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August 31, 2010

What Would You Ask Ruben Brown?

Filed under: Alumni,Football,Good — Chas @ 6:49 pm

Greetings from NYC.

I’m looking over the Nike itinerary and part of the time is a chance for 1-on-1 interviews with the presenters.

As Ruben Brown is presenting the Pitt unis, I now have to figure out what to say to him other than, “Gee, you sure are big.”

Suggestions welcome.

Early Nike Uni Info

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 2:18 pm

Not sure why Pitt is not putting this info out there, but instead Miami has put out the Nike Press release in advance of tomorrow. Looks like they may have jumped the gun.

Ruben Brown will be presenting the Pitt uni. Here’s the basic description.

Pittsburgh: Notched Team Gold jersey numbers and stencil stripe on the helmet evoke steel I-beams in reference to Pittsburgh’s steel industry.

Reserving all judgment until I see it, but that sounds a lot like the iron beam Pitt logo.

They have info on all the other unis. Huggins is doing the intro on WVU. Wonder if he’ll entertain any questions on Joe Mazzula pissing in the street.

Running the Links

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 12:02 pm

Got to head out soon to the airport. Reminder for all of you in NYC, hope to see you at the Spring Lounge tonight around 7 pm. If you want to shoot me an e-mail with a cell number, I can text you. Especially if we head elsewhere.

Most surprising thing I read. A beer truck breaks apart on the South Side and there is no party.

Thin air? Really? Must useful information as to why they can’t worry about it. It takes at least 4 days to adjust. Coach Wannstedt is right on this. One extra day means nothing.

Puffer profile on Tino Sunseri. No pressure, kid.

Remember the 13 straight wins for Utah when they have 8 days or more to prepare? Well they also have a 17 game home winning streak. Well, much like the questionable value of that, 14 of the 17 wins came against teams that were below .500.  Again, it isn’t that Utah is overrated or a paper tiger. It is that these win streaks and numbers that a SID puts out are not worth very much.

Yes, Utah has a good offense. Not to mention a fast defense.

Ray Graham might be healthy enough to back-up Dion Lewis. Odds of seeing him on the field: slim.

As expected the only true freshmen to make the 2-deep were DT Aaron Donald and CB K’wuan Williams.

No one seems to be buying the whole argument that the O-line has looked iffy because it is going against Pitt’s D-line.

In case you hadn’t hear, the O-line is a big key to Pitt’s season.

Why didn’t I do any Q&A’s with Utah people? I didn’t have to.

Cardiac Hill has a one with Dick Facer of the Desert News. So does 93.7’s Chris Gates.

Anson at Cardiac Hill wasn’t done, as he also did one with Block U blog. Oh, and so did Bryan at Pitt Script.

Time to get going. Have to finish some things, and catch a flight.

Simulations are interesting, and seeing them used increasingly in sports creates an interesting question regarding the information input into the system.

The guys at WhatIfSports ran plenty of simulations for all the upcoming games this week. Including the Pitt-Utah game.

The Utes, expected to be TCU’s top challenger in college football’s top non-AQ conference, lose a tight one to Pitt, the Panthers winning more than 61% of the time but by an average of just a single point.

The score averaged out to 33-32. Not exactly the defensive battle expected.

The statistical inputs to the thousands of college football simulations are based on rigorous analysis of each team’s roster, depth charts and statistically based player rankings. Roster modifications are made in cases of injury or suspension and those player’s are removed from their team’s game simulation for that week.

Under normal circumstances, I would question the value of the simulations for the first game simply because the information is stale. It is based on the previous season.

In the case of this game, where the simulations result in a very, very slim win for Pitt it seems useless. Even slightly over 60% of the time with a Pitt the margin shows what a toss-up this game is.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this past Saturday was the last Saturday I expect to be doing house and yard projects or work until sometime in April. In just a few days, the season kicks off and Pitt is a big part of that start.

It should be one of the most hyped games of the week, but since it is on Versus rather than the Mouse Monopoly it is getting considerably less hype. Oh, well.

Papers keep running previews. Some  focusing on the Big East, and Pitt still is the favorite.

There’s an interesting theme I’ve been noticed, that didn’t crystallize for me until last night. I read this simple conference prediction rundown on DawgSports.

Pittsburgh. I have a special level of disdain for the Panthers—Georgia has a frustrating history with Pitt—and I have little inclination to repose faith in Dave Wannstedt, but Brian Kelly, Jim Leavitt, and Rich Rodriguez all are gone from what was never a deep league, putting the Panthers in a position to finish atop the conference.

Yeah. A frustrating history. Fun.


August 30, 2010

First Pre-Game Presser

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Wannstedt — Chas @ 4:59 pm

School starts for my kids this week. Between trying to get all the last minute stuff finished before they go back. Not to mention get stuff together for the quick trip to NYC, it’s been a little hectic.

Today has the first set of game notes for the season (PDF), along with the 2-deep. was the first pre-game presser for Coach Wannstedt. Not sure that anything truly ground-breaking was revealed. It was normal stuff, but still fun to comb through.

Let’s do this.

“We are excited about this week. The game won’t get here soon enough. Any time I think it’s the opening game, it always carries a lot of end-of-camp, beginning-of-season attitude and there’s that dead time in between when you’re practicing and it’s almost like a bowl game mentality.”

Oh, hell yeah. You and everyone else.


Little Views to the West

Filed under: Conference,Money,Non-BCS,Pac 10 — Chas @ 3:35 pm

A couple stories of interest with teams not involved with Pitt and a couple that do.

Really interesting article about Boise State and being able to keep up with the money part of college football. The school has been trying to get a $100 million stadium expansion plan launched so that they can generate more money. This on the heels on $48 million on new pressboxes/skyboxes and a practice facility.

At some point, the Broncos are going to hit a ceiling when it comes to raising money for football.

The Broncos have not found their T. Boone Pickens, an oil tycoon who has donated $400 million to Oklahoma State athletics. Or their Phil Knight, the Nike founder who has showered Oregon with nearly $200 million in gifts.

Boise State does not have a law school or a medical school, two professions that tend to produce wealthy alumni. It is still a young university. The local population/fan base simply may not be big enough to support the ambitions of the program.

And then there is a question of interest. Boise State, in the midst of a 14-0 season, sold out only two games last season. This season, only Oregon State is assured of being a sellout. Do the Broncos really need 53,000 seats, especially when the inevitable 8-5 season comes around?

They have had great success. At the same time the money they keep pouring into it is scary. It reminds me of public boondoggles in Cleveland (and plenty of other cities). Once they start the money flow to a project, the excuse for never stopping — even when it is clear how much of a sinkhole it is — inevitably comes down to, “well we have already put this much into it, we need to see it through and hope for the best.”


The Talent Levels Off

Filed under: Football,Honors,Players — Chas @ 9:00 am

Over the past ten years or so, it has become a little more noticeable that the talent level of high school football in Western PA has started to drop. It’s not a slam. It isn’t that there isn’t still plenty of solid players being produced and even stars. But there is definitely less big name talent than in the past.

Some of it is simply the population trends that has the area (and the whole state) losing population. Some of it is simply cyclical as there is a down time in the talent.

Still nothing drove the drop-off home like the P-G’s strange piece on the offensive talent in the region and its impact on college football. The players it hyped were Pitt’s Dion Lewis and Jon Baldwin, WVU’s Noel Devine, PSU’s Evan Royster and Terrelle Pryor of OSU. Of those players, only Baldwin and Pryor are actually from the area. Devine is from Florida, Lewis — New York and Royster is from Virginia.

If one of these players wins the Heisman, it would mark a return to a day when this part of the country turned out the best offensive skill players college football had to offer.

Between 1973-76, this region had a firm stranglehold on the Heisman

Penn State running back John Cappelletti won it in 1973, Ohio State running back Archie Griffin grabbed it in 1974 and ’75, and Pitt running back Tony Dorsett claimed it in 1976.

So, um, Western PA is now claiming Columbus and Morgantown?

There’s some excellent talent on the teams the P-G covers, and of course there is plenty of interest in Pryor because of his local ties. Yes, there’s a possibility of seeing the Heisman be tied in to the area this year. Still, couldn’t there have been a less awkward way to shoehorn them into a preview piece?

August 29, 2010

Updating Blather in NYC

Filed under: Admin,Alumni — Chas @ 7:08 pm

Flight information is set. Transportation from Newark to the city is set. Hotel is confirmed. The Nike fashion show is at 10 am on Wednesday. The only question mark is whether the plane is on time.

With the advice of SilverPanther in NYC, we are going to meet at the Spring Lounge Tuesday night around 7. It’s a decent location near the subway, and a solid draft beer selection.

Hoping there’s a good turnout to talk Pitt football, basketball, lost weekends in Oakland and anything else.

Just find the people that answer to the phrase, “Mark May will drop-kick Lou Holtz this year.”

The offensive line, in preparing for Utah knows it will not be the same as going against the defense in camp and practices.

The philosophy for Pitt’s defensive line is to get off the ball and whip the offensive line straight up. Wannstedt’s defenses rarely blitz and, when they do, the blitzes are reserved for certain situations.

Utah, however, will bring extra guys from all different directions, and Wannstedt said he expects to see a steady flow of run blitzes, blitzes off the edge and stunts from the Utes. That is why he said he is glad the Panthers’ offensive line has had extra time to prepare for the game.

“They are similar to a lot of teams we will face in that they do a lot of fire-zone pressure and whatnot,” right tackle Lucas Nix said. “The whole thing is they will have eight [players] in the box the whole time, or at least we’re expecting that, and then it becomes a matter of picking up tendencies.

“They are pretty much an edge rush team. We will see a little bit of pressure from the middle, but, for the most part, they are going to bring strong pressure from the tight end side and try to get in the way of our bread-and-butter plays.”

Karabin added, “Since it is the first game of the year, they will come out with some different things, some things which aren’t expected, but we’re going to try and prepare for anything they can really throw at us.”

I would say the best comparison to how Utah likes to attack on defense is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are a blitz-happy team that attacks and brings pressure as much as possible. Corner-blitzes, safeties, overloading a side. That has been the style of Schiano’s defenses and it seems much like what Pitt will see from Utah.


August 28, 2010

Defense, Defense, Defense

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 11:19 am

Seems to be something we can all agree. With a new QB and questions on the O-line, there is going to be extra pressure on the defense early. The number of stories this past week reflect that.

Bryan at PittScript has collected some, but wait, there’s still more.

There’s the fact that the defense is looking to get more turnovers.

During position drills, they work on tomahawks or punching at the ball. Soon, they will work on drills to emphasize the second defender arriving focused on the ball as much as the ball carrier.

“The big thing is that if they don’t go for the strip in practice, they are not going to go for it in the games,” Gattuso said. “Who knows what’s going to happen. But I know we’ve had 24 turnovers the last two years, and we’d like to get that into the 30s.”

Forced turnovers, obviously, correlate into winning. Last season, No. 2 Texas led the nation in forced turnovers. No. 3 Boise State and No. 4 Ohio State were tied for third among 118 Division I teams. National champion Alabama was 10th, and No. 7 Iowa was 11th.

But there are some exceptions. No. 3 Florida and No. 9 Penn State were tied for 50th. Among other top-25 teams, Southern California was 61st, Cincinnati 80th, LSU 89th.

“Turnovers usually come from aggressive play, fast play, confident play,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.

It’s a new wrinkle, and as long as they don’t forget the basics — tackle not hitting — it would be hard to be against this.

The fact that Pitt is expected to rely so heavily on the defense, especially in the first game has expectations of a low scoring match.

As for the whole season, Paul Zeise has collected submissions of predictions for how Pitt does this coming season.

August 27, 2010

Hitting the Player Pieces

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 9:58 am

Still backed up, and everytime I think I’m going to get caught-up, I get bogged down with other things.

The loyalty of the tailbacks seems to be a theme. Ray Graham has been noted for his loyalty despite a 4-star, sought after RB stuck behind Dion Lewis. Well, behind Graham is Jason Douglas. Another part of the 2009 recruiting class. The redshirt freshman has been just as loyal.

“I knew coming back this year that I was up against Ray and Dion and those two are great backs, the two best running backs I have ever seen,” Douglas said. “But if you are a competitor, you still have to come out and compete for your spot every day. And now I got an opportunity, I just need to go out there and make the most of it. I just want to make some plays, help Pitt win football games.

“You never know when your opportunity is going to come so you have to stick with it.”

Redshirt sophomore Chris Burns has also remained loyal despite not seeing playing time. I have to believe that part of it is simply they know that with RB Coach David Walker they are getting taught by the best out there.

AP wire article starring Tino Sunseri. Think the theme might be inexperience?

The No. 15 Panthers begin one of the nation’s toughest nonconference schedules Thursday at Utah, in a stadium where the home team hasn’t lost in three years. They’ll go there with a quarterback who’s never started a major college game.

Tino Sunseri, a redshirt sophomore, has thrown all of 17 college passes. He’s never stepped into a stadium knowing that his team’s success that day rested largely on his play. He’s never thrown a touchdown pass that’s won a college game, or thrown an interception that’s lost it.

Still, the Panthers don’t seem to be the least bit worried that Sunseri’s inexperience is a glaring negative going into one of the toughest road openers in school history.

“Everybody has to start somewhere,” Sunseri said. “Look at all the great quarterbacks who come out, Colt McCoy, all those other guys. They had to start and play some teams. I’d rather play one of the teams that’s good rather than a bad one.”

Everyone is publicly being confident.

The helpful thing is having a target like Jon Baldwin. Size, strength and hops.

Tristan Roberts gets some love from his local paper for being such a hard worker.

Motivating himself by just wanting to contribute to the team and stay healthy, Roberts has shot up the depth chart this offseason and currently finds his name in the starting lineup at weakside linebacker.

Roberts played some linebacker for the Panthers two years, but has not played every down since his days at Pennridge.

“I got here and played weak side, went to strong side, and now I am back learning the weak side more in depth,” Roberts said. “Weak does a lot more running around. The biggest challenge is the speed difference from high school. I used to be one of the fastest, now every defensive back is faster than me. It makes it more important that I know what is going on.”

And just as he gets the local profile, Paul Zeise blogs that Greg Williams seems to finally snapped out of a funk and is pushing hard to start.

Chris Jacobson is one of the three new starters for the interior of the O-line. And the only one that I feel reasonably confident can handle it.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life right now,” he said. “I’m ready to go and I feel great. The mental preparation, it’s all there now.”

The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder looks the part and has the physical tools. He could help make Pitt’s left side the dominant run side with Jason Pinkston.

“When he comes off that ball, he comes off low and hard,” said defensive tackle Myles Caragein, who was Jacobson’s high school teammate. “When you line up against him, it’s not a walk in the park. It’s a brawl every time.”

As for the rest of the line, Jacobson said he feels confident in center Alex Karabin and right guard Greg Gaskins. The three new starters, he said, “are going out there every day and proving ourselves.”

And we will be watching for that proof very intently.

If you were somehow hoping to never see Pitt play another 1-AA opponent, well, you were probably delusional in the first place.

Put the Delaware Blue Hens down for two games. One in 2014 and the other in 2019.

“We always have a competitive schedule,” Keeler said. “Philosophically, we’ve come to terms with, in those 11-game seasons, it really makes sense to try and stay away from a I-A game. The margin for error is already brutal in our conference, and nobody in the country is playing our schedule because we’re playing each other [in the CAA]. We’re fortunate that, with the crowds we have, we can try to schedule that way.

“But to get a regional game like this, against an opponent like Pitt, in a 12-game season, just made a lot of sense. We weren’t interested in going to Florida or Auburn, someplace like that. We wanted a game our fans could get to, like Maryland in 2008.”

The only players among those on Delaware’s team now who will still be here for the Aug. 30, 2014, game are freshmen who could be fifth-year seniors then. The 2019 game is Aug. 31.

A visit to Pittsburgh also has a lucrative benefit, as Delaware is certain to receive a financial guarantee. They are typically in the $400,000 to $500,000 range when a Division I-AA team visits a high-caliber I-A foe. UD did not reveal what payoff it will receive for the visits to Pitt.

In 1-AA most seasons are still 11 games. The years they will play Pitt are 12-game seasons.

Odds are strong there might be a mention of some guy named Flacco.

August 26, 2010

You look for trends, history and all those things that can help you in predicting an outcome. Utah has a very interesting little factoid might make you nervous.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham doesn’t use a wand or pull rabbits out of his hat.

Whittingham does, however, have a practice model in place to prepare the Utes for games with extra preparation time. Since October of 2007, they’ve won 13 straight contests when given more than a week to size up the opposition. The streak includes three bowl victories and a pair of season openers.

“I don’t believe it’s any magic in the practice plan,” he said. “I think it’s the way our players go about it.”

Of course, after pausing to think about the 13-0 mark, that is a little skewed, to not count the season opening loss to Oregon State and another loss to Air Force with more than a week to prepare that followed. That 13-0 mark also includes a game played 8 days later — technically more than a week, but barely seems to count in my view.


Not exactly sure why it is being reported like it is new information. The home-and-home and even road-home games for all teams were announced at the end of June., but the Big East home-and-homes were reannounced (or announced according to ESPN). I suppose there is some tidbits, like the possibly syphilitic induced dickery of Rick Pitino.

Pitt and Villanova received 13 of the 16 first-place votes. One of the three first-place votes went to St. John’s. Louisville coach Rick Pitino admitted he gave the Red Storm and new coach Steve Lavin a first-place vote May 14. “I was debating between St. John’s, Pittsburgh, Villanova and Cincinnati, but I didn’t want to put that on Mick [Cronin, Pitino’s former assistant] so I went with St. John’s.”

Pitino told Wednesday that he was sticking with St. John’s, saying in a text: “Nine seniors. Everyone but Pitt and Villanova lost key players.”

St. John’s was picked in the ballot to finish anywhere from first to 13th while Cincinnati’s range spread from fourth to 13th. Coaches couldn’t vote for their own teams.

Also worth noting that Providence mafia/Big East nepotistic associate commish Dan Gavitt’s comments about the tiers that go into setting the home-and-homes.


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