For the second week in a row, nobody is giving Pitt a chance.
The bookies? Nope. The line is UCF -11.
Nonetheless, it looks like Pitt has earned a little bit of street cred. This game will be nationally televised on ABC / ESPN 2 at 3:30. You can bet that the networks are hoping for another near-upset, or maybe even an actual upset this time.
They sure do like to gamble.
First there are the emotional concerns. Pitt played hard against Penn State. Would anyone be surprised if they just didn’t come out this week with the same edge? I wouldn’t.
Then there are the technical concerns. The UCF offense is a finely-tuned scoring machine because of two things: Tempo and execution. Pitt has been practicing against a 10-second tempo all week, but you can bet that the scout team wasn’t executing at a UCF level.
Then there are the offensive concerns. Pitt has scored a grand total of 34 points this season. UCF hasn’t scored less than 45 per game. That is a big deal, and a major source of concern.
If Pitt is to win, the defensive formula will have to be the same. Stop the run. Take away the deep routes. Hit hard over the middle. Contain the quarterback. Pressure him on passing downs. Gabriel may be electric but I doubt he’s faced adversity. Our defense needs to create some.
The offensive formula needs to be radically different.
First, Pitt needs to find a way to run the ball. Banging it up in there behind Jimmy Morrissey would be a good start. Little known fact: Morrissey is ninth in the country in ESPN Player impact rating (a analytical scoring model that quantifies the effect a player has on the players around him.) Also, both of UCF’s defensive tackles are freshman. This is the perfect opportunity for Motrissey, Hargrove and Houey to bully a couple of guys who haven’t really been to combat, and we sorely need Jimmy to take his impact to the next level.
Second, the backs need to run with authority. AJ Davis needs to run like the 6′ – 215 lb specimen that he is. Vince Davis needs to hit the holes fast and know when to bounce it outside. V’Lique Carter needs to round back into form. Todd Sibly, if he gets any more chances, needs to make the most of them.
Third, the Wide Receivers need to play their best game. That means no drops on easy passes. None. Starting with Mack and Ffrench and going right on down the line. And the tough catches? They need to keep making them. Those jump balls to Mack last week where things of beauty. Lets take advantage.
Fourth, Pickett needs to keep doing what he’s doing. Keep reading defenses. Keep buying time in the pocket. Keep keeping his eyes downfield. Keep making good checks to his second and third receivers. He also needs to connect on a couple of deep balls.
Fifth, the Tight Ends need to continue to be involved, and they too need to be perfect. When he holds onto the ball, Nakia Griffin-Stewart is a 6’5″, 260 lb hammer. We saw him truck a DB on third down vs. Ohio. We saw what he did on fourth down last week. The UCF Safeties average 194 lbs. The corners average 190. Wearing them out with the run game is one option. Wearing them out with Tight End is another.
Sixth, Mark Whipple needs to call his best game. If we don’t score 35, we don’t win, it’s as simple as that.
Pitt 35 – UCF 31.
Maybe it’s fantasy land, but I’m sick and tired of downers.