These are the fun articles to write because we Pitt fans get clear answers to our questions and prediction choices in a bit more than 24 hours.
This, to me, if the real “Big Game” on the schedule and that’s not taking anything away from our PSU win. That still makes me smile thinking about it. But the stated goal of every season we are in the ACC is to first win the ACC Coastal division and then the ACC conference championship.
That is why we play these conference games and starting off with a team that is possibly the best, or second best, team in the conference this early in the season is a real test as to where we are as a football team so far this 2016 season.
We have two wins against one loss and that’s fine… but I still have a hard time trying to determine just how good we really are given that we have played three different quality level schools. The 28-7 Villanova win was expected and they really aren’t at our level of program.
Penn State is though and that 42-38 win was great… yet I wonder just how good PSU is this season. I called for a Pitt loss there and was wrong but the game could have gone either way at the end. However, I think we outplayed them pretty well all told so that is heartening.
The last game, against another Power Five school with the Big 12’s Oklahoma State, was another close one but we ended up on the short end of a 45-38 score. That game is the one I can’t really get a handle on but the thing that jumps out, and did so also in the PSU game, is just how very poor our defensive backs have played.
I’m not saying anything new here but it is a problem that no matter how many angles I look at it I just don’t see a real solution. That doesn’t mean we can’t find a solution, just that I can’t figure one given the personnel we have back there.
The good thing here however is that I am wrong about aspects of Pitt football a lot of the time. And that’s the thing about college ball – in the NFL teams usually play to their strengths and weaknesses in a consistent manner. In college though weird stuff happens all the time and comes unexpectedly week to week.
Let’s hope that happens with our pass defense because if we can get straightened out, even if our DBs just play average ball, I’d feel a whole lot better about how the rest of the season will play out.
OK then – North Carolina tomorrow down in Chapel Hill. What can we expect to happen?
^^ Here are the latest odds-makers thoughts on the game… The betting line has risen from Pitt getting 7 points immediately after the OSU game to this morning where Pitt is standing at +7.5 or +7 points with most sites. One has us getting +6.5 which means some money is flowing toward a Pitt win. Here are some other bits of info about this meeting and that the Pros think is the final score will be NC 40 – Pitt 30.
What do we Pitt fans think though is the real question. For me there are two main points to consider – the first I mentioned above and that’s our pass defense – it has been terrible and if they replicate that tomorrow the NC QB is going to get a lot of yards in the air and put a lot of points on the board. The second is our own passing game. It was practically non-existent last week when it came to producing yards when needed the most.
Peterman put up a decent number with his stats against OSU but the bottom line is that it wasn’t happening when we needed it to primarily on 3rd down tries where we were a dismal 4 of 18. Another bad thing is that we held a 20-10 minute TOP margin in that 2nd half.
Here is what we did with both passing and rushing attempts on critical 3rd down plays in the second half of play:
* 3rd and 9 at PITT 36
(2:00 – 3rd) PITTSBURGH Penalty, False Start (-5 Yards) to the Pitt 31
* 3rd and 14 at PITT 31
(1:30 – 3rd) James Conner run for 7 yds to the Pitt 38
* 3rd and 3 at PITT 37
(13:03 – 4th) Nathan Peterman pass incomplete to Scott Orndoff
* 3rd and 14 at PITT 16
(10:36 – 4th) Nathan Peterman pass incomplete
* 3rd and 13 at PITT 7
(8:15 – 4th) Nathan Peterman pass complete to Scott Orndoff for 5 yds to the Pitt 12
* 3rd and 4 at PITT 48
(3:45 – 4th) James Conner run for a loss of 5 yards to the Pitt 43
* 3rd and 4 at PITT 26
(0:40 – 4th) Nathan Peterman pass incomplete to Scott Orndoff
* 2nd and 10 at OKST 45
(0:15 – 4th) Nathan Peterman pass intercepted Ramon Richards return for 3 yds to the OKSt 29
That is seven (or six maybe as the top two play were in sequence) blown 3rd down tries in a row and then the game-ending INT which closed out our 45-38 loss. The real tragedy there is that our defense held OSU to pretty much the same offensive ineptitude as we were locked at 38-38 most of the time. They only scored one more TD as we were shooting ourselves in the foot and that was the damn 86 yard pass down to our 1 yard line.
There are some real bright spots to our play over three games though – our running game has done extremely well in averaging 239 yards per game and seven TDs – although you’d think there would be more with all those yards we rack up.
But what is really happening is that we are breaking off huge runs on jet-sweeps, end-around etc… and thus getting down close enough for Peterman to toss six TD passes of his own.
Our run defense has been stout also – except when it comes to the red zone. Overall we are holding teams to 76 ypg but again that is shadowed by what happens in real life during the game. our opponents have use their 330 yards per game in the air against us to get into the red zone then they run the ball in for TDs.
We sit tied for last place in the 105th spot – in red zone defense where the other teams have scored 8 out of the 8 times they have been there (7 rushing,0 passing and 1 FGs). A good example of that was against PSU where McSorley passed them downfield and Barkley, with only 85 yards on the day, scored four red zone rushing TDs.
All this adds up to just more questions on how good of a team we really are. That is why I think tomorrows game is so really important – even setting aside the fact that it kicks off our ACC schedule.
If we play unbalanced football as we have been doing and lose, then I think the rest of the season will play out in a way we won’t be terribly happy with – probably seven wins.
But if the coaching staff has been able to look pragmatically at our shown strengths and weaknesses – both on the part of the players and as importantly their own decision-making, then I think we’ll see a win and it will launch us forward.
So – as much as I look at this staff and program and see problems, I also look and see real promise. My gut tells me we may lose but I’m going with my belief that we can learn from past mistakes and fix, or at least minimize, the problems we do have… and my heart tells me:
Pitt 35 – NC 31