 60.5 points (combined) though – I think that might be low given that our offense started clicking last week.
But the funny thing is even with Pitt getting points almost everywhere I look the pundits are calling for a Pitt win. I’d say 70% – 80% are thinking the visitors pull it out. Here is the latest ESPN picks – you can see that most of them are close to that over/under also:
My thoughts? I think we keep up the team momentum we started with the great win over Penn State – although I don’t think we beat a particularly good team last week – it was ‘great‘ because of the history between the program and because of the exciting finish to the match – not so much that PSU was a great team. But who really knows? I do think OSU is better than them though.
OK – predictions now. I’ll give a few instances that I think will happen and then my winner by score and you guys follow suit.
֍ Pitt’s running game will control the day again but we won’t see the total dominance with it like we did this last week. After all 330+ yards is hard to duplicate and the Cowboy’s do have a very good run defense going for them. I’ll say we get between 175-225 yards rushing but our red zone run game will be particularly effective. Count on three TDs on the ground.
֍ Henderson will grab another big chunk of yardage which will set one of the above TDs in motion.
֍ Our OC will open up the passing game and will stretch the field more than in the previous two games… unless we are getting 6+ yards on every carry like we were doing against PSU. If that happens early and often then we may see the same approach to surgical strike passing again. But my gut tells me we’ll see Peterman throw the ball more, between 20-25 times, and get another two TDs to make it seven on the season for him.
֍ We’ll get at least one FG because unless he has a really bad case of the yips Blewitt is going to succeed on an attempt sooner or later.
Three rushing TDs = 21 points. Two passing TDs = 14 points and a FG = three points which gives us 38 points on the day.
֍ Now with that said our defense gave up a bunch of valid points last week also – no cheap TDs there really so the opponent earned their 39 points. I worry about our pass defense against a good Cowboy QB in Mason Rudolph and think they will move the ball on us through the air.
֍ Here’s what he has done this season so far:
֍ Last season he had 21 TDs and 3,770 yards in averaging 290 ypg. He also was sixth among Power 5 quarterbacks last year with 59 completions of 20+ yards. That’s an average of 4.5 per game. Yikes! So he knows how to throw the ball and complete passes and we do give up big yardage plays through the air.
֍I think he’ll be a problem for us and that we have to be able to pressure him as much as we did our first two opposing QBs. He’s been sacked five times in two games so we should be able to get to him to disrupt his timing.
֍ We won’t give up 332 yards passing like last week but we may give up over 250 again. It feels like they will score points on us this week so I think they get:
Two TDs passing = 14 points. Two rushing TDs= 14 points and a FG = three points for 31 points.
Pitt 38 – OSU 31
Here is a quick-look Game Notes for tomorrow:
PITT (2-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. OKLAHOMA STATE (1-1, 0-0 BIG 12)
September 17, 2016 • 3:30 p.m., ET
Boone Pickens Stadium (60,218/AstroTurf) • Stillwater, Okla.
ESPN • Pitt IMG Sports Radio Network
PittsburghPanthers.com • @Pitt_FB • #PITTvsOKState
LINK (PDF): Pitt Game Notes (vs. Oklahoma State)
- Coming off a stirring 42-39 victory over historic rival Penn State, Pitt takes a 2-0 record on the road for its first-ever meeting with Oklahoma State. A win in Stillwater would give the Panthers a 3-0 start for just the fourth time since 2000.
- A win at Oklahoma State would also boost Pitt’s Top 25 credentials. The Panthers are receiving votes in both polls, earning 39 in the Associated Press poll (31st) and 25 in the coaches poll (34th).
- The Cowboys, expected to be a top contender for this year’s Big 12 title, are 1-1 following a bizarre 30-27 loss to Central Michigan. The Chippewas, mistakenly given an untimed down when the game should have been over, completed a desperation pass and lateral for the winning touchdown.
- This is the first of a two-game scheduling agreement with Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will visit Heinz Field next season on Sept. 16, 2017.
- James Conner, who overcame both a knee injury and Hodgkin lymphoma during the past 12 months, continues to amaze in his comeback season. The senior tailback rushed for 117 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Penn State win. He joined the legendary Tony Dorsett as the only players in Pitt history to score 40 career TDs.
- Sophomore Quadree Henderson is quickly establishing himself as one of college football’s most dangerous kick returners. Henderson leads the country with an incredible 53.5-yard return average. He had a 96-yard return for a TD in the opener against Villanova and a crucial 84-yard return against Penn State.
- Pitt’s ability to force turnovers has keyed its 2-0 start. The Panthers have forced six turnovers (four fumbles and two interceptions) to rank sixth in the nation and second in the ACC. In 13 games last season, Pitt only mustered 16 turnovers (six fumbles and 10 picks).
This marks the first contest between Pitt and Oklahoma State…in addition to this season’s game, the Panthers will host the Cowboys at Heinz Field on Sept. 16, 2017…Pitt has not played a game in the state of Oklahoma in 26 years…the Panthers played the Oklahoma Sooners in 1990, losing that contest, 52-10…Oklahoma State is one of three Big 12 programs that Pitt has never played…the others are Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Television • ESPN
Jason Benetti, play-by-play
Kelly Stouffer, analyst
Paul Carcaterra, reporter
Pitt Radio • 93.7 The Fan & the Pitt IMG Sports Network
Bill Hillgrove, play-by-play
Bill Osborn, analyst
Larry Richert, reporter
SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Internet Channel 968
WPTS Radio (Pitt Student Station) • 92.1 FM
Pitt IMG Sports Network Online Audio Options
PittsburghPanthers.com via CSLive
Pitt Gameday LIVE App
TuneIn (free live and on-demand content)