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September 30, 2012

We PITT fans were in the habit of biting our collective nails when Dave Wannstedt was coaching the team going into games coming off a bye week.  Because we are in that time period now and awaiting our game against Syracuse next Friday evening I thought I’d take a look back to see if that nervousness was justified and compare it to the results Paul Chryst had at his last job.

Since the 2005 season until his last year in 2010 Wannstedt had eight bye weeks over six seasons and compiled a 3-5 record in the games played after the bye.  Not very good all told and the image of his being poor at preparing the team over that long layoff is pretty accurate.

The breakdown of those games is as follows: one home loss; one home win; one away win and five away losses.  We kind of got screwed with the scheduling there as six of eight games were on the road.  One weird note is that in 2008 we had three bye week games that resulted in a win over Iowa at home; a win over Navy at home and a loss to Cincinnati at their place.

Fast forward up to today and let’s look at what kind of track record our current coach Paul Chryst, as the Offensive Coordinator at Wisconsin, had in getting his offense ready to play after an enforced layoff time.  Well, as it turns out Wisconsin was 4-3 overall.  They were good lately but very poor a few years ago.  Here is how it shook out (I used the offensive output as Chryst wasn’t the head coach):

’11 – W – 59 points – Indiana (1-11,  final record of opponent)

’10 – W – 34 points – @ Purdue (4-8)

’09 – W – 37 points – Purdue (5-7)

’08 – L – 25 points – @ UM (3-9)

’07 – L – 07 points – @ PSU (8-4)

’06 – L – 13 points – @ UM (10-2). This loss probably cost the eventual 11-1 Badgers a MNC.

’05 – W – 41 points – @ Hawai’i (5-7)

So,  4-3 over the last six years with all three losses and the three lowest scoring outputs being in away games. We see good production against sub .500 teams and poor production against the better teams.

As an aside let’s look at what Tino Sunseri has done coming off of a bye week.  In 2010 we played Miami at home in the nationally televised 31-3 loss debacle.  Sunseri, playing in three quarters, went 8 for 15, 61 yards and no TDs or INTs. We played like crap all around in that game but Sunseri’s performance wasn’t good at all.

In 2011 we went into Morgantown and played WVU to a 21-20 loss.  Sunseri again played poorly going 12 for 23, 137 yards and an INT.  This was the game that produced the infamous meltdowns that Sunseri became known for.  If you have the guts for it you can see those last sacks he took at the end of the game here.

Coming back to the present we play at the Carrier Dome this coming Friday evening.  SYR will have had a bye week to get their defense ready for us just as Chryst has had 13 days to prepare an offense. Reviewing these numbers and looking back at how hot and cold PITT has been over our first four games I think it will be a close, rather low scoring, loss for our Panthers.

Keep in mind that I’m not the greatest predictor of football outcomes and that the Panthers have been playing pretty well over the last two games as has Sunseri all season with exception of a few plays.  Paul Chryst isn’t Dave Wannstedt either.  My impression of DW was that there wasn’t a lot of adapting he and his OC were going to do depending on who the opponent was.  PITT was going to run their offense come hell or high water anyway.

Paul Chryst has a reputation of being able to look at the opponent and game plan to their weaknesses.  Let’s hope that he does it well this week.  SYR isn’t a powerhouse by any means but playing an away game coming off a break hasn’t been the best situation for PITT in the past.


Speaking of waiting, I’m surprised that the Louisville game is still TBA. This makes it difficult to plan ahead and confirm hotel reservations and travel plans, not to mention figuring out if an early departure from work on Friday is needed or not to make a noon or 1:00 pm Saturday kickoff the next day. Glad I don’t have to fly in to see the game, then I’d have to add airlines arrangements to the equation too.

Thirteen days out and still TBA, there’s the TV money talking for sure.

Comment by Dr. Tom 09.30.12 @ 11:57 am

If Pitt beats SU it might be a primetime Saturday evening game, I made my flight plans months ago, coming in Friday night.

Comment by Jim from Dallas 09.30.12 @ 12:57 pm

I agree about Wanny’s team being bad after byes. On the other hand … I remember in 08 that they had to go to Cuse on a Saturday and then had to travel to take on USF ranked 10th on a Thursday … and Pitt beat them.

Guess that this proves that his teams were good fundamentally but his gameplans left some to be desired. Later in 08, Schiano used the bye week to transform Rutgers from a running team to a passing team, which caught Pitt totally off guard. RU scored 54 pts, the start of 4 or 5 game win streak where they scored large in every game.

Comment by wbb 09.30.12 @ 1:34 pm

BTW, check this out! Pretty NEAT

link to

Comment by wbb 09.30.12 @ 1:35 pm

Wbb – who can ever forget that RU game…

“I expected Rutgers to come out running the ball and they came out throwing it. We didn’t get much pressure on them in the first half. The receivers ran right by us.”

You’d think that after throw for TDs in three out of their first four series DW would have figured the pass was going to factor pretty heavily in RU’s game plan.

13:36 1 00:55 RUTG 29 2 71 Passing Touchdown
10:12 1 01:12 RUTG 38 3 3 Interception
06:19 1 00:10 RUTG 21 1 79 Passing Touchdown
03:05 1 04:01 RUTG 28 10 72 Passing Touchdown
12:53 2 02:19 RUTG 44 4 56 Passing Touchdown
08:45 2 02:58 RUTG 31 5 69 Passing Touchdown

Comment by Reed 09.30.12 @ 2:22 pm

I think the fact that UW played UM twice in his early years (after byes)and played Purdue and Indiana the last 3 times had much to do with the W-L.

My concern is that the hometeam usually plays much better on weeknight games … consider UW beating Stanford on Thurs. Also consider that Pitt played its two best games last year on weeknights at home. UConn probably won the BE in 2010 tiebreaker because it played WVU and Pitt at home.

Comment by wbb 09.30.12 @ 2:58 pm

The table is set for Pitt to have a good turnout at Heinz Field for the Louisville game. The Stillers play at Tenn on The preceding Thursday night. That it’s still a TBA game makes it likely that it will be played no earlier than 330pm. Add in some crisp autumn weather and voila!!!…. all the makings for a great matchup with the Cardinals.

All our guys need to do Friday night is play well and win.

Comment by Joe Lawrence 09.30.12 @ 3:29 pm

Agree with you Dr Tom. Coming in with wife and a slew of Pitt fans. Why on earth has the time not been determined??

Comment by Dan 72 09.30.12 @ 4:31 pm

Blame it on ESPN/ABC. They haven’t scheduled Texas v. Oklahoma (ABC) that weekend yet. They do have Illinois v. Michigan at 3:30 also on ABC. ESPN only has one game scheduled and it’s on ESPN3 @ 7.

Comment by TheHoopZebra 09.30.12 @ 4:52 pm

Illinois can’t beat off, let alone beat Michigan. Outside of family and friends, no one in Illinois cares…Chicago roots for ND.
The relevant question is how Pitt handles the Syracuse ni huddle. We got burned early in Cin city: aided by a terrible turnover.
This is a game I lay at the feet of the defense AND kicking game. Of course, if the offense plays flawlessly, it will be a hoot, but the multiple penalties in the recent past make that a wet dream.
I admire you guys who travel a long distance to get here.
If the athletic department had half a brain…and that is a BIG IF, they would do a “fan who traveled the furthest isolation on the big screen.
Instead, we will get Joe Distillo telling us the painfully obvious.

Comment by SFPitt 09.30.12 @ 6:42 pm

FWIW, Eer fans willhave to travel to Austin next game …. very nice place to visit, but a long way to go

Comment by wbb 09.30.12 @ 7:48 pm

Homecoming, a football game (who are we playing?), Midnight Madness, Blue Gold game.

And best of all, an open invite to athletic department award presentations to Tim Grgurich and Roger Kingdom.

If you’re not there, you’re square.

Comment by steve1 09.30.12 @ 8:02 pm

Cuse receiver Marcus Sales has 4 consecutive 100 yd receiving games in a row. Sounds like a good one.

Comment by alcofan 09.30.12 @ 8:28 pm

Big East now has 3 ranked teams…ACC has 2….

Comment by Timmeh 09.30.12 @ 8:57 pm

Very disappointed you are picking us to lose!! We are going to win by more than a touchdown!

Comment by John In South Carolina 09.30.12 @ 9:28 pm

That may be true Timmeh, however, the BE is still a jumbled mess of schools.

ACC is a top conference.

Don’t know how that works, but anyone would rather be in the ACC than the BE.

Comment by Dan 10.01.12 @ 12:12 am

Games times are announced at the press conference 2 weeks before the game, which would be today…except for the 1 or 2 times a year that ESPN can throw their weight around and force the announcement to wait for a week. I expect to see that today, since a 3-2 Pitt team would be more attractive against Louisville than a 2-3 team.

Comment by KeyboardKev 10.01.12 @ 7:58 am

John – We really have no idea just how good or bad this PITT team is because we have been so up and down this season so far.

When a team loses to YSU then beats VT soundly there is no consistency. Without any consistency you have no way of predicting which games we will win. It makes the future a crap shoot.

Look at the supposed strength of our offense – the running game. We kick ass against Cincy then pretty much crap the bed against the weakest team on our schedule in Gardner Webb. Without Graham’s big run we had 4.2 ypc last game. Against a decent defense we may not even be able to get that on any given gameday.

Having said that – if we take down SYR on the road and soundly win that game I’ll start to feel a whole lot better as that would be three solid wins in a row.

PITT just hasn’t been good enough, or consistent enough, this season or over the years to be able to point to any future game and say “this one is a win”.

Comment by Reed 10.01.12 @ 8:23 am

Pitt guy filling for another pitt guy..
link to

Berry to the Jets

Comment by snala the panther 10.01.12 @ 8:39 am

[…] has not been good off a bye […]

Aaron Berry is even more obnoxious than Rex Ryan

Comment by wbb 10.01.12 @ 9:32 am

Syracuse has high scoring games at home and this could be an up and down the field game.

I was looking at parking downtown and walking to the Louisville game unless it is raining or at night.

Any suggestions?

Comment by Frank MD 10.01.12 @ 9:34 am

I always park downtown — don’t mind the extra 5-10 minute walk to an area where there is much less traffic (than stadium) and has access to all outward routes

Comment by wbb 10.01.12 @ 9:44 am

I agree with Dan – nobody would willingly join the BE if they could go to the ACC instead.

The rankings right now are pointless – what matters is where teams are at the end of the season, and I don’t expect 3 BE teams to be there then. Most teams have played more cupcake games than real ones at this point. Yes, some of the traditional powers in the ACC have been a bit down lately, but they won’t stay down for long, and 2 or 3 will still probably be ranked at the end of this year.

Except for Cincinnati, who I think is pretty good, the ranked BE teams are overrated. I don’t get all the Louisville hype – they weren’t that good last year, and are only marginally better this year. Rutgers might be good, but the only quality win they have is against a complete mess of an Arkansas team. Neither of these teams has really played anyone yet, and both need to back off all the cupcake games if they want anyone to take them seriously.

At the end of the day, I think the BE champ is going to be something like 4-3 in the conference and the whining will start again about how the BE shouldn’t be in the BCS. I will be so glad to get into the ACC – and I don’t miss WVU one little bit.

Comment by Steve S 10.01.12 @ 9:54 am

I found it odd that the Steelers and Pitt had a bye week… on the same week!

Comment by Joe D 10.01.12 @ 10:13 am

Excellent article on Chryst in today’s Trib.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.01.12 @ 10:20 am

Time to ramp it up toward Friday.

As you might be aware, I was on the money with Virginia Tech.

Syracuse concerns me.

See it as a possible stumble game where players could return to making some of their old mistakes.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.01.12 @ 10:27 am

Frank MD – one option is to park near Gateway Center and take the North Shore Connector… aka the subway tunnel under the Allegheny.

JoeD – the Pitt/Steeler bye thing has happened a few times in the past. No excuses for not doing chores around the house! haha

Comment by JLawrence 10.01.12 @ 10:28 am

Thanks for the parking stuff.

Maybe hit the Casino later and watch football.

WVU in metropolis Lubbock against TX Tech.

Comment by Frank MD 10.01.12 @ 10:37 am

Pitt of Dreams…I also have a bad feeling about this. But lets see. We had a long layoff before VT and it worked in our favor. Hopefully this will too. Carrier Dome is tough place to play though. If you’ve ever been inside…that air pressure is just plain weird.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 10.01.12 @ 10:49 am

Dokish is reporting that the Pitt – Louisville game will be an 11 AM start. Tailgating should commence shortly.

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 10.01.12 @ 11:40 am

The Fan just confirmed the 11 am start time.

Comment by wbb 10.01.12 @ 11:48 am

I was just about to post the 11am starting time. That is such a joke. I know “true fans” should show up at any start time, but we are talking about Pitt fans.

Comment by Wardapalooza 10.01.12 @ 11:53 am

11am what a frickin joke. NO and I mean NO college football games should start anywhere in the country at 11 am. This is why football, both pro & college is becoming a joke, ESPN whistles and they all salivate.

As for the Friday nite visit to the Carrier Dump, who knows with Pitt/Sunseri. Although he had one of his better career games there, two years ago when Saddler broke a long TD run after a short pass early on in a PITT rout.
You weigh that with the fact PITT usually stinks out the joint on the road in nite games. And the fact that Doug Marrone at 1-3 and coming off a teribble season has to have his back against the wall. A loss for Cuse would put them at 1-4 and headed towards another terrible season and his likely firing. I would have much preferred playing them immediately after they were reeling and we were humming.

And it is awfully strange, that PITT could have had the full attention of Pittsburgh for a change, what with the Steelers bye week, but NO that’s apparently not allowed as we have to have a bye week as well.

Bet ya ESPN also plays a role in scheduling the bye week, they play a role in everything else.

Who would have thought back in the 1980’s ESPN would become the monster they are now. The Entertainment Sports Programming Network. Meh

Comment by EMel 10.01.12 @ 12:37 pm

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