Pitt plays Georgia Tech on Saturday, and while Tech sports a 2-5 record (good for last in the Coastal division), they are plenty capable of giving Pitt a good tousle, and even knocking Pitt off if things break their way.

After all, The Jackets beat Miami on the road, just a week before Pitt lost to the Hurricanes at home.

Still, Tech is transitioning from a triple option offense to…something more modern.  Everyone knows that this is going to be a multi-year project.  Tech fans are invested in it, and in their coach.  Geoff Collins is a hard nosed guy with Georgia roots and a (short) track record of success.  Although to be fair, Collins took over a Temple program that had won 10 games back to back and went 7-6 and 8-4, but…he’s got a bowl win on his resume and that’s more than we can say for Pat Narduzzi.

The interesting thing about Collins is that it seems like the guy can recruit.  He’s currently got the 22nd ranked class on Rivals for 2020.  A lot of that is due to the fact that he’s already collected 22 verbals.  There are only two four stars in that bunch, but the rest are all from Florida and Georgia so if his talent evaluation and player development are on point, Tech could be competitive (at least in the Coastal) in the next few years.

As far as on the field coaching goes, Collins appears to be making the most of the talent that he has.  His biggest challenge of course is transitioning an offensive line that was designed to cut-block into one that can actually execute an honest-to-goodness collegiate blocking scheme.  How has he done?  Well…if you think about where they came from, not too bad.

The Jackets rank 78th in “Line Yards” which is a measure of how much running room the offensive line creates for running backs.  Tech average 2.48 line yards per run.  For comparison Pitt averages 2.45, and our offensive line was ostensibly recruited for what they are doing today.  Just so you know what “good” looks like, the University of Georgia leads the country.  They are averaging 3.3 Line Yards per carry.

However, run blocking is feast-or-famine with the Yellow Jackets.  Their running game garners at least four yards per carry 50% of the time (37th in the nation), but they are also stuffed (tacked for zero gain or a loss) 25% of the time, which is 121st in the country.  What we don’t know is how much of these “stuffs” occurred early in the season, and how many occurred in the last couple games.  I watched a good portion of the Miami game and I did not see very may TFL by Miami, so it’s probably fair to say the Tech’s line is probably getting the hang of run blocking.  Pitt will need to be focused and physical to make sure they slow down the Jackets’ running game.

And that is what Pitt is going to have to do in order to win.  Tech averages 169 yards per game on the ground (62nd in the country).  They ran for 207 against Miami.  They ran for 173 against Duke.  They ran for 211 against UNC.  So yea, they aren’t an option team, but the can still pound it.

They like to pound it with Jordan Mason, their 6’1″ – 220 lb running back who has power, burst and just enough wiggle to average six yards per carry.  He ran for 141 against the ‘Canes.  Interestingly enough he only has 95 carries on the season, and 38 of them are in the last two games, so featuring him has been a relatively recent development.  A Pitt linebacker (or safety) needs to account for Mason at all times.

The passing game is…developing.  Tech ranks 120th in passing offense with 145 yards per game… which means that they will probably throw for about 280 against Pitt.   Tech recently inserted redshirt Freshman Quarterback James Graham into their starting lineup.  He’s a four-star who can run and throw.  His passing stats are just okay, but he is dangerous with his feet, and just good enough with his arm to make you pay if you sell out against the run.

Here are Gram’s stats, courtesy of espn.com
james graham through week 9

Graham

Interestingly enough, Graham has a higher passer rating against the ACC than our own Kenny Pickett.  Although Graham’s completion percentage is admittedly pretty dismal.

Kenny Pickett 2019 Through Week 9 summary
Pickett

All this adds up to an offensive average of 314 yards per game and 18.1 points.  It’s a low bar to clear, but we’ve seen Pitt do worse against similar competition.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tech is pretty consistent, at least from a yardage perspective.  The better offenses tend to score more against the Jackets, but Tech has held each of their last four opponents under 400 yards.  They have given up the following yardage and points totals in their last four games, (with team average yards and points in parenthesis):

  • Miami:  357 / 21 (384/ 27 – Miami also missed two field goals and had 1 blocked)
  • Duke:  373 / 41 (363 / 30)
  • UNC:  321 / 38 (434 / 28)
  • Temple:  325 / 24 (402 / 28)
  • Pitt averages 381 YPG and 21 points.  (It’s entirely possible they post just 300 yards and 16 points in Atlanta.)

If you look inside the numbers, Tech allows a lot of points and not that many yards (which is the exact opposite of what Pitt does on offense…)  That tells me that The Jackets are losing the field position battle pretty consistently.  They appear to have reversed that trend against Miami, but if anyone can help a team out in that department, it’s Pitt.

Fortunately for the Panthers, Georgia Tech has registered only 12 sacks on the season, so if there was ever a time for Kenny Pickett to settle into the pocket and not worry about getting hit, that time is now.  AS LONG AS THE LINE STEPS UP AND DOES THEIR JOB.  I noticed that Pitt’s Left Tackle and Right Guard positions had an “or” on the depth chart this week, so that means we could see more of Van Lynn and Kradel if Warren and Houey aren’t sharp (finally).  You’d expect that to help us out in the pass protection department, especially given Warren’s recent struggles.

Tech’s secondary is actually pretty good…they allow only 186 yards per game, and they have 23 passes defended and five interceptions to their credit.  For comparison’s sake Pitt has 52 passes defended and 6 INT’s, so it’s all relative.  But Pitt has also had 102 more passes thrown against them, so Tech’s int rate is better than Pitt’s. (285 passes have been thrown against Pitt, just 183 have been thrown against Georgia Tech.)

The reason so few teams are throwing against Tech is because their rushing defense is not very good.  They rank just 124th in the country, giving up 225 yards per game (in comparison to Pitt’s sixth-ranked unit giving up 86 yards per game…), but if there was ever a team that could give the faltering Jacket’s unit its confidence back, that team is the Pitt Panthers, who have flat out sucked at running the ball for the entire first half of the season.   

Also lets not forget Pitt’s propensity to Pitt.  Miami’s offensive line came in ranked 127th in the country in sacks allowed and gave up only two sacks last week.  Still, Pitt is starting to figure out the running game in fits and starts.  They’ve rushed for over 140 yards two games in a row, and if Pitt’s O-line and backs buckle down and commit to executing, this game could be very good for their confidence.  On the other hand, if they take Georgia Tech too lightly, then Saturday could be an embarrassing setback.

Tech’s special teams are tough to get a read on.  The Jackets have only attempted four field goals all season.  The problem is that they’ve made only two of them.  As far as punting goes, well there aren’t any readily available stats on that, and it’s late, so I’ll just leave that one as a surprise.

Finally, that brings us to the intangibles.  Tech is coming off of a bye week, and they’ve just recently gotten their first real taste of success.  You can be sure that they will be hungry.  Second, it’s homecoming.  For Pitt, that typically means there is a slightly reduced chance of winning.  For Tech, I’ll assume it means a slightly increased chance.   Lastly, Pitt was battered and bruised by a physical Miami team last week, and while Pitt lost and should be humbled by that, there is every chance that Pitt will take Tech and their 2-5 record too lightly.  Yes Narduzzi has a winning record against the Jackets, but he also had one against Virginia.  I’m going to give Tech the edge in intangibles , but I’ll be extremely pleased if Pitt’s senior leaders get the team together and prove me wrong.

Should be an interesting game.  Prediction thread coming tomorrow.

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone

 

 

 

 

71 thoughts on “Georgia Tech Preview

  1. You summed up my fears to a T. I can’t help but think Pitt overlooks this game. Heck, I could even see HCPN put in Patti and rest KP because he feels overconfident. If KP is injured, however, you have to play with what you have.

    My confidence in this team’s preparation is shot. There are no more “Pitt should win” games on the schedule for me.

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  2. Pitt won’t overlook this game after last weeks fall from grace. BUT any team capable of putting a total of 12 points in college football today is capable of losing any game. Even though Pitt is the better team I’d not be giving any team greater than a touchdown on the betting line and expect to win any money with our offense.

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    1. Pitt will run the ball Saturday with authority. I can see a trueFR being the leading rusher.

      I would put a fresh back in the game until one gets hot and then Duzz and Pappy Whip should ride him to victory. Not sure this pass heavy O can accomplish that feat though.

      Don’t hold your breath for a W. You’ll turn blue and bright yellow.

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  3. I worry that GT may have found their groove with the Miami win. Pitt will have their hands full on Saturday.

    And another tailgating lot bites the dust.

    City of Pittsburgh announced yesterday that lot 4 will be the site of an 8 story apartment/commercial building.🥺

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  4. PITT’s O is not capable of taking control of a game PERIOD. We are in for another 1 score differential. I see us leaving Georgia with another nail-biter !

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  5. Once again, another comprehensive look at the opponent including yet another measure I had never heard before – Line Yards. At least it is a real measure unlike something like QBR or FPI which are based on a formula of weighted numbers with the importance of each at the behest of its creator.

    One thing that stats don’t measure is focus. As I had written earlier this year, after an emotional win vs UCF, there was no way Pitt would have the proper focus vs Delaware. But of course, you saw the absolute masters of focus variance in Miami over the last 3 weeks …. a win vs UVa, a loss to GT and a win vs Pitt.

    After the loss to the U, Pitt should be focused. And since they had a bye after its upset win, GT also will be focused. Pitt has the better team and should win barring a rash of turnovers. Pitt’s offense should look much better this week than last …. Miami ranks 15th in total defense, GT is 83rd

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  6. PITT’s O is not capable of taking control of a football game PERIOD. I expect another nail-biter with us squeaking by…then followed by loss to UNC. Can’t remember who posted a few years back “I have the Carolina game penciled in as a loss for eternity.” but it has stuck in my mind ever since.

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  7. Excellent summary Maestro…
    I think we get bumped from Red5A next year but who knows? We will wander the asphalt searching for our new home…

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  8. Great post. Pretty much sums up all the factors very well. PITT’s passing game is the key. We’ve proved we can move the ball and score when Kenny’s and his receivers are on. If it’s on the running game will also be in because there will be no 8-9 in the box. If we start having a lot of drops and ints, we’re in trouble.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have no idea why this team would be looking past this GT game. At this point, another loss spells throwing in the towel for any hopes of winning the Coastal Division. Also another consecutive loss would be a crushing blow to this teams confidence.

    I see this team as being very resilient. Both the O & D realize that the Miami game was winnable with better execution & therefore the Panthers will be focused in this one.

    No excuses. H2P!

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  10. Tech’s offense struggles more than Pitt’s to score points. This is a game Narduzzi cannot lose, period.

    I think the troops will be ready and become bowl eligible.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Glad to shed that last topic and move on. Great analysis as usual MM.

    I don’t think either teams record means much at this point. It will come down to turnovers and execution again.

    Either team is good enough to win or lose based on how they execute their game plans.

    It sounds like Pitt is playing a run heavy offense with a running QB. Have not seen this for a while.

    A loss this week and things could get really ugly.

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  12. Pitt wins and secures their ticket to a cold weather crappy bowl.

    The Pitt offense should score more than 30 in this game but I have my doubts. The D should do just fine. Special teams is a coin flip…seriously all I want is for them to get the coin toss right.

    Narduzzi will go for every fourth and short in this game including from the one.

    I don’t know if Pitt loses focus or overlooks teams. If true, that’s 100 percent on the coaching.

    Will Pitt do a better job executing? Either players aren’t comfortable with their roles, they have no business playing their position or there is a lack of communication between coaching staff and team unit. All these drops are primarily mental or lack of concentration. Hoping UPMC has a cure for the dropsies.

    Safe travels and Good tailgating to all those making the trip.

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  13. I don’t think we should be touting a win over FIU in the Gasparilla Bowl as an accomplishment for this coach in comparison to Narduzzi.

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    1. Haha well said. Temple beating FIU is a lot like Pitt beating Bowling Green. Still a bowl win though…

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  14. GT plays in a nice on campus older stadium in downtown Atlanta. Fan friendly. If we lose this game we will be playing in a bowl game where the opponent will be a 6-6 football division 3 team.

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        1. Pitt played on campus for 70 years. I always found a good spot to tailgate and had my fav across from western psych. And it was never too difficult to leave Oakland if you knew the roads and waited a bit after the game.

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    1. If we lose this game, please Ms Lyke, spare us from playing in a bowl.

      On the other hand, if we lose this game 6 wins will be s long shot.

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  15. Again, great job Michaelangelo. Another thing that bears repeating is how GT upset Miami. Georgia Tech scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone, scored a TD on a fake punt with a long pass by their punter. Miami missed field goal tries from the 26 and 25 yard line. The game ended with Miami coming up short on a measurement at GT’s 10 yard line. Georgia Tech did not outplay Miami in anyway shape or form.

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  16. Fran I saw where Gold 4 will be gone by next year. Wouldn’t you be grandfathered in Red 5-A with all your years of being a season ticket holder?

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  17. Pitt is in big trouble Saturday. Techs had 2 weeks to prep, its homecoming and Techs coaching staff is heads and tails better than Pitt’s. They are on the uprise as a team and Pitt is still plodding along.
    Have your liquor and BP meds ready

    This will be ugly !

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    1. Thanks for preparing us, Dan. I have lowered my already low expectations, (but sometimes allow myself to wonder if that trend may be close to changing…)

      Wonder if GT is as confident of a GT-win as you are?

      Go Pitt.

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    2. I was there for the last homecoming … hung out at the Phi Delt house drinking with young brothers and pledges and getting my pic with beeeuuutiful girls!!!!! ( they/GT have frat row-PITT basically did away with Frat houses-A-holes) BRING THE Greeks back to PITT.

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  18. —Can you imagine being the person in charge of keeping the “Line Yards” stats? A quantity that apparently varies from maybe 1.5 to 3.5… Yikes!

    —Heard Coach Duzz day on the radio the GT still has some elements of the triple option in their offense… Humm…

    —Also heard Coach say that because of the unique challenges posed by the triple option attack, he would devote some practice time during the spring to defending it. Said this year they used that time more for defending the RPO…
    Interesting…

    —The “drops” is a tough issue to deal with. You risk magnifying negative thoughts. Sounded like positive reinforcement on the one hand and changes to playing time on the other will be the approach. Unless the freshman is ready, I don’t see options other than using less sets involving the TEs…

    —Hey, the men beat the Rock in their BB exhibition!! 😊

    Go Pitt.

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    1. Sometimes your second choice ends up the better selection. I give credit to heather for the hire after Curley fries said no. A good letter of recommendation from Coach K also didn’t hurt.

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    1. quite a few years ago we left the parking lot at ND heading to the game at South Bend I passed by this cave looking place near the lake. Someone said it was a “grotto”…I helped them blow out a few of the birthday-novena candles…It worked-we won !!!! Tyler was on his game that day !!!!!

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  19. May the Pitt Spirit visit all Pitt fans this evening and provide us with an IOU for any Pitt program win. So when he knocks on your door, open it. He expects no tricks but only your treating Pitt with your support.

    I have drinks with the Ghost of Pitt Stadium every Halloween. He’s a Scotch man.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Like

  21. Punting stats if you want them:

    GT: #35 – 7games 42 punts 1838 yds. 43.8/punt 6 punts/game avg.
    Pitt #46 – 8 games 44 punts 1887 yds. 42.9/punt 5.5 punts/game avg.

    As Ike pointed out in an earlier comment, their punter did throw a 41 yd. TD on a fake punt.

    Tobias Oliver (I believe he started at QB in the triple option last year) does see some snaps but is mainly a running threat 45 carries – 6.2/attempt. Graham does run but is more in the KP mold.

    Got to hustle on Sunday, 3 night casino trip starts on Monday. Hopefully, KP gets back to lower 90’s on passing efficiency.

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  22. Have a great time Richard and bring home some bacon.. Wish I could play a Procol Harum song right now.

    One thing about punting stats is that, it’s not how far you punt the football, it’s when you do it.

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  23. Here are some big-picture stats 4.5 years into Narduzzi’s tenure…

    Since 2015, Pitt is third in the ACC with a 22-14 record (Clemson is 36-2, Miami is 23-14)

    Narduzzi’s ACC win% of .625 is tied for second with Justin Fuente among active ACC coaches (Dabo is first at .738)

    Narduzzi has a 14-6 head-to-head record vs. active ACC coaches (including a 5-0 record vs. David Cutcliffe)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. ^^ Not me Tx. Haven’t we all agreed that PITTs OOC schedule has been ridiculous up until now? Narduzzi is the third winning-est coach in the ACC since his arrival, right behind Miami and way behind Clemson. Two teams Narduzzi has beat. PITT also ruined psu’s run at a playoff spot. His coaching is not why you don’t like him… seriously!

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      2. Wait a minute there Tx. It took me a second or so but I have to question this last comment by you. Why in the world would you be rooting against the head coach of the football team you proclaim to love so much? Sounds like a big waste of time to me but to each their own I guess? << I root against psu and Notre Dame but it’s because I don’t like those teams.

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  24. under the misery loves company category …. PSU just lost its 3rd Eastern PA Blue Chip to Ohio St. Marvin Harrison Jr (Philly) just verbaled. The Bucs previously got a 4-star Philly QB as well as a 5-star WR from Southern Columbia, which is just an hour east of State College.

    Franklin is a heck of a recruiter and has an undefeated 5th ranked team that plays before 107k but I guess sometimes it’s just not enough

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  25. Tex — you would not have been happy with the opinion espoused by Paul Zeise last night on his radio show. He talked about Pitt for a good while, which was nice to hear.

    One of his main points was that (after a loss) he hears some Pitt fans wanting to get rid of Narduzzi and he thinks that would be a big mistake. His take is that it has taken Pitt ten years to get back to where the football program was in the last couple years under Wanny. That is, in position to win 9 or 10 games.

    He thinks coaching changes have kept Pitt from getting back to this point and another coaching change would just be another setback to the program.

    If Pitt can keep doing what they’ve been doing with defensive players, and if the presence of Coach Whipple helps lure offensive skill players (which I think it will), then I agree with Paul Zeise.

    Go Pitt.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love Zeise and normally agree with him but after Pitt loses Saturday and next week, let’s continue this conversation.

      Still can’t believe there’s another coach in the country who doesn’t have a solution to 4th and one!!!
      Especially after PSU!

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