Does it feel weird to say that game two against a MAC team is a must-win?

Because it certainly feels weird to write it.

And yet, here we are, coming off a disappointing loss to a good-although-beatable team, and going into a game that should be a cupcake but isn’t.

Oh Pitt has an overall talent advantage, to be sure.  Ohio’s roster is populated by two-star players, and they have six three-stars .  Pitt’s roster is populated by three-star player and they have seven four-stars (which now may be down to six now that DT Keyshon Camp is out for the season).  Still, Pitt is pretty much one full degree better across the board…except at the one position that can most impact the game.

Ohio’s Nathan Rourke was a two-star quarterback recruit out of Fort Scott Community College in 2017.  He was rated 5.4 on rivals and was so under the radar that his bio doesn’t even have a picture.  He had two Division 1 Scholarship offers:  Ohio and Akron.  Rourke is now a senior and listed on several preseason watch lists (Camp, Maxwell, Manning).  Last season he threw for 2,400 yards and 23 TD’s against 8 interceptions.  He also ran for 860 and scored 15 TD’s on the ground.  To put this in perspective Rourke accounted for 38 touchdowns last year.  Pitt’s entire offense scored 41.   Well we all know recruiting isn’t an exact science…

On the other hand, Pitt QB Kenny Pickett’s struggles have been well-documented.  Tends to get flustered under pressure.  Happy feet.  Tough time reading defenses.  Can’t put touch on the ball.  Still, Narduzzi is sticking with him, for better or worse.

The good news is that Ohio’s defense is nothing to write home about.  In what amounted to a MAC-level cupcake, Ohio hosted the University of Rhode Island last week.  The Rams (That’s Rhode Island Rams) racked up 375 yards of offense, which included 291 yards passing.  They also gave up just two sacks.  In other words, if Kenny Pickett can’t get on track against Ohio, then he can’t get on track against anybody.   The other thing that bodes well is that OC Mark Whipple’s UMASS team put up 48 against Ohio last season, and they put up 50 the year before.  Yes, the scheme is there to score points, if Pickett can just manage to complete some passes.

Still, it’s the kind of game you can see Pitt losing.  Pitt is easily the highest-profile team on the Bobcats’s schedule (Marshall would be #2).  Ohio head coach Frank Solich was born in Johnstown, and he grew up in Cleveland.  It’s also likely some Ohio players are from Western PA.  You can bet they will be fired up for this one.  Ohio runs an option attack that has given Pitt’s defense trouble in the past, and they’ve won at least 9 games each of the past two seasons. On the other side of the coin, the Panthers come into the game reeling from their prime-time loss to Virginia. Pitt’s offense is currently in a state of disarray, and special teams are still a question mark. It’s possible that a disciplined and physical Ohio team punches Pitt in the mouth early and that Pitt never recovers.

Of course that is a less-than 50% probability, right?  ESPN gives Pitt a 77% chance of winning.  Vegas has Pitt as 5.5 point favorites.

Right.  Since 2015 Frank Solich is 34-19 vs the spread.  He’s beaten Pitt before.  He’s also beaten Penn State. 5.5 points is not a lot of margin for error.

Expect Ohio to play disciplined.  Expect Nathan Rourke to excel.  Expect the Bobcats to blitz Kenny Pickett until he proves he can beat it.  Couple that with a shaken Pitt team and an offense that hasn’t jelled yet and Pitt fans have every reason to be worried.

So yea, I’m calling this one a must-win.  Expectations where high against Virginia, and Pitt fell flat in two phases.  Now the fan base (and possibly the administration) is on edge.  A loss at home against a MAC team could be disastrous for the program.

Pitt Ohio




106 thoughts on “Ohio at Pitt Game Preview

    1. He’s one guy who plays for 30 minutes. If you want to go with one guy who plays for 30 minutes we need one of the worst players since Donald to not let it happen. Care to guess who he is?


  1. I’m betting the house on this on for a Pitt win. Dan72, do you need another house in HoCo, Maryland? 🙂

    Kenny will have his light bulb turned on. Whip won’t need to raise his voice. The entire team will pick up their game. You will see more balance in the run v the pass and in the O winning the game although the D will create too. No blocked punts and Kessman won’t need to do much but he will not falter.

    There will be no crying until the following week when Kenny will be short electricity but it won’t matter as his bulb will be broke while I have the misfortune of witnessing. Oh, yeah, even if the team isn’t crying, I WILL!

    But if I don’t have to(cry), I may get beaten up because I probably won’t be able to contain.

    Classic trap game post already looking ahead to the PSU game. I’d lose this week but Pitt WILL NOT!


  2. a must win for what? Doesn’t affect the ACC, and we ain’t winning the national championship.

    It is a must win for team morale, Narduzzi’s standing and, most importantly, our sanity.

    Pitt lost the opener to ND in 05, then lost to Ohio U on its way to a 5-6 season. Pitt lost the opener in 08 to Bowling Green but then went 9-2 the rest of the way including wins over WVU, at ND and at USF which had just beat Auburn at Auburn.

    FWIW I expected (and predicted) a loss last week. Expected a low scoring game but must admit, I was alarmed by the lack of a running attack. Looking at the bright side, with the poor showing on Saturday, there is less of a chance of Pitt looking ahead to next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How much difference is there between the best MAC team and a middle of the road ACC team?

    I think we find out on Saturday.

    I think Pitt will be fine because they have a lot of frustration to take out on Ohio.

    The O-line, Picket and Running Backs have something to prove to themselves and to us.

    Pickett has to know he is playing for his football life, a second performance like last week, and
    Whipple has no choice but to try someone else, even though it is PSU next week.

    I also think we will see a more balanced offense this week and our 300+ lb O-line opens up some holes for the running game and provide better protection for KP.

    Our defense will also be up to the task.

    If we would have beat VA this would have been a trap game, but not now, Pickett and Pitt have something to prove.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Man (Frank Solich) against a boy (Narduzzi) as a coach. Completely nullifies any “talent” advantage Pitt might have. Pitt will be bedeviled, and have their hands full. Ohio will make half-time adjustments. Will Pitt? Is Pitt even able to?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well if we go in with a lead you can be sure we won’t adjust. Then they will, and we won’t adjust mid-half.

      That’s same old Pat for you

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Well, the boy’s team ..

      — outscored the eventual national champ (led by Dabo) in 2016 in the 2nd half

      — outscored the division leading UVa (Mendenhall) last year in the 2nd half ,,, as well as in 2017

      — outscored Duke (Cutliffe) in the 2nd half the last 4 years

      — outscored the darling Syracuse (Babers) last year in the 2nd half/OT last year

      Every one of these coaches has been a head coach longer than the boy (and a few of them , much longer)


    3. Does Pitt ever make half time adjustments? I’ve seen many other teams make those adjustments against us but not visa versa.


      1. Do you know what an analogy is? I think I understood how an analogy works when I was in the third or fourth grade. Here, let me help you out,

        “a comparison between two things, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification”


  5. Call me crazy but if we play poorly but squeeze out a win or, God forbid, lose this week, I actually think that would help us for the PSU game.

    I think back to last year when PSU had to beat Appalachian State in overtime the week before they played Pitt … they were extra motivated and focused for the Pitt game and we know what happened. I also think back to Chryst’s first season, where we got blown out by Youngstown State and Cincinnati the first two games but crushed a top 15 VA Tech team the following week.

    I actually think if we put up an impressive performance against Ohio, we’ll play worse against PSU.


  6. Ohio places four kids on the All-MAC preseason list. QB Nathan Rourke is great and led Ohio to 41.1 ppg in ’18.

    But something to look at is that on defense they have 1st string All-MAC kids at DE and both CB positions… Which are positions that give shaky QBs real problems. Phil Steele rates the Bobcat’s units QB, DL, DB, ST and Coaching as #1 in the MAC.

    I think KP has another poor game because I truly think he broke down under the pressure and may well feel the same D pressure he felt against VA.

    IMO he’ll falter again and our run game again won’t compensate for it. Ohio puts up 250+ passing and 2-3 TDs on us.

    Prediction later but I knew Pitt would lose to VA and I think there is zero home field advantage at Heinz. The Bobcat fans might match Pitt fans in attendance…


  7. Pitt will have the hidden advantage in that it’s High School Band Day. My son will be there in full regalia playing clarinet at halftime. Of course, since the high school kids are sitting next to the band, his season ticket won’t work and we had to buy him a 2nd one… The question is, will these kids’ parents also show up and add to the crowd?

    I agree with the “Pickett got rattled” approach. Something to consider if Whipple is thinking of using the pass to open up the run game again.


  8. MM — excellent article.

    The Ohio option game is a concern with our weakened defensive line – especially wonder how our inexperienced but athletic DEs Alexandre and Baldonado will do against it…

    Should be an entertaining game.

    Go Pitt.


  9. Whipple will need to come up with a solid game plan to keep pressure off of Kenny. A balanced attack should do that. Like others have said, not sure why we can’t have both a running game and passing game…

    Ohio’s defense generally looked porous against RI’s offense – at least in the brief part of the game that I watched. One of their DBs is small (guessing 5’8″ 165#), and we should be able to throw over him to some degree.

    Solich will game plan for Pitt’s defensive pressure and we will likely see a fair number of screens, QB runs and slants early in the game to relieve that pressure. Ohio will definitely score some points, but Pitt should be able to hold them to under 28 with a help from the Pitt offense.

    Unfortunately, this is where we are. A 5 point favorite against Ohio. All we can do is get better every game. And if we don’t show big improvement this week, then the next two weeks against UCF and PSU will be brutal…


  10. On the run versus pass debate,
    I suspect Coach Whip has a play and an alternate play called on each down. KP then runs the first call, or switches to the alternate, depending on how the defense is aligned.

    So I suspect that UVA decided to have extra defenders up tight, causing KP to go to the pass plays – as he would be coached to do…

    Execution is another story, but the run/pass ratio is affected by what the defense is doing…

    If the defenders are up for the run, then blitz on a pass, KP, and the receivers, have to know where to go with a quick pass. Hopefully progress this week…

    Go Pitt.


    1. I fully agree on the alternate play and the fact that Whipple was trying to take what the defense was giving us. Executing on the couple of screens that we tried would have helped, or running a draw play or quick slant may have worked as well.

      I expect Ohio to follow VA’s game plan until we prove that we can beat it.

      Yes, hopefully progress this week.


      1. Right Rocky, Whipple’s game plan work to perfection. If PITT would have had Perkins running those plays PITT would have won by 40 pts… but they didn’t. I expect a much more relaxed KP this week and Whipple proved to me that he can and does get players open downfield. Kenny has to execute the plays.

        Remember when Tampa Bay head coach (McKay I believe) was asked, “what about your teams execution” after a poor game and he replied.. “I’m all for it”

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Right you are John an interestingly enough, KP made the right decisions on most plays and called the right plays and again, you’re right he didn’t make the throws. So I suppose that is the silver lining from last weeks game? Physical mistakes can be more difficult to rectify than mental mistakes in most cases if you are dealing with a lack of talent. However, I believe in Pickett’s case he has the athletic abilities and makes good calls but his emotions run wild. Now slip the kid a Xanax mickey and send him out there nice and relaxed.. Yes I kid but the game needs to slow down for Kenny. I think it will this week.


      1. “So Pat how did you win the Coastal?”
        “Oh we just took Ike’s advice and Mickey’d our quarterback. The next thing you know he was all-acc”

        Clearly I’m joking here as is Ike. But I agree if Kenny can find a way to quiet his mind and keep his head he’ll be a better player.

        A good sports psychologist could be a start

        Liked by 1 person

        1. LOL Mike, Pat Narduzzi could do a lot worse than take my advice on dealing with 21 year olds. and NO, I never slipped any of my kids a mickey. I couldn’t risk giving up my anxiety meds… 🙂


        2. Agree. Ritalin, some anti-anxiety drugs, maybe some anti-depressants for when we have to play at Miami….I think with the right mix of pharmaceuticals, we can get some quality QB play.


  11. This will be an entertaining game in that Pitt will get to play some back ups because of the huge lead they have in the 4th quarter. 🙂

    If Pickett struggles, they have to make a change in the third to give the backup game experience for PSU.


  12. Even as poorly as Pitt played last week, they were only a couple big plays from a whole different outcome.

    I don’t think this team is nearly as bad as some people think.

    Unfortunately Kenny is still the key and he must play better.

    Skill players must also help him out.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. As MM said Pitt will be up for this game but will we be able to execute especially on offense. Pitt will have continue to blitz on the D because I don’t expect our front four to provide much pressure on their own. Thus I expect our CB to be left on an island as per usual and how we fair on that front may determine who wins the game.—Really the game IMO is in Whipple’s hands and as such if KP isn’t getting the job done early on don’t be surprised if we don’t see Patti behind the center fairly quickly.


  14. I think we have seen the real Kenny in most of his starts.. unfortunately!

    If he can’t finish drives or too many 3 and outs go with the next guy…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I front of 40,000 yellow seats and sleeping fans, Heather will get on the PA after Sweet Caroline and announce Free Fantas for students and $5 dollar off coupons for Eat n Park. Despite her heroic efforts, fewer than 500 fans are left when Pitt misses a field goal in overtime and loses 33-30. Chants of Meatball Head can be heard by the few remaining fans who have turned on Narduzzi as the team exists the field.


  16. Might record this game as Saturday is a day with grand kids. It also shows my disappointment with our VA play.


  17. Some things I am wondering: Is Narduzzi willing to go down the tubes with Pickett if he plays poorly in the first half? Are the 3 star back ups Narduzzi has been recruiting able to provide sufficient depth as the injuries continue? Are there any RBs that can provide an adequate running threat to open up the passing game? Can Pickett learn to put some air under the ball in one week of practice? So many questions, so little time…

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What’s curious is when you look at KP in the videos of practice or on the latest Pitt Inside the Script he appears to be putting enough air under the ball…
    And there’s no reason Aaron Mathews cant take the smurf cornerback to school.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agree, Fran.

      Or perhaps we see 6’3” FR WR Wayne get a shot at the shorter CB. Wayne looks athletic and was mentioned as having good hands in camp.

      Go Pitt.


      1. You mean SOMEONE has good hands on the team? Anyone?

        In throwing so much blame on KP, I possibly omitted that I thought if we had our receivers make the catches they should have, outcome is different. If they do what the UVA kids did in getting up and winning 50/50 balls and making every normal catch and 1 or 2 great ones, we win no doubt.

        Kenny wasn’t good, not even adequate. The line was not good but good enough. The receivers overall sucked and not just a few sucks, many sucks.

        Liked by 2 people

  19. Just saw that former Pitt wrestler Chace Small passed away at an early age…from Latrobe area I think.


  20. It’s not an ACC game so I’m not sure it fits the definition of a must win game. Pitt can go oh-fer in the non-con and 7-1 in the ACC and still play Clemson a week after the season ends.

    Having said that, if this is a competitive game, Duzz should be ashamed of himself. In year 5, if Pitt is scrapping for wins agains MAC schools, the trajectory of the program has gone completely off the rails.

    Pitt wins by 28 just because there is really no excuse not to.

    Pitt won the Coastal, went 6-2 in the ACC, and the expectation should be to build on that momentum. Pitt cannot be in a perpetual rebuild. It’s year 5, get on it Duzz. Take no prisoners. Play like it’s all or nothing. Crush the weak.

    Take out the frustrations of last week out on Ohio and completely murder them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If Pitt loses this game, bank the next two as losses. Pitt isn’t going 7-1 in ACC play. That would be praying to land a royal flush on the flop.

      Starting out 0-4 will lead to 50k yellow seats shown on the ACC network for all to see. And you will have the handful of major boosters in revolt.


    2. Not must win? It Pitt loses this game 0-4 is a guarantee. They will then have about 8K fans at the Delaware game….then off to Duke a depressed lot.


  21. Every game should be considered a must win at this point. The probability of winning the Coastal is very small, and they are actually playing for a bowl match up assuming they can get to 6 wins.


    1. I take a lot of grief from posters saying I’m satisfied with the state of affairs and 7 wins at PITT which is simply not true at all. I believe all games are a must win for PITT without an exception. It’s that my reaction following a loss is not as quite as dramatic as others.

      A loss to Ohio depending on the circumstances of the game and I could very well blow my ZZ Top!


    1. If it is I believe you still need to sign in with a television account that has the package included….at least I think that is how it was for DirecTV in the past when games were also on ESPN3

      I can give out my DirecTV account name and password and everyone can just use it. Same one I use for all my online banking and stuff so you can buy a beer on me too. Think they might detect a few hundred sign ins from different devices? Well, it is Pitt, maybe there will only be a handful interested 🙂


    2. I got into the Saturday schedule on the WatchESPN site and on the far right next to the game listing is an icon for ACCN. So I assume if you don’t have ACCN, you’re SOL. But what I don’t know is if you can register with ACCN to be able to stream it … I doubt it


  22. VoR,

    Bowl games are dumb. It’s the Coastal or nothing. I’d really rather not have to watch a team half-a$$ it in a meaningless bowl matchup … and I’ll definitely watch … but I’d rather not waste my time. Haha.

    OhHowIHateOhioState – Complicated. See article below … I’m super annoyed. I loved watching Pitt on ESPN3 via AppleTV. Better quality picture and fewer commercials.


    1. Bowl games are important if they allow the team to get ranked. You can sell recruits on consistent top 25 rankings. Problem is that Pitt hasn’t been in the final rankings since Wanny.

      An Ohio loss could open the flood gates. It’s a very important game for the psyche of the team. 20 year old minds are fragile things.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tex – Emphasis on “consistent”. Bowl games are dumb. Coaches and players, and even a lot of fans like me don’t care anymore. Especially, millennials. Recruits don’t care about bowl games either. It’s the NCAA equivalent of pre-season games. A glorified exhibition. And if we’re arguing that’s the difference of being a top 25 team or not, Pitt has much bigger issues … of which, we all know they do.

        It has zero affect on the next season either. About 25% of the roster turns over every season. And Pitt likes to replace their coordinators too making it even more difficult to have any carry over from one season to the next.

        Bowl games are nonsensical outside of ratings for ESPN.


    2. I agree with Tex on the ranking and confidence factor going into the next season. It helps recruiting too since the games are on TV.

      BTW, only Pitt half-a$$ it in a meaningless bowl matchup. Everyone else who plays in them wants to win.


  23. Enjoyed your analysis, Maestro. Don’t agree with it, but enjoyed it nevertheless.

    I don’t think anyone here knows what the team is – rattled, pissed, focused, etc. My guess is they are not rattled this week and the players know they blew an opportunity on Saturday. I’m also thinking the OL knows they did a bad job and must be more disciplined – as do the RBs when picking up blitzers.

    I’m jumping on a plane to Europe tomorrow for a week of business and will miss the next two games as well as the POV discussion/prediction thread for both. So, I’m going with my predictions now.

    Pitt wins this game ether decisively or holds on after a late rally by the Bobcats. I expect a 10 point win, barring strange bounces, referees losing their minds, etc.

    This is not a trap game for Pitt; its a redemption game. They know they did not consistently execute last week. Now, if they were opening with Ohio, I might feel differently.

    Other predictions:

    1) After the win, people will find reasons to downplay the rebound. “Well, they are MAC team; we should beat them”, “if Duzz can beat a two star team with his three star roster, he should be gone”, and yada, yada, yada

    2) Tx/TEX (and others) will complain about the crowd size regardless of the outcome and blame it on Heather, even though many have already vocalized as much several times since the game time was announced. We will also hear about the oversized stadium.

    3) If I am wrong and Pitt loses or barely wins with a pathetic showing, some of the guys who have retreated to the DarkPOV will spring up like crocuses in the spring.

    4) Farmer will have his flagpole fixed for the tailgate and too few people will learn what a great Bloody Mary that Fran mixes. Richman will abstain from holding his Bloody Mary on his belt buckle, lest it splash on his shorts.

    I know, I know…. I’ve really stuck my neck out on these other predictions. Call me crazy.

    Enjoy the game gents and if you are in the path of Dorian, stay safe!

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Thanks Joe. Is the team rattled? I don’t know. But I do know that you should never let the facts get in the way of a perfectly good story (:

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Stay safe

      Crowd prediction is 30k actual fans in seats. Few if any students. They will still be sleeping.

      It’s a must win. They should win. They should cover. But call me not surprised if this team gets rolled. Ohio is not just a MAC team. They are the best MAC team.

      A Pitt win against them would be impressive.

      Don’t underestimate Ohio.


    3. Great post, Joe! I think I’ve fixed the flagpole but you never really know until tested under actual game day conditions. But I’ve done what I can, the rest is up to the flagpole.

      Enjoy your trip and return safely from the Old Country.


  24. The issue with the ball Kenny throws is he has no margin for error. It is terrible on the short passes, but on the long ones if it is not perfect it is incomplete.


  25. Could you imagine what Antonio Brown would be like if Pickett was his QB?

    for those who don’t know, he is on the verge of being suspended (or worse) because of his shouting match with the Raiders’ GM.


  26. Ajman, Kenny has Menny……. issues when he puts the ball in the air if the launch is successful…Kenny puts a new wrinkle/twist on the ole saying “ when you put the ball in the air 3 things can happen… when I(KP) drop back to pass…….”

    Liked by 1 person

  27. In my conversations with HS coaches both here in MD and in PGH I’ve learned two main things about recruiting.

    1) Recruits and their parents care a lot about the wins and losses and post-season rankings. Those are the things that get a team on national TV and more exposure for the players.

    2) They want to play in bowl games and the bigger the bowls the better they like the school.

    I never had a chance to ask about the winning division championships but I think that would be lower on the list…but that is national exposure also.

    Bowl games do matter. Championships come rarely but almost every year a team can get a bowl. And a bowl win can be the difference between a winning season or not. I’m sure we’d all feel better with a bowl win for 8-6 last season.

    Liked by 4 people

  28. Pitt better jump on Ohio early to get them out of it quick. Letting them hang in there and gain confidence, coupled with another second half collapse by Pitt, could bring about a terrible result


  29. Ohio’s QB is sort of the poor man’s McKenzie Milton (UCF). Pitt’s O will need to help out and keep him off the field some. And, our D will need to pressure him. He’s quick but not as fast as a McSorley and his O line doesn’t appear to be anything too special. While he may throw well on the run, no QB throws as well on the run as in a good pocket (except for Fran Tarkenton). So, get him in 3rd and long and hit him. He’s a gamer but his supporting cast is not as good as alot of teams that we face.


  30. Just listened to Chris Peak’s latest podcast while mowing the lawn before Dorian and my overseas trip. Was a good one; invest the 30 minutes.


  31. “In other words, if Kenny Pickett can’t get on track against Ohio, then he can’t get on track against anybody.” Hopefully that is not a prophecy. I wonder how long they will stick with Kenny if he does not show something against Ohio? Hope it becomes a mute point.


  32. Last week we started the game with our offensive lineman/fullback Wheeler in the backfield making it look like a run.

    This week, we probably send out 4 WRs and then run it…😊

    Go Pitt.


  33. Kenny Pickett is most feared as a runner not as a passer unfortunately. He might have fit in very well at Army or Navy as a triple option QB.—Early prediction, KP is replaced very early this season and is likely to transfer out before next year.


  34. I envision the Ohio HC and DC discussing one of their safeties during a KP pass attempt. And the DC says, “So, Frank, what do you think of our safety?”

    To which the HC says, “Can he pick it?”

    Here’s hoping this does not become KP’s new name: “Can He Pick It”!


  35. It goes more like this sp. Narduzzi turns to Whipple and says we are really itching for a TD right here what do we do? Whipple respond… PICKETT!

    Liked by 1 person

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