So I accidentally posted my “crootin’ capsule part 2” on top of my “How the hell did we get here?” (i.e. season in review) yesterday. The recruiting piece seemed to get more of a rise out of folks though, so I guess it turned out alright. Anyway if you haven’t read the season in review you can read it here.
And now on to the Quick Lane Bowl. Yippie.
I’m not sure if anybody at all is excited to be playing in this bowl. Most fans feel like we either underachieved (we did) or we were snubbed (were we?). Some folks are also quick to point out the Heather Lyke connection. This may be the only bowl in history where both schools have an Athletic Director in common. And it’s almost certainly the only bowl in history where both schools had the same Athletic Director within the last three years. The only missing link would be that Heather sits on the board of Quick Lane. (I’m kidding here folks…)
But the bottom line (as I pointed out in my year in review piece) is that rightly or wrongly (or more likely…completely out of her hands), Heather Lyke got Pat Narduzzi a winnable game.
Given that Pat is 0-3 in bowl games, this is not an insignificant fact. Did we really want to face Temple in the Military Bowl? Their defense is one of the best in the G5, and with the way we’ve played offense all year, that’s a recipe for embarrassment. Did we really want to play Michigan State in the Pinstripe? Let me tell you there is nothing like watching twenty combined points in the freezing cold in Yankee stadium, with no guarantee that good-‘ol Pat could beat burnt-out-Dantonio. What were our other options? The Belk Bowl? That is never going to go to a northern team, least of all one that played in Charlotte last year (and Mississippi State is no gimmie). The Music City? Well maybe if we’d gone 5-3 in conference like cough Louisville (who won all of two games the year before.). The Sun? The Birmingham? C’mon.
And so the Quick Lane Bowl it is. In sunny Detroit, Michigan. Against the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
Fun fact: Both Pitt and Eastern Michigan game up more points per game than they scored this year. (Pitt 20.1 / 21.8. EMU 29.1 / 30.3)
Fun fact 2: Both teams rank near the bottom of the FBS in yards rushing. (Pitt 120.7. EMU 121.9)
The spread is Pitt +11. ESPN says we have a 70% chance of victory. Pitt hasn’t been favored this much since we played Delaware (and we all know how that turned out).
The Eagles have some players. QB Mike Glass threw 22 TD’s against 10 INT’s, and was sacked only 12 times. If Kenny Pickett could have posted such numbers, Pitt might have won ten games.
Much like Pitt, I’d wager that EMU uses the pass to set up the run. They just do it better. Leading rusher Shaq Vann has 667 yards on just 136 carries, good for 4.9 yards per pop. He’s also rushed for eight touchdowns. After this season, I’d just about give my left pinky finger for a running back that rushed for eight touchdowns.
The Eagles also have a well-rounded receiving corps that features four players who caught 483 yards or more. Those four players also scored eighteen touchdowns. I’m not sure Pitt has scored eighteen offensive touchdowns all season.
The good news is that their defense doesn’t sack the quarterback much (20 total on the year, just under two per game). But then again, neither did Boston College and they ended up with four.
The bottom line is that this Pitt team can lose to any mediocre team at anytime, anywhere. That’s what makes Pitt special. And in light of that fact, Pitt has been set up with the most winnable bowl game possible (I’m pretty sure there is not a worse bowl-eligible team than EMU). And Pitt damn well better win it (and they damn well better looking good while they are doing it), because if Pitt finds a way to lose the Quick Lane Bowl against Eastern Michigan, the fanbase will revolt, and Pat Narduzzi’s seat is going to get mighty hot, mighty fast.
Merry Christmas and Hail to Pitt