I had two choices for this article. Full COVID or no COVID. Heading into the holiday weekend I was about to choose “no”. We all have enough on our minds, and at the end of the day, until this thing plays out we don’t know what’s going to happen. So what are our options? Sit here and point out all the bad shit that is going to happen between now and football season that is going to prevent the season? Yea, that’s one. And a lot of people are doing a great job at that. And look, I don’t want to trivialize the effect that COVID-19 is having on people. It’s changed our lives. It’s (temporarily I believe) devastated parts of our economy. It’s putting actual readers and commenters on this blog at risk. It has killed at least one college student in Pennsylvania and could, if the NCAA moves on with the season, potentially kill more than one college football player.
That would be sad. More than sad really. It would be tragic, especially for the friends and family of those players. And we can only hope and pray that college football mortality does not happen. Testing is key. Wearing masks and adhering to lock-down orders will help. But of course, the young aren’t necessarily wont to do that. And don’t even get me started on the segment of the population – age agnostic – that doesn’t believe the risk of disease is real.
Those who are sensible, rational, and conscientious, will wear a mask, will avoid public places, will limit social contact, whether they play football or not, and by doing so will protect their friends and families from potentially contracting a disease that has a high likelihood of killing their parents or grandparents, and also those who are younger and at risk. These compliant and contentious individuals (Are they team players? Yes, yes indeed they are.) will also help ensure that we have a college football season.
And Lord knows we need one. Not just because Pitt is poised to have it’s best season in 11 years, but because Goddammit, we need a diversion. Something. Anything. The country literally requires the combined powers of the NFL and the NCAA to lift the american people out of their current malaise. We need fantasy football. Heck we just need games. We need Playoff races, division races. We need a top 25. We need something to talk about besides riots and infection rates, and the ineptitude of government response across the entire spectrum of events. We need football. In all forms, for the good of the American Public.
But until that happens, we have to control the controllables. And so in the spirit of diversion, I will pose some questions to you dear readers. Because our opinions on football are one thing left in our control. Now…these questions were sent to me by a young writer for an upstart college Fantasy Football website, and he wanted me to be their “Pitt expert” for the upcoming season. I was happy to answer, but somehow the site lost interest when I told them 80% of my readership was over 70 years old. Age discrimination is a thing, I guess. Maybe we should all go out and topple a statue. Oh wait, they don’t build statues of 21 year-olds. Well boycott Facebook then. Oh wait, Facebook is all 40 and 50 year olds. Okay well the swear off Tik Tok. Oh wait, what the hell is Tik Tok? Oh hell I guess you’ll just have to grumble and weigh in on these damn questions.
Overall, how do you believe the offense will compare to the 2019 season?
- It damn well better be better, because this is only the second time in six years that Pat Narduzzi has had an offense coordinator two years in a row, and only the first time he’s had a mildly competent one. Oh yea we also have a senior quarterback who will be a three year starter, get our entire offensive line back, get all our running backs back. We do lose a pretty good wide receiver and two tight ends, but those tight ends were garbage anyway. Arrow is pointing up. And if it doesn’t go up, Pitt fans are going to be mighty doggone pissed.
What do you expect from the QB position in 2020?
- About a 62% completion rate, a 1.5 TD to INT ratio, 3000 yards and a 122 rating. Just kidding, those are last year’s stats. The problem is that in three years behind center Pickett has never posted a quarterback rating above 125. That’s just not going to get it done in college football. Now this season is Kenny’s last ride, and his running game and offensive line should be a tick better. As will his understanding of OC Mark Whipple’s west coast offense. But does he really have the tools to succeed? Oh sure he can make all the throws, except maybe those short touch passes to the wide open guys, which are the bread and butter of any west coast scheme. Still, even if you disregard the easy passes he’s thrown into the dirt; Pickett’s receivers dropped 40+ balls last year. Add 2/3 of them to his stat total and all the sudden he’s a 3500 yard passer with a 67% completion rate. That should be the floor this season, and if not, well that’s three years wasted, and we’ll bring on the next guy.
How do you see the workload at RB being distributed?
- To as many backs as possible. And just when one get lathered up, Whip will switch him. As deft as Mark Whipple is in massaging the passing game, the man has zero touch with runners. My mind is engraved with the image of V’Lique Carter cursing as he was pulled off the field after he got Pitt down to the 1 yard line against Miami. “Power Back” AJ Davis was put in, was predictably handed the ball, and predictably got stuffed. Carter meanwhile had done nothing but slip tackles between the tackles to get Pitt into scoring position, and he had all the juice you needed for a goal line plunge, 180 lbs or not. Coach Whip needs to use the guys who get him there. Sadly, he’s an old dog, and as we all very well know, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
How does the offensive line compare to the 2019 group?
- The only lineman who’s not coming back is the one who stunk up the right tackle position. So I’d hope they’ll be a little bit better.
What do you think the distribution will be to the WR/TE’s?
- Well if grad transfer TE Lucas Krull can hold onto the ball, he might catch 50 passes. Apparently he’s got the skill set. If not, then I see a lot of passes to the wideouts. Whipple will throw to Mack until he breaks, and he’ll throw to Jared Wayne until he screws up, and he’ll throw to Shocky Jacques-Louis deep as long as the pass protection holds. (I’m still not convinced on Jacques-Louis’ route running skills, a must for a successful 1000 yard receiver in the west coast offense)
For our dynasty owners, who are some young players that stand out as future breakout performers?
- For those of you who don’t know what a dynasty owner is, “dynasty” is a form of fantasy football where you keep most of your squat intact from year to year. There are many great resources available on the internet if you want to learn more. Breakout guys? Jared Wayne is a candidate for 1000 yards. Jacques Louis will certainly play a bigger role. There is probably a freshman WR who will catch 30 or 40 balls and surprise. Maybe Aydin Henningham. The trendy pick at Running Back is Izzy Abanikanda, but I think Vince Davis will have put on a few more pounds and will play a bigger role. If Pickett develops like the Pickett fans think he will, well then he’s a trendy pick too. Lets hope his is, because if that all comes true, Pitt is going to make some noise. Another year like last year and well, get ready for a repeat of the Little Cesar’s bowl.
Hail to Pitt