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November 21, 2016

The Steady Drumbeat of a Blowout

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 8:39 am

The points didn’t come in one wild quarter or half. There wasn’t a defense that completely overwhelmed and demoralized Duke. Instead, they were steady consistent blows on both sides of the ball. It didn’t even feel like a blowout until you looked up at the score in 4th quarter.

Duke never quite seemed out of it in the first half. In part, because, Pitt fans have been conditioned this year to understand that no lead is truly safe. But primarily because while Pitt was dominating, they weren’t destroying.

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November 18, 2016

4:30 pm, ESPN2. Hope you finish work early today.

It wasn’t close to a debacle, but it wasn’t great either. Losing to this SMU team was not a surprise, but the second half performance by Pitt was disappointing.

As we have seen in all three games, Pitt is still a team that will go on extended scoring droughts and its commitment to defense ranges from indifferent to inconsistent.

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November 17, 2016

Ponies and Pitt

Filed under: Basketball,Open Thread,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 8:41 am

(Treat this as the open thread, as well. I am short on time and on DVR delay the next two nights due to my daughter’s school musical.)

It’s hard to believe that in all the years Kevin Stallings coached at Vandy, the Commodores never made it to Madison Square Garden. Just by virtue of the years and number of events had at MSG, you would think there would have been one game.

Pitt plays a good SMU team tonight. As usual Larry Brown cut corners and ran afoul of the NCAA on recruiting — again. Also, as usual, Larry Brown went Larry Brown over not being “appreciated” (read: more years and money — despite the NCAA sanctions and his suspension) and quit over the summer.

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November 16, 2016

I hope no one is assuming Duke is a gimmee at this point. Duke is a good team that has noticeably improved from the start of this season to this point. It was expected to be a rebuilding year for Duke, and it has. But there have been improvements in this team as the season progressed

Duke is sitting at 4-6, but it is not the same team that lost to Virginia and barely eked out a win over Army. They upset UNC the week before. They lost by only 3 to Virginia Tech the week before that. And last month they held Louisville and presumptive Heisman winner Lamar Jackson to by far their lowest offensive production of the season in a loss. (Plus, they beat ND which even if ND sucks, is worthy of giving them some props.)

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October 16, 2016

Surviving Inconsistency

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 8:39 am

Somehow made it threw the day without spoilers, and watched the Pitt-UVa game around 7pm last night. That broadcast was the full-on, classic ACC experience. A Raycom produced nightmare of awkward camera angles, following the wrong guy and flat out missed shots. Complete with a non-stop scroll that actually covered part of the screen rather than being below it.

And if that wasn’t enough, Ron Cherry as the lead official for the referee crew to make sure it was a flag fest. #goACC

As for Virginia, it is arguable that they now have the 3d or 4th best basketball-football combo in the ACC. Behind Louisville, UNC and a toss-up with VT. Bronco Mendenhall was a really good hire for the Hoos. You can see the improvement. Not just from last year, but from the start of the season.

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October 7, 2016

For a coach with defensive roots like Pat Narduzzi, getting burned by the triple option offense is not something he can just let go with ease. It clearly bothered him that Pitt struggled to contain GT last year and then Navy decimated Pitt in the bowl game.

To that end, he’s had the team practice for it since August.

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October 6, 2016

3 Storylines Heading into Week 6 vs. Georgia Tech

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Steven Callahan @ 6:55 am

If there’s such a thing as a “critical” phase of the Pittsburgh Panthers’ 2016 football schedule, it’s about to begin. Pitt (3-2) begins a crucial five-game stretch Saturday when it hosts Atlantic Coast Conference rival Georgia Tech at Heinz Field. The next five weeks will also see the Panthers facing league rivals Virginia Tech, Miami (Fla.), Clemson and Virginia.

Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is coming off back-to-back losses to Clemson and Miami and, like Pitt, is 3-2 on the season, as well as in a make-or-break point in its schedule. The Yellow Jackets are 1-2 in the ACC’s Coastal Division while Pitt is 0-1 in conference play.

Here are three storylines worth keeping an eye on for Pitt fans:

Can Pitt contain Tech’s run game?

Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense has befuddled a lot of teams over the years under coach Paul Johnson, with Pitt being no exception. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 370 yards against Pitt last year, although the Panthers won 31-28 on Chris Blewitt’s 56-yard field goal with just over a minute to play.

While Tech’s running game hasn’t been quite as prolific so far this season, it’s still averaging 226.8 rushing yards per game – which ranks fourth in the ACC – while freshman running back Dedrick Mills has shown plenty of promise. Mills has averaged 4.5 yards per carry while rushing for 370 yards through his team’s first five games.

Tech quarterback Justin Thomas is also a threat in the running game, but has cost his team with turnovers at times. Thomas lost two fumbles that were returned for touchdowns in last week’s 35-21 loss to Miami.

Will Jordan Whitehead play?

Pitt strong safety Jordan Whitehead, the ACC Rookie of the Year last season, sat out the Panthers’ win last week over Marshall. Whitehead started the Panthers’ first four games, but Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi wouldn’t discuss why the sophomore didn’t play a single down against the Thundering Herd.

Whitehead, like many other Pitt recruits is a homegrown talent, who occasionally plays on offense, is second on the team with 31 tackles and has a fumble recovery, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble. While Narduzzi remains mum on Whitehead’s availability for this Saturday, all indications are that Whitehead will be back in the lineup against Tech.

Is any lead safe for Pitt?

If Pitt jumps out to a sizable lead early against Tech you may want to postpone your trip to the concession stand. The Panthers had a 27-0 lead last week against Marshall, but let the Thundering Herd close the gap to 3 points before closing out a 42-27 win. Pitt let a 13-point lead turn into a last-second loss to North Carolina the week before, and had another late meltdown two weeks ago in a last-second loss to Oklahoma State.

October 5, 2016

Triple Option Week

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:29 am

Speaking of which, a quick update on the ACC football scheduling thing. ESPN has relented, and it looks like the status quo is likely to continue.

The ADs spent much of the last three-plus months in fierce debate over two alternatives offered by ESPN, both designed to create more quality programming for the ACC Network, set to launch in 2019. In exchange for financial incentives, ESPN asked for eight league games and two Power Five non-conference dates (8+2), or nine league games and one outside Power Five contest (9+1).

But during a conference call Tuesday morning to prepare for their face-to-face meetings, the athletic directors learned from ACC commissioner John Swofford that while ESPN prefers one of those formats, it will settle for 8+1. This according to sources throughout the league.

How much that will cost the conference in incentives is unknown.

Not a fan of this, Expect the issue to continue to rear its head. It is still going to be a headache for a lot of schools for scheduling. After this season, we’ll see Clemson at Heinz Field in 2022.

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September 23, 2016

The road to the ACC championship game could have a clearer picture after this weekend. Two of the best three teams in the ACC Coastal division will square off as the Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1) travel to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels (2-1). The winner of this game will have the higher ground against the other in a tight Coastal division. Here are five things to look out for in this highly touted matchup (ESPNU, 3:30).

Road Warriors?
The Panthers are 6-2 on the road against ACC opponents in the last two years, going 4-0 last season. However, even with the Panthers’ recent success on the road, they haven’t been able to win in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have won eight straight at home, their longest streak since 1997. UNC head coach Larry Fedora knows his team must come in focused saying, “This will probably be the best team we’ve played to this point, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

Run, Run, Run

The obvious offensive game plan for the Panthers will be to run the ball down the Tar Heel’s throats. With 717 total rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the year, this isn’t much of a different game plan than other games. The Tar Heels can’t stop a nosebleed when it comes to the run, allowing 680 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground this season. Look for a big day out of the entire running back corps, but especially James Conner. He is already up to 281 yards and three touchdowns on 63 carries this season for the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Fix The Secondary

Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky is coming off his best career game, throwing a career-high 432 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-28 win against James Madison. The Panthers secondary was just got torched by Oklahoma State, giving up 540 yards through the air. Head coach Pat Narduzzi called out the entire defense, taking special note of cornerback Avonte Maddox, who was on the wrong end of the majority of Oklahoma State’s James Washington’s 296 receiving yards. Narduzzi said, “They’ve got to understand it works when you do it right. It doesn’t work if you don’t do it right. If you continue to do it your way, we’re going to have problems.” Trubisky doesn’t make many mistakes, as he has eight touchdowns and zero interceptions this season.

Strength Vs. Strength

Besides Trubisky and the air attack, the Tar Heels will also feature first team All-ACC running back Elijah Hood in their offense — who UNC faithful will swear blind is as good as if not better than Conner and FSU’s Dalvin Cook. Hood will have his work cut out for him,though, as the Panthers own the 10th best rushing defense in the country. Pitt gives up just 75.7 yards per game on the ground. Hood is 37th in the nation and 6th in the ACC with 266 yards, 15 yards behind Panthers running back James Conner.

Ejuan Price vs. UNC Offensive Line

The matchup to look out for is Panthers’ senior defensive lineman Ejuan Price against the Tar Heels offensive line. Price was just named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week after his six tackles, four tackles for losses, two sacks, and one forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown against Oklahoma State. Price has been a monster this season and is on track to be in the All-American conversation. Price leads the entire nation in forced fumbles, and ranks fourth in sacks and tackles for losses. Tar Heels tackles Bentley Spain and Jon Heck will have to be accountable for Price all afternoon long. The Tar Heels have given up 16 sacks this season, including an astonishing 12 against Illinois.

Last season, UNC went 8-0 in ACC play, including a 26-19 victory against Pittsburgh. UNC went on to represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship, losing to Clemson 45-37. With Miami off to a hot start, this game has a lot of stake for each team’s playoff hopes. The Panthers must take advantage of UNC’s weak run defense and must neutralize Mitch Trubisky’s passing attack. If the Panthers can break the Tar Heel’s eight game home winning streak, they will be in prime position to play in the ACC Championship game.

September 16, 2016

Stripes and Injuries

Filed under: Football,Injury,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:30 am

Stripe-outs are the hot “new” trend in stadiums. I guess. Sure. Guess what Oklahoma St. has planned for Saturday afternoon?

The idea had been floated around in the Oklahoma State football offices a few years now. Discussions that never came to fruition. But Gundy kept pushing the idea, and on Saturday against Pittsburgh, his borrowed vision will finally become reality.

“I think college football is about striping the stadium and having orange pom-poms,” Gundy said. “I just think that’s the gameday experience.”

For the first time in history, some fans will be encouraged not to wear orange inside Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys’ 2:30 p.m. kickoff is featured as the “Stripe the Stadium” game where alternating orange and white seat sections are planned for the ESPN telecast.

I won’t deny they look pretty cool when well-executed, but the optimism and enthusiasm for this in Stillwater is seemingly lukewarm.

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September 15, 2016

Run for the Line

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 11:13 am

Before beginning, check out some real nice analysis of Pitt’s offense — especially with the sweep — by OSU blog Pistols Firing.

Oklahoma State is in an interesting position. They are favored by six points. They are at home. They and their fans feel righteously robbed of a win. Now, are in a must win situation this Saturday.

The concern in Stillwater is that their offense, while still fully there with the potential for explosiveness, has become predictable and almost exclusively about passing the ball.

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September 14, 2016

Passing Concerns

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:34 am

I’ll get this out of the way because while it is a gift that keeps on giving, there’s no time for it. Just something to file away until next September. James Franklin, the coach of Penn State, is now revising his comments on Pitt’s defense clapping. First, while admitting it messed up his team’s attempted clap cadence in the first quarter, he conceded it was legal. Now, he’s claiming otherwise.

Pitt’s defense is perfectly allowed to use clapping to signal their own defensive plays. The dispute — shockingly enough — poorly articulated by Franklin, is that Pitt was doing it to disrupt Penn St. The PSU QB Trace McSorley actually gives the reason why PSU is jumping on this excuse.

And while Narduzzi had said after the game Saturday that his defense used the clapping to signal each other in Week 1 against Villanova, McSorley wasn’t too sure about that.

“I hadn’t seen them clapping on the film the prior week,” McSorley said. “But I mean, if that’s what Coach Narduzzi said, I don’t know what they were talking about on their side. So I guess that is what it is.”

The counter-point is that PSU didn’t use much in the way of clapping as signals to each other at home against Kent St. the previous week. Citing previous week’s game tape isn’t conclusive of much.

At the end of the day, those were Big Ten refs on the field and they didn’t have a problem with it, so Franklin can go with “just another excuse.”

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September 13, 2016

On the argument that Pitt is more distracted, there is coming off a huge win against Penn State. Pitt players, coaches, fans, everyone acknowledges how big this was.

Yes, Narduzzi has his rule about having 24 hours to enjoy and then on to the next one.

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September 9, 2016

Making The Hate Easy

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 7:37 am

I am on the record as saying this is not a “Rivalry Game,” simply because it has been on hiatus for so long that the mood is a little different. These aren’t fanbases that have affection for each other. There is all the stuff in-state, especially with recruiting. But it is hard to call it a rivalry game.

But damn if the Nits don’t do their part to make me want it so, just for the hate.

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September 8, 2016

Musings and Notes

Filed under: Football,Non-con,Opponent(s),Schedule — Chas @ 7:35 am

I look at Penn State’s attempts at “unrivaled” to market their lack of a rival team the same way I view friends that try to pretend how happy they are not to be in a relationship. Constantly spinning the positives when you can see the desperation in them to be with someone. Anyone.

In that vein, I can’t bring myself to call this game a rivalry game. A resumption of on the field hostilities, perhaps, but not a real rivalry game. I wish it wasn’t so. But it isn’t. It should be, but I don’t know that even Pitt is feeling like it can or should happen annually. Despite what AD Scott Barnes is saying.

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