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.