2021 Production Lost – Western Michigan

The last of Pitt’s three Out of Conference (OOC) games to be reviewed – the Western Michigan Broncos.

Tim Lester enters his sixth season as head coach of the Broncos. Overall, his record is 32 – 25 (22-6 conference, 9-7 OOC, and 1–2 bowls). Obviously, last year’s 44-41 victory over Pitt is his claim to fame. He has never won his division but has finished second and tied for second two other times. The other two years they finished fourth (including last season).

After going 8-5 in 2021, WMU rewarded Lester with a two-year extension thru the 2025 season. No financial terms were announced but another eight win season will automatically add a year to his contract.

How did they do it – the 2021 schedule and results. Also, the WMU 2022 OOC schedule.

Pitt is the high lite of the WMU home schedule.

There are no 5.7, 3-stars and above. Just a few 5.6 and 5.5, 3-stars in the 2022 recruiting class. The Broncos did pick up a few (four) from the TP.

Hollenbach was a walk-on QB at Alabama. He had no stats in his three seasons in Alabama. All transfers are for positions of need.

WMU did lose 8 players to the TP – six offense, two defense.

On to the stars identified as NCAA team leaders in selected stats or members of the All MAC Conference teams.

Reminds me of all the blue (eligibility) color coding on Wake Forest’s chart.

The  offense revolves around QB play. I have added sacked and yards lost to the QB chart.

Eleby is gone. Probably made an unwise decision on entering the NFL draft with eligibility remaining. He did sign a free agent contract.

Jack Salopek from Irwin (Norwin) is the heir apparent to Eleby. Hrabowski, as you will see, is more of a running QB.

Western Michigan running backs and receivers 2021 activity. Also returning production summary for Pitt, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

The Bronco run game seems to be intact. The top three returning RB’s had nearly 2,100 yards between them.

It is the WR group that has ben devastated. Seven of the nine receivers were lost to eligibility or the TP. Maybe WMU goes with a running QB (Hrabowski-class of 2021).

WMU does return their deep ball threat in Corey Crooms.

Can the Oline stats put a damper on the returning production. I added Pitt allowed sacks and tackles for loss.

Western Michigan had a very solid Oline in 2021. That is verified in their number six ranking in tackles for loss allowed (TFL’s). But they lost three starters to eligibility. They did pick-up a player with experience from the TP. But they are now in rebuild mode.

On a side note, I had previously stated that the 2021 Oline data is from the NCAA. I also said that since the NCAA ignores the 2020 season, a freshman player can be from the class of 2019. 2020 or 2021 and be marked as a freshman. WMU is an example of this in action. Jacob Gideon (thirteen starts) and Addison West are freshmen per the NCAA. Both are from the class of 2019. We have until the end of the 2025 season before we see the end of these abnormalities.

On to the defensive review.

Western Michigan had 38 players make a defensive stat. But six of them were offense players. Two were special teams players. (The punter made 6 solo tackles and had two assists.) (Pitt’s Ben Sauls (kickoff specialist) had four tackles. Maybe Pitt needs to work on kickoff coverage.) That leaves 30  defensive players making a stat.

The chart below strips out the non-defensive players and seven players who did not make at least six or more tackles.

The below chart includes 23 players- nine DB’s, seven DL’s and seven LB’s making up (and I mean made up) “six+ tackles two deep.”  Yep, I lowered the number of tackles to have at least a “two deep.”

Per the NCAA defensive team stats, the Broncos where an average defensive team. Though they seemed to excel at limiting first downs (and the related stat – 3’rd down conversion pct).

It is my belief that Pitt will go 3-1 in OOC play (losing to Tennessee).

Up next, the conference opponents’ reviews starting with Georgia Tech.

2021 Production Loss – Tennessee

The second team on Pitt’s 2022 schedule – the Tennessee Volunteers.

Josh Heupel exceeded all expectations in his first season as HC of the Vols: 7 – 6 (4–4 Conf, 3-1 OOC, 0-1 bowl). Preseason expectation were mainly 5-7 with a few bowl eligible 6-6’s  thrown in. Their biggest victory was a win at Kentucky (10-3) that all but guaranteed a bowl eligible season and  second place finish in the PAC 12  ACC SEC East.

How did they do it – the 2021 schedule and results. Also, the Tennessee 2022 OOC schedule.

Tennessee plays the same OOC scheduling as a vast majority of SEC teams – one P5, two G5, and an FCS opponent. Only Florida and Georgia schedules two P5 consistently. Starting in 2025, Alabama and South Carolina adds a second P5 opponent. Georgia and Florida added a third (or even fourth) P5 team.

All those changes were made for the expansion of the College Football Playoffs (CFP) to either eight or twelve teams. Since no one knew how the CFP was going to pick the additional teams, it was assumed by the SEC that strength of schedule was going to be a determining factor. With ten or eleven P5 opponents, the SEC hoped for three or four teams chosen. It was also a way to get the PAC 12, Big 10 and BIG 12 off their belly aching about the SEC playing nine P5 teams while they normally played ten.

But that scheduling is now endangered. The addition of Oklahoma and Texas in 2024 or 25 may lead to a nine-game conference schedule. If it does, it will result in cancellations of future P5 matchups. Now an independent, BYU (joining the BIG 12 in 2023) recently announced a spat of cancellations of its future games.

Here are the Rivals 5.7 and above 2022 commits. Also included are the current Transfer Portal (TP) additions.

Four offensive players and three defensive players.

Should we start a poll on when 5.9, 4-star QB enters the TP? Supposedly , a 2023 Tennessee QB commit has a $8.1 million NIL deal. Schuler, a TP QB is a walk-on (and son of former Vol QB Heath Schuler. Former 5-star WR, Bru McCoy is the star get from the TP. So far, he has not lived up to his 5-star billing. Was it him or Slovis or other Sothern Cal QB’s? McCoy, from LA, originally signed with Texas. Asked out of his NLI (National Letter of Intent) and scurred back to LA once granted.

The Vols only lost 17 ranked and signed players since last August. That is down from the 34 players in last year’s TP

On to the stars identified as NCAA team leaders in selected stats or members of the All Big 10 teams.

Just eligibility losses.

The  offense revolves around QB play. I have added sacked and yards lost to the QB chart.

Hooker ranked #3 in passing efficiency. Behind Hooker is Joe Milton and the 2022 signed commit QB.

I also added Hooker’s career passing and rushing stats. Notice his TD/Interception ratio.

Tennessee running backs and receivers 2021 activity. Also returning production summary for Pitt, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

Outside of BC and Clemson, Tennessee has the highest percentage of returning RB’s and WR’s production. Good QB and a former 5-star to make up for the loss of the Vols second and third leading receivers.

Can the Oline stats put a damper on the returning production. I added Pitt allowed sacks and tackles for loss.

No. Looks like a solid Oline. Not great. Similar to Pitt’s Oline. What does stand out to me is the sacks allowed – 44 in 13 games compared to Pitt’s 34 in 14 games. But Tennessee’s made up for it with a lower number of TFL’s.

On to the defensive review.

Tennessee had 49 players make a defensive stat. But eight of them were offense players. One was a special teams players. That leaves 40 defensive players making a stat.

The chart below strips out the non-defensive players and fourteen players who did not make at least seven or more tackles.

The below chart includes 26 players- ten DB’s, eight DL’s and eight LB’s making up (and I mean made up) “eight+ tackles two deep.”  Yep, I lowered the number of tackles to have at least a “two deep.”

Tennessee’s returning defensive production is one of the higher ones reviewed. But let us put it into perspective. Per the NCAA defensive team stats, the Vol’s where not a good defensive team.

I should have used this chart in all my past reviews.

IMO on a scale of A+ to F-, Tennessee is a “D- “. (I have Pitt’s defense as a “B.”) Is Tennessee’s defense going to make a jump in their defensive? Probably yes. A major jump to a “C”? No.

This is going to be an interesting game. I believe Tennessee is embarrassed by losing to Pitt at home last year. They will want revenge. I have not seen any betting lines on this game but would not be surprised that the Vols are favorites.

2021 Production Loss- West Virginia

I have finished the ACC non-Pitt opponents. That means the first Pitt opponent of the 2022 season – West Virginia.

Neal Brown, the former head coach of Troy University, enters his fourth season as HC of the Mountaineers. During his three seasons, he is 17- 18 (11-15 Conference, 5-2 OOC and 1-1 Bowls).

That leads us to last year results and the upcoming 2022 schedule (or at least the only games that matter.)

My Oh My, a blowout win over an FCS team.

In OOC scheduling, WVU has been scheduling two P5 teams and an FCS team for the last five or six years (excluding the Covid 2020 season). P5 teams included Home/Away games with NC State, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and now Pitt. The 2023/24 seasons will have Pitt and Psu games. But the two P5 ends in 2025 with only Pitt on the schedule and Alabama lined up for 26/27.

Here are the Rivals 5.6 and above 2022 commits. Also included are the current Transfer Portal (TP) additions.

Before JT Daniels transferred in, the WVU fan base thought 5.8, 4-star QB Nicco Marchiol would have a shot/be the starting QB.

Lee Kpogba, the 5.8, 4-star LB has an interesting story. He was a 5.8, 4-star in Syracuse’s 2020 class. Played one season with one tackle and transferred to a JUCO. He is now seen as key figure in rebuilding the LB group.

Currently three offensive, seven defensive and one kicker from the portal. Obviously QB JT Daniels is the star pickup. The transfer kicker probably will not be the starting field goal kicker. The current one, Casey Legg has a leg up on him.

WVU has lost 20 players to the TP

On to the stars identified as NCAA team leaders in selected stats or members of the All Big 10 teams.

Lot’s of color like Wake Forest’s chart. The difference is that Wake was blue (eligibility). WVU is red (TP).

The  offense revolves around QB play. I have added sacked and yards lost to the QB chart.

Doege to the TP, opening the door for a new QB. Greene had more rushing attempts and yardage then passing. Crowder and Marchiol are untested. Enter JT Daniels. Here are his career passing stats along with Slovis and Patti’s.

If I were really good, I would add rushing yards. That would help in determining the best QB of the three. In fact, if I were really good at this, I would try to add stats on some of the TP additions.

WVU running backs and receivers 2021 activity. Also returning production summary for Pitt and West Virginia.

Lots of production lost mainly due to the TP. WVU did pickup a Clemson running back with experience. The TE pickup is now on his third team.

QB Greene was WVU third leading rusher with a net 297 yards on 48 carriers.

Both Pitt and WVU shed a lot of production.

Can the Oline stats help the lost production based on returning starters and experience. I added Pitt allowed sacks and tackles for loss.

The Mountaineers, like Pitt, return all their starters.

While WVU allowed less tackles for loss, as a percentage of total plays Pitt’s Oline is more solid.

That wraps up the West Virginia offense. On to the defensive review.

WVU had 41 players make a defensive stat. But five of them were offense players. One was a special teams players. That leaves 36 defensive players making a stat.

The chart below strips out the non-defensive players and fifteen players who did not make at least double digit tackles.

The below chart includes nine DB’s, five DL’s and six LB’s making up (and I mean made up) “ten tackles two deep.”

The WVU defense has been decimated by eligibility and the TP. The defensive backs are down to three players left from the shown chart. Of the five DB’s not on the chart, one is also in the TP. So not much help there.

WVU did get help from the TP – three incoming DB’s. They also have a 5.8. 4-star JUCO transfer recruit Hershey McLaurin.

The LB position is also an area of concern. While not as devastated as Pitt’s, it is a position of concern. Besides Kpogba (mentioned above) they did pick up a LB TP entry from Miam and have two 5.7, 3-stars recruits in the incoming class.

The DL appears to be solid though even with the loss of their leading tackler.

I have no idea where WVU stands on scholarships. I did find a site that had a scholarship tracker early in my research, but it has not been updated since mid- February. Even if scholarships are available, immediate TP impact players are few and far between. If this were just any P5 OOC game, I would expect Pitt to win. But it is a huge rivalry game for the players and fans especially for the younger fans amongst us. At this time, Pitt wins.

2021 Production Lost – Wake Forest

2021 Production Loss – Wake Forest

I am doing the ACC non-Pitt opponents in alphabetical order. That means Wake Forest. The next article starts the Pitt 2022 opponents.

Dave Clawson took over the head coaching duties prior to the 2014 season. His record over time is 51 – 48 (26 – 37 Conference, 21 – 8 OOC, 0 – 1 conference championships, and 4 – 2 Bowls.

I do give the Wake admin credit for sticking with him. It paid off with a division title and a 11 win season. Only the second in Wake Forest history (2006).

Wake is one of three teams most likely to take the Atlantic. Will they repeat?

All that leads us to last year results and the upcoming 2022 schedule.

Another team that knows how to schedule OOC games. Besides the NCAA rule change that allows a conference to decide who plays in the conference championship, the 2019 and 2021 out of conference matchups between Wake and UNC were made to shorten the 6/7 year wait between conference games.

Does Wake dropping 70 on Army count as running up the points per game average? Or does beating an FCS team only count? And with Army scoring 56, should we adjust Wake’s points allowed per game down? I want to know the rules.

Here are the Rivals 5.6 and above 2022 commits. Also included is the current Transfer Portal (TP) additions.

As you know, I like to use color coding to highlight certain items – light blue for eligibility, reddish pink for TP entries and a bright green for medical, grades or disciplinary reasons. Wake has a commit who would be a bright green for still being a verbal if I showed Rivals 5.2 2-stars.

A Richmond Spider TP signee. Does our resident authority on Spider basketball follow or know about the Spider football team?

Wake has lost 10 scholarship players to the TP this year – Three from the offense, seven from the defense.

On to the stars identified as NCAA team leaders in selected stats or members of the All ACC teams.

That is a lot of color. Can we be having a taste of production loss.

The  offense revolves around QB play. I have added sacked and yards lost to the QB chart.

Another team with limited backup QB snaps. I believe Kelly is a walk on. Wake did sign a QB in the 2022 class – Brett Griffis. Same last name as the Griffis in above chart. Brother? Cousin? Coincidence?

NC State running backs and receivers 2021 activity. Also returning production for the first four teams reviewed.

Just based on returning production of the five Atlantic teams, Wake looks as a potential third place team. But Boston College is nipping at their heels.

Can the Oline stats shake the Eagles and move Wake back into contention?

Lost just one starter – Zack Tom. First team All ACC and a fourth round pick in the NFL draft. But they may have replacements just based on games played.

This is where I really need snap counts to judge potential starters. It is one thing to say a player had action in 13 game. But were they all on special teams?

As an aside, the one player who had one start is identified as a freshman. I get my data from the NCAA Wake Forest roster. The problem is that this particular player could be a TRUE freshman, a redshirt freshman or a Covid year freshman. (Petitbon was a 2020 recruit). Pickett was identified as a senior.

Actually, Wake had a solid Oline allowing 25 sacks (2.3%) and 33 TFL’s (3.0%) on 1,084 offensive plays.

Another aside. Pitt had 5 sacks in the championship game. That is 20% of the total times Hartman was sacked. Clemson had 7 (28%). NC State had 3 (12%).

That wraps up the NC State Offense. On to the defensive review.

Wake had 50 players make a defensive stat. But eleven of them were offense players. One was a special teams players. That leaves 38 defensive players making a stat.

The chart below strips out the non-defensive players and twelve players who did not make at least double digit tackles. (By now you have learned I use a lot of copy and paste and change a few stats. That is what happens when you have boilerplate.)

I struggled with Wake’s defense (and the other five team reviewed. What to say? What is important? It has been trial and error. Started with anyone who had a defensive stat. Winnowed out the offensive /special team players. Color coded the eligibility and TP players. Sorted by defensive group (DB, DL, and LB). Only then did I summarize totals and defensive groups.

I then decided. I had to cull the number in the chart. I decided ten total tackles was the number to use. Why, you ask? That goes back to the “two-deep” roster – twenty two. (I have lowered below ten tackles to reach at least twenty players.)

I then added a total line just for those players on the chart. I have now added a line breaking down the players listed between returning and those who have left.

Based on total tackles, Wake has the lowest returning percentage of those teams reviewed. But they have 18 players returning with considerable experience.

As I said earlier, Wake looks like the third-place team in the Atlantic. That wraps it up. Next, West Virginia.