Hello everyone and happy day-after-Thanksgiving. My apologies for not being able to post a preview at the regularly scheduled time yesterday, but the combination of fighting off some kind of bug and hosting Thanksgiving got in the way. The good news is that the bug has been successfully dispatched and the dinner was a success, so no matter what happens with Pitt Football this weekend, I’ve got health and family to fall back on, and I hope you do as well.
I’ve also got the POV, and I’d like to take a moment to thank all you POV’erts out there, whether you’re a frequent commenter or simply a frequent reader. So far this year we have had over 57,000 visitors and over 587,000 page views. We’ve also had nearly 33,000 comments posted. Half of the reason I maintain this blog is because I love Pitt and Pitt football, and the other half is you. Whether or not you agree with what I’m writing, I’d like to express my thanks for keeping this blog as active and vibrant as you do.
And now on to football…
How many times since 1981 has Pitt won eight games? Nevermind nine, nevermind ten; I’m talking eight. Because that is what is on the table tomorrow. A chance at an eight win season, at home, on senior day, against a team that Pitt is favored to beat, and has the talent to beat.
The answer is 12 times. In 38 years, Pitt has won eight or more games 12 times. Just two coaches have done it more than twice, and we fired both of those. Pitt’s football program proceeded to wander in the wilderness for 4-5 seasons after each firing. In fact, every single time since 1981 that Pitt has fired a winning football coach, Pitt has gone at least four years without winning eight games. Case in point:
- 1982 – Foge Fazio – 9-3
- 1983 – Foge Fazio – 8-3-1
- 1987 – Mike Gottfried – 8-4
- 1989 – Mike Gottfried – 8-4-1
- 2002 – Walt Harris – 9-4-0
- 2003 – Walt Harris – 8-4
- 2004 – Walt Harris – 8-4
- 2008 – Dave Wannstedt – 9-4
- 2009 – Dave Wannstedt – 10-3
- 2010 – Dave Wannstedt – 8-5
- 2015 – Pat Narduzzi – 8-5
- 2016 – Pat Narduzzi – 8-5
And so, here Pitt sits, in a position to win eight games for the third time in Pat Narduzzi’s five years. The irony, of course, is if Pitt doesn’t win eight games this year, there will be a contingent of fans calling for Pat Narduzzi’s head, and I can understand why.
It’s because bowl-game aside, BOSTON COLLEGE IS A TEAM WE SHOULD BEAT. And I’m not talking about squeak by with a field goal. I’m talking beat like a bass-drum during the halftime show, because BC’s offense is about as one dimensional as they come.
But they do that one dimension really well. The Eagles have rushed for 268 yards per game this season. That’s sixth in the country. They have two backs that will probably go for a thousand yards. Lead back AJ Dillion is basically George Aston with more speed and more wiggle. Dillon is 6’0″, 250 lbs and has already rushed for 250 yards. BC’s #2 back, David Bailey, back would probably start for Pitt, and he’s another bruiser at 6’1″, 240. He’s rushed for 786. They are running behind a top-20 run-blocking offensive line. Football outsiders publishes line stats, and BC is ranked 19 in “line yards”, which is a measure of how well a line run blocks. (Pitt is 82nd by the way…). BC is also 8th in “Stuff Rate” which means they don’t give up very many tackles for loss. They are 2nd in “Power Success Rate”, at 89.6% which means if it’s 3rd or 4th and less-than-two, BC is going to run the ball for a first down nine times out of ten. BC’s line is also 7th in sack rate, at a mere 3.1%. That’s elite.
On the other hand, Boston College doesn’t pass all that well. They are 104th in Passing offense, and are averaging just 188 YPG.
Does any of this sound familiar? Because it should. Last year’s Pitt Panthers ranked 23rd in line yards and 3rd in Power Success rate. Pitt ranked 18th in rushing yards per game, and Pitt finished 120th in passing yards per game. The point I’m trying to make here is that playing BC tomorrow is going to be a lot like playing Pitt last year. Get them off schedule and keep them in third-and-more-than-six and they may not score a touchdown. But…let them get to the point where they are routinely generating third-and-three or less and they are going to beat the crap out of our front seven.
And BC is more than capable of beating the crap out of undisciplined or untalented defenses.
Here are BC’s rushing totals for the last six games:
- @ Louisville – 45 – 259 – 1 (L 39 – 41)
- NC State – 60 – 429 – 5 (W 45 – 24)
- @ Clemson – 44 – 97 – 1 (L 7 – 59)
- @ Syracuse – 65 – 496 – 5 (W 58 – 27)
- Florida State – 64 – 281 – 2 (L 31 – 38)
- @ Notre Dame – 43 – 128 – 1 (7 – 40)
It appears the key to beating them is to hold them under 400 yards rushing.
Of course Florida State and Louisville average over 30 points per game on offense. Our wonderful Pitt Panthers offense averages just 20.2
So it appears that that Pitt’s key to beating Boston College would be to hold them under 200 yards rushing.
On paper, at least, Pitt is capable of doing this. The only team to rush for more than 150 was Penn state all the way back in week three. They ran for 167, but if you take away the one long run…
The bottom line is that Pitt’s D Line needs to man up and out-physical the BC offensive line and Pitt’s smallish linebackers and safeties need to gang tackle. Yes this sounds like Western-Pennsylvania high-school head coach talk, but at the end of the day isn’t that what most of us grew up on? And isn’t that what we’re expecting to see?
The alternative of course is that Pitt’s defense treats BC like they treated Virginia Tech – i.e. the bring a good-but-not-great-effort and end up getting smashed in the mouth themselves. It’s another cliché, but the defensive side of this game for Pitt will very much be won or lost in the trenches, and we don’t have the talent to bring our B game against these guys.
Speaking of B-game, lets talk about Pitt’s offense. (heyooo!)
The good news is that Boston College is giving up 32.8 points per game. That’s 104th in the country. As I pointed out Tuesday, their passing efficiency defense (i.e. QB rating allowed) is 122nd in the country. If there was ever a matchup that Coach
Arians, er Whipple could take advantage of, this is the one. Both talent and experience seem to be factors for the eagles. Over the past five years, BC has recruited about 2 defensive backs per year, and these recruits averaged about a 5.5 rating. They key if you don’t get talent is to recruit numbers, and BC just hasn’t being doing it.
Delving a little deeper, here is Kenny Pickett’s game log:
His best games were against UNC (72nd pass eff def), Syracuse (44th pass eff def), State Penn (37th pass eff def – but rivalry game) and Ohio (72nd pass eff def). So you have to like his chances to put up a decent game. The lone outlier is Georgia Tech (75th pass eff def), but if you take away the two bad interceptions…
The other factor that will help Pickett is that he should (at least in theory) have time to throw. We all know how he gets when he’s flustered. BC’s pass rush is anemic at best (or at least it has been so far). They’ve posted 12 sacks on the season. Now this is Pitt, so if the O-line decides to take the week off, anything can happen, but if Morrissey can keep the boys focused, good things could happen.
I suppose I should also touch on the running game, since Coach Whipple does actually call the odd running play once in a while. Boston college ranks 98th. Considering Pitt ranks 112th in rushing offense, I guess we should call this a push.
The bottom line is that outside of the two FBS teams that Boston College has played (Richmond and Rutgers), no team has scored less than 24 points against the Eagles. In order to win Pitt will need to conintue that trend, and also continue the trend of holding their opponents to 21.5 points per game.
The only other thing is intangibles…
Addazio and the Eagles have their backs against the wall. If BC doesn’t go bowling he may be out. So the team will be fired up.
Pitt just got blown out and Pitt fans are hoping they will take out their frustrations on this Boston College team. It’s also Senior Day. Pitt doesn’t have a ton of seniors but the following guys are in a position to make an impact, especially on defense. Lets hope that they do.
Amir Watts (DL – Starting)
Kylan Johnson (LB – Starting)
Saleem Brightwell (LB – Starting)
Jazzee (Jay) Stocker (S – Starting in place of suspended Paris Ford)
Damar Hamlin (Starting)
Dane Jackson (Starting)
Nakia Griffin-Stewart (Starting)
Will Gragg (Contributing)
Aaron Matthews (Contributing)
Nolan Ulizio (Starting…)
I wish I could say with certainty that Pitt will show up tomorrow. Because if they do, it will be a lopsided affair. If they don’t, then the cries of Same Old Pitt will resound through the streets of Oakland, and this and many other message boards. And that will be a shame, because despite all its shortcomings, this team has a real chance to make its mark as one of the better Pitt squads in the last 38 years.
Hail to Pitt