October 21, 2016

ACC Matchups During the Bye Week

Filed under: ACC,Conference,Football — Steven Callahan @ 6:07 am

Week 8 of the college football season is coming up and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers are getting a much needed week off. While the Panthers are enjoying their only bye week of the season, there are still a few interesting games being played in the ACC. Some of these games can have huge impact on Pitt’s season, so the fans are still going to have a lot of interesting football to watch this week even without their favorite team playing.

With Virginia Tech rolling over Miami last night, the chances of full Coastal Chaos are slightly diminished. Miami is now 1-3 in the division with three straight losses, and at this point are only looking to make a bowl game. Virginia Tech now sits upon the top of the Coastal with the head-to-head edge over North Carolina and no losses in the division. The game at Heinz Field next Thursday could be their de facto clincher, as their remaining ACC games are at Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia.

The other three ACC games played this week will all take place on Saturday afternoon. The most important of these three games is the matchup between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Virginia Cavaliers. The Tar Heels are tied with Virginia Tech at the top of the Coastal Division. Since Pitt lost a very close game to North Carolina earlier this season, they can only advance to the ACC Championship Game by finishing the season with a better record than the Tar Heels. North Carolina has to lose at least one more game this season if Pitt wants to win the division, so it might as well happen this week against Virginia. The Cavaliers are not a very good football team, so it will take a great performance to knock off North Carolina. It is worth noting that North Carolina has only two wins by double digits this season. As much as they were preseason darlings, they have not been that consistent.

The other two ACC games this week are among teams in the Atlantic Division, so they do not have that much impact on the Pitt Panthers. The game between Syracuse and Boston College has very little impact on the entire conference since both teams are sitting at the bottom of the ACC standings. NC State will also be going on the road to face Louisville this Saturday. While it does not directly alter Pitt’s season, fans should be rooting for a Louisville victory. The ACC will look like a much stronger conference if they have two teams in the top 10 of the rankings. This can’t happen if Louisville, led by Florida native Lamar Jackson, loses to NC State. A strong conference will give Pitt a much better bowl game if they are unable to win the Conference Championship game.

October 19, 2016

5-2 As Expected

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:41 am

Just past the halfway point in the season. On the bye week, so this fits as far as time to take stock of the season to date.

Pitt could be 7-0. They could have ended up 3-4. Sitting at 5-2 is about what was expected coming into the season. Two losses on the road to teams ranked in the top-25 before the season started. Again, not unexpected coming into the season. Of course, the road to this 5-2 probably doesn’t feel terribly satisfying as 5 of the games came down to the final few minutes or less.

But then, that’s probably true for most things. We chart out a course. Have the expectations. May even meet them, but getting there is never quite as envisioned.


October 17, 2016

Upcoming Gauntlet

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Tactics — Chas @ 7:25 am

With the win over Virginia, Pitt sits at 5-2 and gets the much needed bye week.

Star defensive end Ejuan Price missed most of the second half after leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. He was tended to by the training staff, and never left the sideline, but did not re-enter the game.

Free safety Terrish Webb also left the game with an undisclosed injury before halftime and didn’t return, and linebacker Quinton Wirginis also appeared to get banged up on a punt return.

Pitt is off until Oct. 27, when Virginia Tech will travel to Heinz Field, marking first of three big opponents on the schedule. Miami and No. 4-ranked Clemson are up after the Hokies.

“It’s perfect timing,” said coach Pat Narduzzi, regarding the off week. “I wish it was two weeks instead of a week and a half, but we’ll take full advantage of it. Our trainers and doctors will do a great job with our kids and we’ll come back fresh.”

Narduzzi rarely comments on injuries, and gave no indication of the seriousness of any of those suffered at Virginia. He simply replied “yes” to a question about whether it was a testament to get such a strong finish by the defense after a day with so many injuries.

I get Narduzzi wanting a little more time. Especially with injuries on defense. Really, though, the bye week could not have been timed any better. With a Thursday night game as the next one, Pitt doesn’t have a short week to prepare, and gets the extra couple days to rest and prepare for going on the road.


October 16, 2016

Surviving Inconsistency

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 8:39 am

Somehow made it threw the day without spoilers, and watched the Pitt-UVa game around 7pm last night. That broadcast was the full-on, classic ACC experience. A Raycom produced nightmare of awkward camera angles, following the wrong guy and flat out missed shots. Complete with a non-stop scroll that actually covered part of the screen rather than being below it.

And if that wasn’t enough, Ron Cherry as the lead official for the referee crew to make sure it was a flag fest. #goACC

As for Virginia, it is arguable that they now have the 3d or 4th best basketball-football combo in the ACC. Behind Louisville, UNC and a toss-up with VT. Bronco Mendenhall was a really good hire for the Hoos. You can see the improvement. Not just from last year, but from the start of the season.


October 15, 2016

Open Thread: Pitt-Virginia

Filed under: Football,Open Thread — Chas @ 9:37 am

12:30 on ACC Network distribution and WatchESPN. Listings, here.

Game Notes.

I’m on DVR delay do to some work stuff.

As much a fit and the reasonable distance to most ACC schools from Pitt, it really is something how infrequently Pitt played ACC teams (excluding fellow Big East ex-pats). This is only the 9th meeting of Pitt and UVa. Seven of the meetings have taken place in the last thirteen years. Before that, a two-game series in the 50s.


October 14, 2016

Someone’s Redshirt is Coming Off

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 6:10 am

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi won’t say it, but I believe it happens this weekend. The injury report as mandated by the ACC came out yesterday. And even by those vague standards, Avonte Maddox is not looking likely to play.

Pitt junior cornerback Avonte Maddox, who has started the past 24 games, is listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report, released Thursday by coach Pat Narduzzi. Pitt plays its third ACC game Saturday at Virginia.

Maddox injured his arm in the second quarter of Pitt’s victory last Saturday against Georgia Tech. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Dane Jackson, who finished the game with four tackles.

That leaves Dane Jackson as the starter with Ryan Lewis and just Phillipe Motley as the only player on the depth chart without a redshirt to burn.


October 13, 2016

Quietly Basketball Begins

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 7:41 am

There was no midnight madness this year. Instead, the school went with an event near Heinz Field on homecoming. Emceed by the great Bill Raftery.

I didn’t make it to the event, but I actually saw Raftery in the press area shortly before the GT-Pitt game. I was grabbing another coffee and he was getting something to eat.

Couldn’t bring myself to interrupt him as he was about to eat. He must have come straight from the event and doing interviews with local media. I’ve seen ESPN football announcers around there before. Some former players. Guys who are now NFL scouts. But I’ve never felt particularly star struck before.

Raftery has been the college basketball voice that means the most to me. His enthusiasm for the game. The storytelling. The catchphrases still delivered with energy and perhaps a knowing wink. Actual analysis. Do I still watch Big East games simply because he’s on the call? Yes.

What sets Raftery apart from others like say Vitale or Bill Walton or other ex-players or coaches. He is only talking about the game. He doesn’t get caught up in deifying coaches or players. He will break down the plays — the good and bad — while letting the game flow. He hasn’t become a caricature of himself (Vitale, again). He doesn’t make himself bigger than the game — and never let ESPN or now FS1 do that. He’s still teaching the game, even as he is entertaining.

If I had gone up to him. All I would have wanted to do is gush and really, just say, “Thank you.”


October 12, 2016

Position Switching and Redshirts

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 9:51 am

Focus of today. Primarily some pieces on tackles and the secondary.

Stories today looked at the position changes for Brian O’Neill and Shakir Soto. In no small part owing to their game against Georgia Tech. Both have been thriving all season, but they really shined this past weekend.


October 11, 2016

Football Notes, 10/11

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 7:38 am

Lots to cover, and I’ve been on early calls to start the week.

Injuries piling up on the defense have been something of a contributing factor for the struggles. Two linebackers (Zeise and Capara), a defensive end (Hendrix) and now it looks like a cornerback (Maddox).

The latter has Coach Pat Narduzzi clearly being forced to consider the removal of redshirts on Damar Hamlin and/or Therran Coleman. Both made their debuts on the depth chart for the Virginia game yesterday as the third options at the corner spots.


October 8, 2016

Blewitt=Yellow Jacket Slayer

Filed under: ACC,Football,Narduzzi — Justin @ 4:47 pm

Fourth and One from their own 34. A little over two minutes to go. Georgia Tech was barely contained on the ground all day long, but most of the big gains were pitches to the outside. The Yellow Jackets opted to just go for the yard and run inside. Tyrique Jarrett said NOPE. I myself thought Georgia Tech was going to score after the long touchdown to Orndoff. The defense has blown it or come close to doing so five games in a row. Leave it to the senior nose tackle, all 335 pounds of him, to put the offense in position to win. (more…)

Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago. Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago. Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago. Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago. Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago. Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago. Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago. Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago. Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago. Please don’t be a repeat of two years ago.

12:30 on ACC syndication. Or online via WatchESPN.

Hit the road early so this is kind of sparse as I put it together last night before bed.


October 7, 2016

For a coach with defensive roots like Pat Narduzzi, getting burned by the triple option offense is not something he can just let go with ease. It clearly bothered him that Pitt struggled to contain GT last year and then Navy decimated Pitt in the bowl game.

To that end, he’s had the team practice for it since August.


October 6, 2016

In a few years when Florida State fans, boosters and probably their board of trustees complain that the TV money from the ACC Network isn’t enough/keeping up with the SEC (because we all, damn well know they will be first in line to complain), we can all remind them that they were the ones leading the charge to leave the money on the table to keep their extra non-con game.

Not that they will care or even accept any blame.


3 Storylines Heading into Week 6 vs. Georgia Tech

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Steven Callahan @ 6:55 am

If there’s such a thing as a “critical” phase of the Pittsburgh Panthers’ 2016 football schedule, it’s about to begin. Pitt (3-2) begins a crucial five-game stretch Saturday when it hosts Atlantic Coast Conference rival Georgia Tech at Heinz Field. The next five weeks will also see the Panthers facing league rivals Virginia Tech, Miami (Fla.), Clemson and Virginia.

Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is coming off back-to-back losses to Clemson and Miami and, like Pitt, is 3-2 on the season, as well as in a make-or-break point in its schedule. The Yellow Jackets are 1-2 in the ACC’s Coastal Division while Pitt is 0-1 in conference play.

Here are three storylines worth keeping an eye on for Pitt fans:

Can Pitt contain Tech’s run game?

Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense has befuddled a lot of teams over the years under coach Paul Johnson, with Pitt being no exception. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 370 yards against Pitt last year, although the Panthers won 31-28 on Chris Blewitt’s 56-yard field goal with just over a minute to play.

While Tech’s running game hasn’t been quite as prolific so far this season, it’s still averaging 226.8 rushing yards per game – which ranks fourth in the ACC – while freshman running back Dedrick Mills has shown plenty of promise. Mills has averaged 4.5 yards per carry while rushing for 370 yards through his team’s first five games.

Tech quarterback Justin Thomas is also a threat in the running game, but has cost his team with turnovers at times. Thomas lost two fumbles that were returned for touchdowns in last week’s 35-21 loss to Miami.

Will Jordan Whitehead play?

Pitt strong safety Jordan Whitehead, the ACC Rookie of the Year last season, sat out the Panthers’ win last week over Marshall. Whitehead started the Panthers’ first four games, but Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi wouldn’t discuss why the sophomore didn’t play a single down against the Thundering Herd.

Whitehead, like many other Pitt recruits is a homegrown talent, who occasionally plays on offense, is second on the team with 31 tackles and has a fumble recovery, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble. While Narduzzi remains mum on Whitehead’s availability for this Saturday, all indications are that Whitehead will be back in the lineup against Tech.

Is any lead safe for Pitt?

If Pitt jumps out to a sizable lead early against Tech you may want to postpone your trip to the concession stand. The Panthers had a 27-0 lead last week against Marshall, but let the Thundering Herd close the gap to 3 points before closing out a 42-27 win. Pitt let a 13-point lead turn into a last-second loss to North Carolina the week before, and had another late meltdown two weeks ago in a last-second loss to Oklahoma State.

October 5, 2016

Triple Option Week

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:29 am

Speaking of which, a quick update on the ACC football scheduling thing. ESPN has relented, and it looks like the status quo is likely to continue.

The ADs spent much of the last three-plus months in fierce debate over two alternatives offered by ESPN, both designed to create more quality programming for the ACC Network, set to launch in 2019. In exchange for financial incentives, ESPN asked for eight league games and two Power Five non-conference dates (8+2), or nine league games and one outside Power Five contest (9+1).

But during a conference call Tuesday morning to prepare for their face-to-face meetings, the athletic directors learned from ACC commissioner John Swofford that while ESPN prefers one of those formats, it will settle for 8+1. This according to sources throughout the league.

How much that will cost the conference in incentives is unknown.

Not a fan of this, Expect the issue to continue to rear its head. It is still going to be a headache for a lot of schools for scheduling. After this season, we’ll see Clemson at Heinz Field in 2022.


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