By Richard Hefner
Note that the Pitt-GT game has been delayed until Dec 12 due to COVID 19. Pitt has paused all football related activities.
Pitt is coming off a much-needed victory over Florida State 41 – 17. Pitt is now 4-4 (3-4 in conference). It was an enjoyable game to watch with an inevitable (at least to me) win pretty well insured by the end of the 3’rd quarter. Our upcoming opponent is Georgia Tech 2-5 (2-4 in conference). GT is coming off a bye week with hopes of breaking a 3-game losing streak.
Pitt fans will be able watch the 7:00pm on their Regional Sports Network. For me that is either Fox Sports South or Fox Sports Southeast.
Before we start on the Georgia Tech – Pitt comparisons, let me tell a story/rant about 3 teams. On October 27’th, Austin Peay (AP) lost/promotes/hired their 3’rd coach since July. In July, Mark Hudspeth (former up & comer at Louisiana (aka UL-Lafayette, aka ULL) abruptly resigned as HC at AP while he was under suspension for “Unacceptable Conduct”. AP promoted Marquis Lovings to HC for AP’s “Rent a Win” fall campaign. On October 27’th, Austin Peay hired 30-year-old Scotty Walden as their new HC. Walden will guide AP for their 2020 OVC campaign scheduled to start in February 2021. Two things – Walden is youngest head coach in D1. (Yes, FCS is NCAA D-1), Will Healy who some mention as a Pitt HC candidate, was the HC at AP before Hudspeth.
So where did Walden come from? Walden was working as the interim HC for Southern Mississippi (USM). Walden was promoted to that position after then HC Jay Hopson resigned the day after an opening game loss to South Alabama in the 2020 season opener. Walden was the offensive coordinator before his promotion. USM has now promoted another assistant (Tim Billings) to HC. As long as USM does not hire Billings as the full time HC for 2021, USM will be on their 4’th in less than a year.
Southern Miss had/has a reputation as one of the better known G5 teams. At one time, they were bowl eligible for 18 straight years. The last three were coached by former UNC HC Larry Fedora. His last year at USM finished with a 11-2 record and a number 20 ranking in the AP poll. From my past treks to the red neck Riviera (Biloxi), I talked with USM fans every year. They can point to the coaching hire that undid whatever mystique USM had. – Ellis Johnson.
Ellis Johnson, a long-time defensive coordinator with some experience as a head coach, took the reins from Fedora, promptly changed everything finished the season 0-12 and even more promptly was fired. His head coaching experience was at FCS Gardner-Webb (20 miles from where I live) (5-6) & a 3-year stint (12-22) at The Citadel.
And that long, complicated & winding story is how I have now managed to work either kin or “The” Citadel into my last 5 articles. I batcha you thought I was telling a story about the unknown pitfalls of coaching hires.
Geoff Collins is in his second year at the helm of the Yellow Jackets. He is one win away from matching his win total from 2019 (3-9). He has already matched his win total against FBS teams (2). Collins has the unenviable task of converting a triple option team to a modern (FBS) system.
He has already made progress in recruiting. Compared to Paul Johnson’s last two recruiting classes 2017 Rivals rank 41, 2018 ranked 53 and a combined 9 5.7 an above of 45 recruits, Collins has classes ranked 43 (2019 transitional year) and 24 (2020). He also recruited 19 5.7 and above on 44 total recruits. The 2020 class is impressive containing 5.8 4-star QB Jeff Sims and 5.9 4-star RB Jahmyr Gibbs. More on them later.
Georgia Tech for the time period 08/01/19 to 10/30/20 had 14 players enter their name into the transfer portal including one player who entered 6/1/20, changed his mind and came back only to reenter the portal on 10/27/20. These are the 6 (of 14) players who entered since 8/1/20:
Not surprising that all except for the last entry were Johnson’s recruits.
To help make up for roster openings or deficiencies, Georgia Tech signed 4 off the portal.
One of the 4 (OT Devin Cochran) did not enroll at Georgia Tech and is not on the roster.
Who are the identified preseason potential “Stars”? There was no one selected to the preseason All ACC team. Seven selections in total.
The punter is good. He is ranked 4’th of 80 averaging 47.7 yards per punt. Our Aussie is ranked 20’th with an average of 44.7 yards.
Jordan Mason was GT’s leading rusher in ’18 and ’19 with a combined 1,800 yards. He was injured in early September and has only had limited carries in the last 2 October games.
DeFoor, a 2019 season transfer, leads a Oline in transition from the triple option. How is the Oline doing? Here is the leading rushers chart.
Both RB Gibbs & QB Sims are true freshmen. Griffin is a 5.8 4-star from the 2019 class. Collins recruiting is making an impact. Mason made the “Stars chart. GT is ranked 63’rd (out of 123 ranked teams) in rushing yards per game.
Does the revamped Oline protect the QB or move the opponents DLine on running plays. Here is a comparison of GT’s & Pitt’s Oline in sacks & tackles for loss allowed.
IMO, while both are average at protecting the QB from sacks, Pitt overall is better. That may be because KP more experienced. Pitt is absolutely horrid at moving the pile off the line of scrimmage. Advantage to GT on adj. TFL’s.
How is true Freshman Jeff Sims doing as a QB? Here is a comparison of QB’s passing stats with and without OOC opponent.
Usually, a QB’s pass efficiency rating goes down when excluding OOC stats (like KP & JY), but Sims went up. In this case, it is a matter of opponents. Pitt played D1 FCS Austin Peay while GT played D1 FBS G5 UCF. Sims had a bad day against UCF (105.0 rating). I will not get into excuses for that performance.
Here is a comparison of offensive stats.
The NCAA rank is based on 123 teams. That is up by 20 teams who started their season last weekend. There are now teams who have played one game compared to others who have already played 8.
Pitt and Georgia Tech are not offense behemoths. Georgia Tech runs the ball. Pitt passes the ball.
To me, it is a toss-up if the game was based on offense only. But it is not. Defense is also involved.
So, let us compare team defense.
All team rankings are out of 123 eligible teams
Based on defensive stats alone, Pitt is heads and shoulders above GT.
Of the potential Stars, 4 of them were on defense. Three of them were DB’s. – 2 Safeties and a CB. I expected a better pass defense. Jack Curry, the LB, is Pitt’s Tre Tipton. Both have been around for 6 seasons.
It is now time to compare sacks & TFL’s.
That is a Pitt advantage.
Here are some additional stats – penalties & turnovers.
It is a draw on penalties. Pitt clearly wins the turnover battle.
My concern with Pitt penalties is average penalty (9.01). Pitt’s ratio for every 6 penalties is close to 2×5 + 3×10 + 1×15 = 55, 55/6 = 9.17. So, I now better understand Pitt fans frustration with penalties. It is not only the number but the drive stalling or opponent drive extending 10 and 15 yarders.
Geoff Collins is doing a great job in building a program. Is it there? No. Will he get his 3’rd victory matching his 1’st year campaign of 3 wins. Yes, but it will be against Duke on 11/28. Pitt 31 – GT 13. (Assuming KP plays.)
Once again, I am asking for suggestions of stats or anything else you would like to see in these series of articles. Lam getting stale looking at same data. Lucky for me, I noticed yards per penalties and expanded on that. Actually, I felt better after doing simple math. BTW- GT ratio on every 6 penalties is close to 4 – 1 – 1 (5,10,15). Pitt’s is 2-3-1. I rather have GT’s ratio.