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2011 Pittsburgh Panthers Gambling Odds | Predictions

2011-2012 Football Previews – Big East Conference – Pittsburgh Panthers

The Pittsburgh Panthers football program is in the unique (and rather strange) position of firing coaches once they start to pay dividends in the win column.

Big East 2011-12 Football Previews: Pitt Panthers
Coach: Todd Graham
2010 Record: 8-5
Pitt Gambling Odds from Sportsbook.com to win BCS: +20000
Pitt Team Page – Players Stats – Roster – 2011 Schedule –>

Dave Wannstedt was canned after an eight-win season and before him, Walt Harris was made redundant after winning the Big East title. Coach Graham steps into the Steel City intending to change the scheme entirely.

Under Wannstedt, the Panthers had a pretty blue-collar attack to match their hometown. However, Graham will employ a hurry-up spread offense, where the QB is almost entirely taking snaps out of the shotgun formation.

The new-school, spread ’em out attack is not the first thing you think of when looking at Pennsylvania football, but Graham – and obviously the Pitt brain-trust – are convinced the program needs a change and that the new scheme will lead to prolonged Big East success.

Team Strengths

Pitt doesn’t yet have the perfect personnel for the spread offense, but that doesn’t mean there is no talent on the depth chart. Last year’s leading rusher, Dion Lewis, bolted early for the NFL, but 2010’s second horse Ray Graham still had 922 yards and eight scores as a back-up.

He’ll take the spotlight in 2011.

Catching the football, sophomore Devin Street and junior TE Hubie Graham (no relation to Ray or Coach Todd) will be stand-outs for junior QB Tino Sunseri.

The progress will be nudged along with some talented offensive lineman like senior guard Chris Jacobson and senior tackle Lucas Nix.

There is plenty of talent and experience on the defense, led by seniors Greg Williams, LB Max Gruder and speed in the secondary with the likes of Buddy Jackson, K’Waun Williams and safety Jarred Holley.

Team Weaknesses

At least on the offense, it seems like Graham will be taking a five-liter Mustang and trying to get it to run like a Mazda Miata.  The types of starters Pitt has are not perfectly suited to the spread, but it will only take a couple of years of gathering Graham’s recruits to eliminate that. [soliloquy id=”82219″]

Still, it seems like Pitt doesn’t have enough skilled wideouts to yield maximum results from the scheme.

The spread tends not to focus as much on the run game, but Ray Graham is one of the offense’s best players. A blue-collar offensive line that is used to road-grading also must acclimatize to a different style of blocking.

The Panthers look fine on “D”, but in the special teams, do-everything K/P Dan Hutchins (a Ray Guy semi-finalist) must be replaced.

Junior K Kevin Harper and strong-legged P Matt Yoklic will attempt to fill the void.

2011-12 Pitt Football Prediction: 9-4

Pittsburgh has excellent talent and always tends to be a big boy in the conference, but I think there will be some growing pains associated with the switch to a spread.

Todd Graham really knows what he’s doing, as he proved with turning the Tulsa offense into a fine-tuned machine, but it doesn’t happen at the drop of a hat and especially not when the offense you inherit is better suited to the Big Ten.

Pitt will be more skilled than the majority of the teams it plays in 2011, but there are some tough non-conference challenges in Iowa and Notre Dame, and the Panthers must also travel to Morgantown to play West Virginia.

Graham will likely have the Panthers back on top soon, but I don’t see it this year.

2011 Pitt Panthers Schedule

9/3/11 6:00 PM ET BUFF
9/10/11 1:00 PM ET MAINE
9/17/11 12:00 PM ET @IOWA
9/24/11 12:00 PM ET NOTRE
9/29/11 8:00 PM ET SOFLA
10/8/11 12:00 PM ET @RUTG
10/15/11 12:00 PM ET UTAH
10/26/11 8:00 PM ET CONN
11/5/11 12:00 PM ET CIN
11/12/11 12:00 PM ET @LOU
11/25/11 12:00 PM ET @WVIRG
12/3/11 12:00 PM ET SYR

Click here to check out MORE 2011 college football previews for the 2011-2012 NCAA Football Season!

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