2013-14 Preview (ACC) Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is one of two new teams to the ACC this seasonand the timing isn’t great for this once proud program as they are coming off a mediocre season and will be breaking in a new QB.
Pittsburgh Panthers (Team Link)
Coach: Paul Chryst
2012 Record: 6-7
Odds of winning BCS Championship: +15,000
The defense should be pretty good but they will be facing a lot more potent offenses than they were used to seeing in the Big East, especially at the quarterback position.
This program has been sputtering for a while and I don’t think all these changes are going to help much.
The Panthers have a rare schedule that starts with a tough conference game and that won’t help either. Beginning with Florida State in week 1 they actually have three ACC games before the end of September. Two of those are winnable against Duke and Virginia and they will be good measures of how they stack up against their new conference foes.
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If they are 0-3 in the ACC heading into October it is going to be a very long season for coach Paul Chryst and Co.
The Panthers offense is going to look a lot different than it did last year when it was just so-so. Gone is long time, and oft maligned, starting QB Tino Sunseri who is being replaced by Tom Savage, who started as a freshman at Rutgers but has now transferred twice to become Pitt’s starter.
The running game also features a couple of untested players as last year’s second leading rusher, Rushel Shell, unexpectedly left the program after a fine freshman season. This offense is full of question marks, which might be an understatement.
The most reliable part of this offense coming into the season is WR Devin Street.
Street has increased his production every season he has been in the program and is looking to finish strong as a senior. If Savage can get him, and fellow returning starter TE J.P. Holtz ,the ball from behind an inexperienced line than Pitt should be OK.
That line could be very problematic though as only two starters return and they are expected to start two freshmen at left tackle and centre, arguably the two most important spots for a righty QB like Savage.
The situation is much brighter on the defensive side of the ball where 8 starters return from a unit that surrendered just 21ppg.
5 are seniors and they are going to be counted upon heavily to make this transition season as successful as possible. One guy to keep an eye on is DT Aaron Donald. He may be a little undersized but he is a terror that can really disrupt an offense.
He led the team in sacks (5.5) and tackles for a loss (18.5), the former being rare for an interior defensive lineman.
2013-14 Record Projection: 4 – 8
The poor record I predict is likely to be attributed to a step up in competition after the fact but really I think will be a result of this Pitt team just not being very good. Chryst is a coach that wants to have a dominant running game but that is unlikely to happen with so many new faces on the offense.
They might have more success passing the ball but with Street the most obvious weapon he is going to attract a lot of attention making it hard for him to make a lot of big plays. Meanwhile the defense will play its heart out and probably perform very well but it often won’t be enough to win.
I see a lot of 24-17 games for the Panthers this season, with Pitt often on the losing end. Since they will have a number of losses, especially early, many will discount Pitt but I think you would be wise to keep an eye on them.
Provided that defense performs as expected they could be an excellent ATS buster, especially against the strongest teams on their schedule.
4 of their losses last season were by 10 points or less and even though I am not expecting them to produce a lot of upsets I don’t think they will get hammered every week either.
Panthers 2013 Schedule:
SEP 2 – Florida State
SEP 14 – New Mexico
SEP 21 – @Duke
SEP 28 – Virginia
OCT 12 – @Virginia Tech
OCT 19 – Old Dominion
OCT 26 – @Navy
NOV 2 – @Georgia Tech
NOV 9 – Notre Dame
NOV 16 – North Carolina
NOV 23 – @Syracuse
NOV 29 – Miami