By Richard Hefner
Pitt’s revised season was supposed to end after the Clemson loss. Instead, it is now scheduled to end this Thursday with a Covid-inspired postponement makeup game. Pitt is now 5-5 (4-5 in conference). Our upcoming opponent is Georgia Tech 3-6 (3-5 in conference). GT is coming off a 13-23 loss to NC State. I watched the game to scout GT but with no excitement. It was like I was watching Kansas and Texas Tech (yawn). I have no investment in any of those four teams.
Pitt fans will be able watch the 7:00pm game on their Regional Sports Network. For me that is either Fox Sports South or Fox Sports Southeast.
Geoff Collins is in his second year at the helm of the Yellow Jackets. He has matched his win total from his 2019 campaign (3-9). He has also exceeded his win total against FBS teams with his 3’rd. But his GT teams are 0-1 against FCS teams having lost his 2019 game against (you guessed it) The Citadel Bulldogs in a 24-27 OT loss. Collins has the unenviable task of converting a triple option team (like The Citadel) 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 and 2018 ranked 53. Those classes combined for a Pat Narduzzi-esque nine 5.7’s and above out of 45 recruits, or 20%). Collins has classes ranked 43 (2019 transitional year) and 24 (2020). He also recruited nineteen 5.7’s and above on 44 total recruits, 0r 43%.) 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 17 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 9 (of 17) players who entered since 8/1/20:
Not surprising that all except for one were Johnson’s recruits or in his transitional class (2019) that may or may not have given his verbal to Johnson. BTW, Graham started the last 8 games of the 2019 season.
Added this after Sunday night/Monday morning article was posted. DE Henderson & QB Graham were Rivals 5.8 4stars. DE Dingle was a Rivals 5.7 3-star. I can see QB Graham transferring as he was recruited as triple option QB, The DE’s are a different story. Is there a triple option defense?
To help make up for roster openings or deficiencies, Georgia Tech signed 3 off the portal.
One of the 3 (OT Devin Cochran) did not enroll at Georgia Tech and is not on the roster.
Georgia Tech has also added 4 more portal transfers since the 2020 season started. 3 were added this month.
All four are from Georgia. Washouts? Homesickness? Covid?
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 3’rd of 82 averaging 47.65 yards per punt. Our Aussie is ranked 17’th with an average of 44.73 yards. Harvin is also a big guy – listed at 6’, 255lbs. Reminds me of the guy from Psu.
The kicking game is another matter. GT’s kickers (Stewart 20/22, Kelley (2/3) are a combined 22 of 25 on extra points attempts. GT has only attempted 8 FG’s, making 3. Kessman is 29/30 on extra point attempts and 19/25 on field goals. Kessman has attempted and made more FG’s from beyond 40 yards (9/14) then GT has attempted.
Jordan Mason was GT’s leading rusher in ’18 and ’19 with a combined 1,800 yards. He was injured in early September but is now back to full health.
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. Gibbs missed all last week’s NC State. I think he had an Achilles injury in the 11/28 game against Duke. I am no medical expert so is he able to play against Pitt?
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, both are average at best in protecting the QB from sacks. Pitt is absolutely horrid at moving the pile off the line of scrimmage. Overall advantage to GT.
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’s) 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 127 teams and That’s it – Fort Pitt on total number of FBS teams that will play this year.
Pitt and Georgia Tech are not offense behemoths. Georgia Tech runs the ball. Pitt passes the ball. On a per game basis, GT averages 28 more yards per game.
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 127 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. Tre Swilling (one of the 3 DB’s on the Stars list) did not play against NC State. I read or herd something but can not remember if it was injury or opt out of the balance of the year.
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.
Geoff Collins is doing a great job in building a program. Is it there? No.
Pitt 31 – GT 14. (Assuming KP plays.)
As I was wrapping this article up, rumors are floating that Pitt’s two “Star” DE’s are leaving (opting out) for the balance of the season. Pitt’s 2’nd team DE’s are not slouches. But they do not have the experience against what I consider RPO QB’s (Cunningham/Louisville, King/Miami, Book/ND, Travis/FSU (except his 88-yard stroll) & Hooker/VT and now Sims). Based on the RPO factor, it would be a closer game, but Pitt does win. Pitt 31- GT 28.