Things are progressing like they should. The ACC Coastal has a mediocre bowl record, and Clemson and Alabama have dominated the College Football Playoff. No major news coming out of El Paso leading up to the bowl, other than the Paris Ford and Bricen Garner news earlier this week, and a couple of fights in practice.
First, the College Football Playoff business. After that 30 – 3 Clemson beatdown of Notre Dame, the ACC Championship game doesn’t look so bad. I mean, it still looks bad, but it’s pretty apparent that the College Football elite comprises Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia, and there is a pretty significant drop off to the second tier.
Using Notre Dame as a measuring stick, and assuming they are the top of the second tier, we can get a sense of where we stand. Pitt optimists will point out that the Irish ran for only 88 yards against Clemson on 35 attempts. Notre Dame’s season average was 190. Pitt on the other hand ran for 191. Our average was 229. Granted, Notre Dame passed for 160 yards, and we passed for eight. So no surprises there. We overindexed in the running game, and waaaay underindexed in the pass.
More surprisingly our defense performed marginally better that the Irish. We gave up 419 total yards against Clemson. Notre Dame gave up 537. Of course Clemson had two weeks to prepare for Orange Bowl, and just one week to prepare for us, but that cuts both ways. It’s clear that Pitt needs to find a way to improve against elite teams, but it’s also clear that at least during the second half of the season we were maybe a little better than we are getting credit for, even from our own fan base.
Second, lets talk about ACC Bowl performance. As of the writing of this article (Saturday evening at around 11 p.m.) the ACC is 5-2 overall, with two games left to play (Pitt vs Stanford and Virginia Tech vs Cincinnati). 5-2 is actually the best winning % of all conferences. This is great for the ACC which has always been perceived as one of the weaker power 5 conferences. For comparison’s sake the Big 10 is 2-2 with five games to go. I don’t think they will run the table.
- Michigan State vs. Oregon (Dec. 31, 3 p.m., FOX)
- Northwestern vs. Utah (Dec. 31, 7 p.m., FS1)
- Iowa vs. Mississippi State (Jan. 1, 12 p.m., ESPN2)
- Penn State vs. Kentucky (Jan. 1, 1 p.m., ABC)
- Ohio State vs. Washington (Jan. 1, 5 p.m., ESPN)
The ACC Coastal meanwhile is 2-2, with Pitt and Virginia Tech yet to play. Pitt, as discussed in a recent post, has an uphill battle vs Stanford to say the least. Meanwhile, 6-6 Virginia Tech plays a 10-3 Cincinnati squad who took down UCLA early in the season and held American Athletic Conference Power UCF to 38 points. Pitt “held” UCF to 45. I know that transitive property is not valid in college football, but I’m thinking that that VT / Cincinnati game will at least be competitive. ESPN has Cincy as a slight favorite, despite the fact that most of their roster is filled with two-star players.
All this only proves what most of us have been saying all season. The ACC Coastal is mediocre at best.
But hey, at least we are the Champs of this mediocre division, and I say that with my tongue only partially in my cheek. I really am proud of what the team accomplished this year, especially given our team’s limitations, which were at least three-fold. 1) We were forced to start a two-star Offensive Line which become one of the best run blocking units in the country 2) We were breaking in a new quarterback, who certainly experienced growing pains, but also showed flashes of what he can become. And 3) We experienced an extremely rocky start to the season, which might have caused lesser teams to fold. So yes, we are the “best of the worst”, but at least we can say we are the best at something. This is probably not good enough for many Pitt fans, but it sure as hell beats 5-7.
With that in mind, a Sun Bowl Win would be the icing on the cake for what has been a (mostly) fun and (definitely) surprising season. And despite my gloom and doom game prediction (which I am standing by), I do hope Pitt wins.
If there is one way that Pitt can win this game, its the same way they’ve won all season. A strong running game and strong play from our 19 seniors. To that point, Senior Tackle Alex Bookser says the team is locked in:
One of the big things is, these seniors, we haven’t won a bowl game since we’ve been here. Over the last few weeks, that’s kind of been a thing we touched on, is we want to get one before we get out of here. I feel like that’s something — it’s really hard as an older guy. It’s your last thing you do, you’re somewhere you’re not familiar with, you’re looking to have a good time, but I think the seniors are really locked in. We’re actually down here for a purpose, and that’s to win a game. So I’m hoping our senior class, along with everybody else, can figure it out and get it done. (From his interview with the Post Gazette)
I hope they can figure out a way to get it done too.
Hail to Pitt.