I’m not convinced Wake Forest is our true opponent this Saturday.
Yes they have the #32 ranked offense in the country, and yes, they have an all-ACC caliber receiver who is 79 yards shy of 1000, and yes they have a quarterback that threw for 372 yards against NC State, and yes they beat then-14th-ranked NC State last week on the Road. And yes it’s Senior day.
And so you’d think Wake Forest is set up to exploit our less-than-stellar pass defense which is ranked #82.
But the reality is that Wake’s quarterback, Jamie Newman, is their backup, and the defense that surrendered those 372 passing yards is ranked 128th in the FBS. Yes folks, 128th. Kind of makes you proud to be a Pitt fan doesn’t it? 128th is the second worst in the entire FBS. Right behind Texas Tech and right in Front of Houston.
Thats not to say that Wake Forest isn’t dangerous. Sophomore WR Greg Dortch, is a 5’9″ speedster, and he’s just the kind of player that could give our defense fits. He’s fast, he’s shifty, and I’m sure they will move him all over the field. I fully expect him to have a big day. He also returns punts and kicks, so keep an eye on special teams, especially if the game is close.
Wake’s Running game is no slouch either. They have two backs that can gash you, and a seasoned offensive line that specializes in run blocking. (Sound familiar?) Senior Matt Cobern at 5’10”, 200 lbs ran for 243 yards vs Louisville (yes I know… Louisville is bad, but 243 is 243). Cobern has run for 698 yards on the year with a 4.8 yd average. He is physical and has good speed. Cobern is a “little banged up” according to Blogger So Dear, but he’s listed as the starter this week, perhaps because it is Senior Day.
Junior Cade Carney (Cade…you don’t hear that game up north) is a little bigger at 5’11” 215 and has run for 629 yards on the season, with a 5.2 average. Oddly enough he seems to show up in big games. With the exception of Syracuse game, his rushing average is higher against the better teams he’s faced this year.
Wake’s offensive line features three RS seniors in in the middle and two redshirt Junior tackles. They are experienced, and they are pretty darn good at run blocking. They rank 27th in “line yards” which is a measure of run blocking effectiveness. (For the record Pitt is 10th). However they rank 85th in sack rate, which tells me we should have a chance to get to the quarterback. (Pitt is 92nd). I believe I heard Narduzzi mentioned the Deacs runs some of the same zone schemes as us, so I suppose the silver lining here is that our front seven should at least have an idea of what to expect.
Wake Forest Achilles heel is their defense. They are 102nd in rushing defense, 123rd in passing yards allowed, and 120th in overall yards allowed. You have to think Watson and Borbley are licking their chops over this matchup.
Which brings me to my original point. Wake forest is not the real opponent on Saturday. The real opponent is ourselves. If we go down there and execute, we should win this game handily. We are statistically equal or better in nearly every category (except passing, except passing…), and we’ve played a tougher schedule by half. (Ours is ranked 27th, Wake’s 59th).
You would like to believe that after a statement win last Saturday, the 19 seniors on this team are focused 100% on the task at hand, and they’ve got everybody else focused on it too. With nothing other than my gut to guide me, I’d say there is about an 80% chance of that being true. And while I do not want to sit here and be the naysayer while we we have so much positive momentum, I have been a Pitt fan too long to put blind faith in any Pitt football team. So for me, last week is over (and yes it was a great week). For me, this is a “Prove It” game, just like every game left on the schedule. I’ve had my heart ripped out too many times to go all-in.
Hail to Pitt