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August 22, 2012

Towards Semi-Rational Optimism

Filed under: Football — Chas @ 10:11 am

A week ago Spencer Hall of Every Day Should Be Saturday tweeted out this nugget.

It took a few more days for Pitt fans to reach that point but after the second scrimmage, it happened.

There’s a feeling that 8 wins is no longer the ceiling, but the floor. That this team, with this coach, with this schedule, in this conference could very well win 8-10 games as opposed to the 5-8 that seemed to be the range dating back to the spring.

Yes there remains serious questions about the O-line. The front five are set, but questions remain in terms of depth, health and overall ability.

The D-line has its own questions. Can Aaron Donald still thrive with more attention (and double-teams)? Will others step up to make teams pay for doubling on Donald? Ezell? Clemmings? Murphy? Smith? Lippert? Can they really be War Daddies?

The linebacker spots all seem to have questions. Whether it is health or simply having stability.

And the QB spot remain a place of angst.


The secondary looks so strong. The safeties are legitimately two-deep — and experienced. The cornerback positions look to be as strong as they have been in years.

Even if it takes Ray Graham some more time to come back from his ACL injury, Isaac Bennett has been continuing a strong spring in the summer. He’s not shying away from competition or learning from others at the spot. Malcolm Crockett has also had a solid summer camp. Heck, Rushel Shell has started getting carries in practice as Bennett has been day-to-day, and he seems to be coming around — but regardless he seems to be accepting of possibly redshirting like a good team player.

The Wide Receivers should bounce back in the new/old system. The Tight Ends stand to thrive and have the talent to do so.

Then, of course, there is the new coach and staff. Paul Chryst has everyone feeling optimistic — as you would hope when there is a new coach. That he can coach the kids up.

Hell, Chryst coached up Tyler Donovan in 2007 to help Wisconsin to a 9-3 regular season. Scott Tolzien was 20-4 from 2009-10 in the regular season. Why is 8 wins with Sunseri as QB in the Big East so outrageous an idea? Besides with Chad Voytik coming on strong in the final week of camp, who is to say he doesn’t take the reins from Sunseri at some point during the season?

It’s amazing how easy it is. How seductive it is to talk yourself into this.

The optimism and hope are good, though. I’d rather see some irrational exuberance towards the season than, “meh” or “maybe in time.”

My feeling is still in the 6-9 win range. There is just too many question marks on the line. Too little depth and too much reliance on players staying healthy. I like where the program is heading. I want to see Pitt doing nearly everything it can to win every game. I just don’t see anyway to avoid this ultimately being (yet another) transition year.

I’d be surprised to see Pitt get more than 7 wins. I certainly hope they get more, but I think 7 is realistic. Too many holes in the offense on the line and at QB…I think if Coach Chryst can get more out of these guys than expected, then the hope would be 8 wins (especially given the competition in the Big Least). I think that would be a very good first season. I think year 2 of the Chryst regime is the one that will have outsized expectations, and much tougher competition.

Comment by CJK 08.22.12 @ 10:17 am

Lets control the optimism until the outcome
of the Cincinnati game is in the record books.

Comment by JR 08.22.12 @ 10:21 am

I’m thinking 6-8 wins (regular season) this year… not enough depth and you know there are going to be injuries.
Yr 2 or next year… 6-8 wins… due to tougher competition and still not enough Oline and Dline depth.

Comment by Joe D 08.22.12 @ 10:32 am

Rumor has it that Shell is having some injury and adapting to the college game issues and is contemplating a possible redshirt option, any truth or does anyone care to comment?

8 wins is possible if the injury bug doesn’t bite them to bad but a 6 to 7 win season seems to be it.

Comment by WLAT and the Big Beat 08.22.12 @ 10:40 am

Chas, I very much agree. The excitement is intoxicating and we all want to see Pitt succeed so bad it is easy to believe that all the good will come true and all the bad will be avoided. With the 12 game schedule I usually look to the 4 games I am most certain Pitt will win, the 4 Pitt is most likely to lose and the 4 toss-ups. Without making any individual predictions, I think its fair to make a grouping roughly like this:

–YSU, Gardner-Webb, @Buffalo, Temple
–@Syracuse, @UConn, @Cincy, @USF
–@Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Louisville

If Pitt can actually take care of business against the weakest 4 teams on its schedule, I think they can probably manage 3 or 4 wins against the rest of that schedule. I think the Cincy game is absolutely huge and we will not have to wait too long to figure out what this team is capable of. If they can beat Cincy, I think 8 wins is very reachable.

Comment by TartanPanther 08.22.12 @ 10:53 am

All teams need to stay healthy. I’ve mentioned several times that the Cincy game is important & may set the tone for the entire season. This schedule has PITT primed to be 7-1 headed into the ND game. There is no reason if PITT brings the juice-fire every game for this team not to be successful!! Defense should be solid == offense more suited to personnel & Tino will have a solid year. 9-3/10-2 record. HAIL TO PITT !!

Comment by DC33 08.22.12 @ 11:10 am

OK – time for a prediction post. I’ll do that up today.

Comment by Reed 08.22.12 @ 11:30 am

9-3 (the optimist scenario)

YSU – Win
Cincy – Win
Va Tech – Loss
Gardner-Webb – Win
Syracuse – Win
Louisville – Win
Buffalo – Win
Temple – Win
Notre Dame – Loss
UConn – Win
Rutgers – Loss
USF – Win

Comment by TX Panther 08.22.12 @ 11:34 am

Certainly an 8 – 4 season will be okay for Chryst’s first year. But alot depends on our QB and the team staying healthy. HTP!

Comment by MariettaMike 08.22.12 @ 11:45 am

I’m with you, Chas. And I tend to think we’ll be on the lower end of your 6-9 wins forecast. The O-line is a house of cards and the starters really aren’t that great, anyway, and they have major issues at the QB position, as has been endlessly rehashed. Consequently, I don’t expect this team to score with ease, which means for them to get to nine wins, their defense is really going to have to be lights out. The defensive line looks capable in that regard, and should be a strength, but the rest of the defense strikes me as a group of solid but unspectacular players. There aren’t any Darrelle Revises back there, just some a bunch of good but not great college players.

Comment by Jeff 08.22.12 @ 11:51 am

I’m sticking with the Vegas line. 7-5 and a win in a minor bowl. And if we can go 7-5 during our first year in the ACC that should also be considered a success.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 08.22.12 @ 12:27 pm

If Pitt gets 7 wins in Year 1…
and 7 wins in Year 2…
Chryst will be on the hot seat…
However, I sort of agree with your predicitions… and i based that on the athletes currently on roster or 2013 committs. I think 6 wins should be in the bag… the 7th win this year… if all works well.

Comment by Joe D 08.22.12 @ 12:31 pm

A big plus this year is that the optimism is coming from the fans and the media, not from the declarations of the head coach.

Comment by Caw Miller 08.22.12 @ 12:32 pm

Wanny first 3 years..
2005 – 5-6
2006 – 6-6
2007 – 5-7
So, I need to correct myself… Chryst will have at least 3 years before being on the hot seat.

Comment by Joe D 08.22.12 @ 12:34 pm

Is Notre Dame actually slated to be good this year? I feel like every prediction I’ve seen on here has ND chalked up as a loss, but they’re notorious underachievers. We should’ve won last year. While playing at Notre Dame Stadium is a challenge, it’s not like Pitt hasn’t gone there and won before. I think Cincinatti will be a clear indicator of where Pitt is as a team in week 2. It’ll be interesting, to say the least.

Comment by PatMac 08.22.12 @ 12:39 pm

I agree with you Joe D. I don’t know what kind of expectations the administration laid out for HCPC, but I think win 7 this year and keep a clean program would be my expectation as a fan. You’d have to think that they’d give him 2-3 years in the ACC to raise the talent level up. But I really think the key thing is to keep the program clean after so many black eyes in recent years, and build a solid foundation for success. To me it like he’s been doing that (not trying to reopen the recruiting debate here…)but time will ultimately tell.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 08.22.12 @ 12:40 pm

I’d also say this…HCPC has done a better job than DW of finding transfer talent for areas of need. Tom Savage was a HUGE get IMHO and so was Champan. The QB position is a difference maker and I think in college you can win games with a team that has a good QB surrounded by a mediocre supporting cast. Ironically DW seemed to take the opposite tack…

Comment by Atlanta Panther 08.22.12 @ 12:43 pm

on the other hand, you can have an (1) average QB win the national championship or (2) win the Heisman if suurounded by the right cast …. (1) last year’s Bama QB and (2) that goof from Oklahoma who beat out Larry Futz for the Heisman (believe he is an insurance salesman)

Comment by wbb 08.22.12 @ 12:49 pm

Pitt is very likely to struggle early and gain momentum as the season progresses and they adjust to the new staff, new players, etc. Of course everyone will panic and start calling Chryst a bad hire until they turn it around.

As with almost every college team, expect them to lose some they should win and win some they should lose. Happens every year.

YSU – Win
Cincy – Loss
Va Tech – Loss
Gardner-Webb – Win
Syracuse – Loss
Louisville – Loss
Buffalo – Win
Temple – Win
Notre Dame – Win
UConn – Win
Rutgers – Winn
USF – Win


Comment by notrocketscience 08.22.12 @ 1:04 pm

PITT won 6 games last year in what can easily be described as a cluster f@$* !! Obviously PITT should have won @ Iowa & IMO they should have won the ND game. One question i think is important is how well will PC be @ managing the game ? I’m betting PC is a good coach & PITT goes 9-3. HTP

Comment by DC33 08.22.12 @ 1:11 pm

Getting past seven wins will depend on two things.

Will it be the same old Tino at crunch time or will he turn the corner and make the big play when the game is on the line?

Will the defense make the big stop when the game is on the line?

These two things have happened too seldom during the last two years.

Only time will tell.

Comment by gc 08.22.12 @ 1:29 pm

My pick is 8-4. Loses to va tech, nd, usf, and Louisville

Comment by John 08.22.12 @ 1:36 pm

The key to a successful season is to win the next game!!! We shall see how good Pitt is after no other game than the first – YSU. One game at a time breeds success. I have the feeling this team can be very successful. Having luck on our side to stay healthy all season will make a huge difference. A few bad luck injuries could ruin the year. Here’s to lots of Luck….. Successful teams credit their success to staying healthy.

Comment by Pantherd 08.22.12 @ 1:59 pm

Ah–Quinques, I miss it!

Comment by pitt1972 08.22.12 @ 2:03 pm

Tartan Panther–Barring injury depletion–I rack it this way–

Very Likley wins:

YSU, Gardner-Webb, @Buffalo, Temple

Likley wins:

@Syracuse, @UConn, @Cincy, @USF

Likely losses:

@Notre Dame, Virginia Tech

I just don’t see either Rutgers or Louisville as being at all special. I don’t see anyone on the schedule except ND & VATech as being more talented if Pitt stays fully healthy.

Comment by pitt1972 08.22.12 @ 2:09 pm

I also don’t see how, given the weaker schedule, and playing in a system more suited to the roster talent makeup, Pitt can help not win more games than the 6 in in 2011–provided, of course, there aren’t an unusual number of major injuries.

Comment by pitt1972 08.22.12 @ 2:14 pm

I would be happy just to see them successfully execute plays and look like a team that is well coached. I dont remember seeing that too much over the last 20 years.

Comment by pittfan6 08.22.12 @ 2:27 pm

In fact, IMO, if this team stays healthy and still doesn’t have a better W-L record than last year then we will know that Chryst isn’t the coach we hope he can/will be.

IMO, the first team cupboard was pretty bare for a run first pass second style team when Wanny arrived (no outstanding RBs; a weak defensive unit) but, that isn’t really the case this time.

The only serious concern that Pitt will have with an expected run to pass ratio between 65-35 and 70-30 and a strong defensive unit will be depth–and that won’t be a major issue, IMO, if the team can stay healthy.

Comment by pitt1972 08.22.12 @ 2:34 pm

Pitt1972 – An amazing Quinques story – I used to go into the bar when it was in Oakland. He moved out to Wexford and opened a little bar. I didn’t know it was there and a friend of mine mentioned it to me.I went in there for a beer and a Cheech Hoagie 8 years after Oakland and damn if he doesn’t say “Hi Marty, where you been?”.I could have fallen off the bar stool. That guy could remember things better than anyone I’ve ever met.

Comment by The Hagen 08.22.12 @ 2:41 pm

The biggest question mark is the head coach. Its a BIG step from assistant to head man.

Comment by alcofan 08.22.12 @ 2:57 pm

After watching the spring game I don’t see how our ceiling could be over 7 games. This will be a very poor offensive team. I think a lot of people are underestimating Temple.

Comment by Stashy 08.22.12 @ 3:02 pm

8-4 is how I see it. I might be alone in this one, but I think getting Savage is a big zero. I don’t even think he will play a down next year. Voytik will be the man and Chryst will be working Chapman in for a different look. I know people will refer to Wilson last year, but Wilson was an above average QB and had quite a bit of game experience in when he arrived at Wisconsin. Savage showed some flashes as a freshman and has just bounced around since.

Comment by FTM 08.22.12 @ 3:28 pm

We have some big brutes up front, problem is do we have enough of them?

Someone asked for a scouting report on YSU in the previous post. While we should/will beat them, they should not be taken lightly or overlooked, they are athletic, speedy and return a lot of veterans on both sides of the ball.

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Digdug 08.22.12 @ 3:28 pm

I think the health of both the offensive and defensive lines will be critical — since there seems to be a lack of experienced / quality depth in both

Comment by wbb 08.22.12 @ 3:33 pm

So, I guess 8-0 going into Notre Dame is not semi-rational, huh??

Comment by Dan 08.22.12 @ 3:49 pm

stashy–Can’t see the offense being any worse than last year–and I think the defense will be better. Scrimmages and spring games can’t tell us much since it is playing against yourself (Is the defense good or the offense bad?, does the defense very often know exactly what’s coming because it sees that offense so much? etc, etc.). We will just have to wait and see what develops. Hoping for the best!

Comment by pitt1972 08.22.12 @ 3:52 pm

where did you come from stashy?

Comment by pittkeith 08.22.12 @ 3:56 pm

7 wins this year and 7 wins next would be more wins than I’m expecting from them. I hope they win the Big East and go to a BCS Game, but I just don’t see it. The Cinci and Temple game are big games in that I’m not sure why so many fans have them chalked up as wins. Temple is not the Temple of the 1990’s. Though we seemed to have trouble with them even then.

Comment by Medium Panther 08.22.12 @ 4:08 pm

we go 10-2,sunseri benched against a division 2 school, where he belongs in the first place.

Comment by pittisit37 08.22.12 @ 5:14 pm

I don’t know who the hell Caw Miller is, never seen him post before, but I like what he’s selling already.

Miller quote,”A big plus this year is that the optimism is coming from the fans and the media, not from the declarations of the head coach”. That quote is Hig Octane Solid!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.22.12 @ 8:01 pm

Here is my approach to this year. Variables rein supreme this season. New coaching staff (again), lingering injuries to key players, wild card premium recruits, easy BE schedule, moving to a new conference in less than a year, under performing starting QB that actually could surprise us all with improved coaching, and who can predict about future injuries?

Now throw in the always present intangibles, luck, momentum and the all important one the belief in one’s own self realization.

What I mean by that is the paradigm shift that occurs when the individual and/or group mind set comes to the understanding that, “$hit I can actually do this”! Any psychgologist can explain this as simply believing in oneself or the concept of what once was only a concept is now reality based solely on the fact that it has actually occurred and has been accomplished.

So my prediction for Pitt this season is 3-10. Sure wins against Youngstown State and Gardner-Webb plus one more. The rest is gravy,,,,unless, a season changing win takes place on Sept 15th. The whole mind set for this team changes with a win against VA Tech. In my mind this OOC game is the key to the season for the Panthers.

No chance of that victory happening unless Pitt accomplishes a mild upset against Cincy the previous week. But with a win there, momentum starts to shift in Pitt’s favor. When VA Tech comes to town, lets hope that they think this team is still playing that High Octane Fraud Graham disorganized football that they’ve been watching tapes on, because then we actually have the chance to steal a win like we haven’t had since maybe WVA a few year ago. Anyone remember 13-9? The energy produced by that game lasted all the way into the following season, nine months later!

A win against the Hokies changes EVERYTHING. That happens, we’re 3-0 and the sky is the limit. Could go undefeated from there, because then this team and these players actually start realizing that they CAN go undefeated. The mind leads and the body follows, especially when dealing with a game like football especially when played bya bunch of young men full of testosterone that simply don’t know any better than to assume that they are invincible.

Magical seasons often occur for no other reason than because so many variables simply happen to fall into perfect alignment. This team, for this season has tons of those variables. What they currently lack are the essentials of momentum and the mindset that victory is a given, I don’t know, call it “the winning attitude”.

Pitt knocks off VA Tech and all of a sudden, that comes into being a realistic characteristic that this team acquires at just the right time during the season. Momentum takes over from there.

It is just a theory of mine at this point. Like I said we could just as well suck out the a$$, 3-10. But 10-2 is a possibility as well. Knock off VA Tech and the sky is the limit.

As I always say, that is why they play the games. Hail to Pitt.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.22.12 @ 8:49 pm

I have said before 10 and 2 at worst 9 and 3
you only have to believe.
even with tino.

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.22.12 @ 9:22 pm

Manasseh Garner a jr wr has left the wisconsin football program he is a native of pittsburgh
will he transfer to pitt will chryst even want him
6 foot tall 205 pounds .

Comment by FRANKCAN 08.22.12 @ 10:30 pm

Ok, I can’t avoid jumping in on this stuff even though trying to make sense of all the variables can make me want to chew on a towel! 9 and 3 this year barring major injuries to key players (this includes the o line) and just for fun and paranoia we don’t get sandbagged by Big East officials for jumping ship. The last one isn’t really very serious because I like to think that most football officials are rules guys and have professional integrity. Go Pitt!

Comment by opfim 08.22.12 @ 10:43 pm

Log me for 5-7 Season. Add 3 wins if there is a change at QB to Voytik

Comment by move_on 08.22.12 @ 10:50 pm

Pitt1972, I agree fully. In looking at the season that way, lets say we split the likely wins + the 2 loses. Best case split likely and get an upset between ND and VaTech… 8-4 to 9-3……very very good possiblity of either.

Comment by Bones 08.22.12 @ 11:29 pm

This is the not the Temple team of the mid 2000’s. Al Golden left the place in good shape. Did anybody watch the Maryland or Penn St. games from last year? I have no idea what Temple has coming back, but this is not an automatic W by any stretch. Based on the positioning of the schedule (before Notre Dame), this would appear to be a classic “look-ahead” game. Anyone who places a wager or two on NCAA football understands what that means.

Comment by dallas mike 08.23.12 @ 1:14 am

Frankcan- if you’re interested

Manasseh Garner was a 3 star on scout and rivals with Maryland, Minnesota, and some MAC schools. mainly MAC offers. Recruited by the one and only Joe Rudolph. I see him listed as 6’2. Was considered raw and has cut his teeth as a special teamer. layed in the Rose Bowl. a possibility.

Comment by Gordo 08.23.12 @ 3:22 am

Gordo, is it really necessary to include the kid’s sexual conquests when traveling to bowl games? I’m a kiss but don’t tell kind of guy myself. I just want to know if he’s a good football player. LOL

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.23.12 @ 7:43 am

“I think a lot of people are underestimating Temple.”

I tend to agree – I think Pitt has a greater chance of losing to Temple, say, than before UCONN, however the game is at home. I would further break down the games as follows:

Definite wins (3):

YSU, Gardner-Webb, @Buffalo

Very Likley wins (2):

@UCONN, Temple

Toss-up (5):

@Syracuse, @Cincy, @USF, Louisville, Rutgers

Likely losses (2):

@Notre Dame, Virginia Tech

Regarding the toss-ups, note ‘Cuse/Cincy/USF are all on the road. I would be happy to win at least 3 of these 5 and finish 8-4. This also puts us at 5-2 in BEAST, which I bet is enough to win the conference. HTP

Comment by pittbluegold 08.23.12 @ 8:19 am

@Dr. Tom LMAO!!

Comment by Dan 08.23.12 @ 9:13 am

Temple more of a concern than either Cincinnati or Virginia Tech.

Anyone who caught Temple in the bowl game last year knows the job that Steve Addazio has already done in elevating the program — more so than Golden actually accomplished.

Addazio had been my No. 1 choice for replacing Graham… Chryst No. 2.

Cincinnati is another well coached team that will be tough – could go either way.

However, already on the record with an upset of VAtech. See it as a defining moment for Chryst in his first season.

Comment by PittofDreams 08.23.12 @ 9:19 am

@ PittofDreams, great minds think alike, please refer to my post above (except for my math, if we stink we’re looking at 3-9 not 3-10).

VA Tech, has a history of letting an early game on their schedule get away from them. I live in Virginia and this OOC game is definitely being overlooked by the VA Tech faithful at least, hopefully we can catch them napping when they travel up to Pittsburgh. Hopefully Beamer and staff won’t be able to impress on them that they could get knocked off up at Heinz field if they don’t come to play.

We can only root that they beat Ga. Tech on their nationally televised home opener on Labor Day night, because if not, then Beamer will have them whipped into a frenzy for the next few games and that wouldn’t be a good thing for us.

This game will also expose our pocket/pass protection as well as our special teams execution. Hopefully both will stand up to their pressure. If we can keep the hungrey dogs up front from tearing Tino up, we definitely have a chance to shock the world.

It would be just the spring board of momentum that the Panthers could use to carry it forward into the meat of our schedule.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.23.12 @ 9:37 am

Good Doctor,

Something people might not know about Paul Chryst.

The guy is far more competitive than his easy going personality would suggest.

He loves the BIG GAMES and is cool under pressure when they arrive.

Comment by PittofDreams 08.23.12 @ 9:57 am

Hopefully in can transfer these qualities so as to become part of Sunseri’s character traits.

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.23.12 @ 1:48 pm

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