August 31, 2007

I’m flicking between the Washington-Syracuse game — still no offense from the Orange — and Navy-Temple — the offense makes me nervous, but the defense is definitely going to be an issue.

This time tomorrow, I expect to be back in the parking lot enjoying some post-game tailgating while waiting for traffic to thin out.

The Trib breaks out its college football previews. For the Big East, they (or at least Rick Starr) predict Pitt to finish 5-7.

Joe Starkey says the fans need something to believe things are going forward. Something I touched on earlier this week.

Kevin Gorman uses numbers and topics to ask a lot of questions about Pitt this season.

5. After losing all three starting linebackers, has the defensive line improved enough to win the battles up front and take pressure off the first-year starters?

We’ll get an idea in about two weeks.

A Q&A with cornerback Kennard Cox.

Center Chris Vangas has managed to earn the starting Center position. Whether it’s by default or for being the best guy available is still debatable. Vangas at least seems aware of that and doesn’t want to give it up easily.

A bit of Zeise give and take. His online chat from yesterday.

Deke: Despite losing Revis,Blades and Session to the NFL, do you think the defense will be better this season because of the improved depth on the D-Line and both safeties are healthy?

Paul Zeise: I do think the defense will improve — and let’s face it, after watching Connecticut, West Virginia and Louisville combine to put up about 135 points and like 1,500 yards in the final three games of the year I’m fairly certain there is clearly plenty of room for improvement — for a number of reasons. You mentioned one — the line is (or at least should be) better, the safeties are much better and the linebackers I think as a group will be much better than anyone is giving them credit for. I really think this group of linebackers could be as productive as last year’s group.

Deke: Is the offensive line a concern? Or specifically, the interior O-line?

Paul Zeise: The entire offensive line for as long as I have covered Pitt has been and will be a concern until they prove otherwise. This year, you’d think the tackles will be fine but both of those guys have been banged up throughout camp. You’d also think the guards would be OK but both of those guys have been banged up as well. And center has been very inconsistent throughout camp. This is an area I have said consistently — I have no idea how good they are until we see them perform on Saturdays. I think they have the talent to be pretty good, but I’ll take a wait and see approach before I make any definitive statements about them.

And his Q&A from today.

Q: I think back to the USF game last year where like 2 or 3 OL went down in the matter of a few plays. I think a similar scenario played out against Ohio U. the year before. What if something like that happens this year? Is there depth to keep the Pitt OL from looking like a mid-level MAC team?

Zeise: Great question. When McGlynn is healthy and ready to go (he’ll dress tomorrow but I’d imagine he is not going to play), they have, I think, one legitimate reserve tackle in him and I think Dom Williams gives them a legitimate back-up guard. Craig Bokor has also played well enough that coaches feel comfortable putting him out there at guard. So, in short, I think they can have one or two (at the very most) injuries on the offense line and survive, but it is still slim pickings behind the starting five.

The more things change…

Eyeballing the Season

Filed under: Football,Prognostications — Chas @ 9:24 am

7-5. 4-8? 5-7? 6-6? 8-4? 9-3?

The first is the most reasonable and expected record from Pitt this season. The rest are the other possibilities. I hate predicting the season — mainly because I suck at it. Still, even casually we all do it. Eyeball the schedule and pick the expected wins, losses and toss-ups.

Eastern Michigan — Win — Just imagine the empty seats if Pitt drops this game.

Grambling — Win — Or this?

@ Michigan State — Loss (?) — On the plus side, Pitt is 2-0 versus Mark Dantonio coached teams. Of course Pitt is 0-5-1 versus Michigan State. Drew Stanton is no longer the QB, and Dantonio isn’t a spread option Coach. Big negative, RB Javon Ringer is back along with 4 of the 5 starting O-linemen from last year. If you buy into Pitt’s D-line being better because of experience, then it works against Pitt considering how the Spartans O-line manhandled Pitt last year. Michigan State isn’t that good, so a win is possible but I just can’t see it.

UConn — Win — Trap game. Pitt should win this one, but is fully capable of losing this. I mean, UConn didn’t score more than 23 points against a D-1A team last year but Pitt made them look like an offensive juggernaut by the end. Useless/meaningless factoid: in the two years under Wannstedt, Pitt is 3-7 in night games.

@ Virginia — Win (?) — Their defense returns 10 of 11 starters, and their offense 9 of 11. That doesn’t seem to be that great a thing, other than to have more experience. Still not much to fear from their receiving corps, but QB Sewell is a dual-threat. Obviously that is something that has killed Pitt before. I just think Pitt actually matches up well versus the Hoos from the coaching down through the players.

Navy — ??? — I find this one to be a complete toss-up every time I try to break it down. Honestly, the Navy offensive schemes seem too far out of the grasp of DC Rhoads. He struggles with the option. A triple option? Oy. On the other hand, virtually the entire Navy defense from last year is gone. That gives Pitt a real chance. Especially if Pitt can generate a real ground attack and keep the ball from the Navy offense.

Cinci — Win — I think Pitt matches up well with the Bearcats. Their wide-open offense, though, does give me pause. If Pitt loses this, it should be the final nail in Rhoads’ coaching coffin at Pitt.

@ Louisville — Loss — Just not seeing it.

Syracuse — Win — Pitt’s chance to even the all-time series at 30-30-3 with a win. Now I’m scared.

@ Rutgers — Loss — This hurts. It would make 3 straight losses to them, but I can’t see Pitt holding them.

USF — Win (?) — Another useless factoid. The Bulls are only 1-5 when playing in temps below 40 degrees. Late November in Pittsburgh. If you saw them go, uh, brittle last November in Cinci, then picking a weather-related loss is quite plausible.

@ WVU — Loss — I wish. Oh, how I wish.

So there you have it. Seven wins is my baseline expectation with a +/- 2. If all goes exceptionally well and breaks go right, then 9-3 is possible. The other way could fall to 5-7.

End of season meaning of the records:

  • 4-8 — Absolute disaster and major coaching overhaul.
  • 5-7 — Significantly disappointing. Very hard to defend the team and direction.
  • 6-6 — Frustrating. It means another season where Pitt was below .500 versus 1A teams.
  • 7-5 — Finally some progress. At least no dropping a game that shouldn’t have been lost.
  • 8-4 — Now we’re talking about heading in the right direction.
  • 9-3 — Expectations going into 2008 will be big.
  • 10-2 — Holy Crap!

Season starts in a little more than a day.

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