Pitt 2013 Football Preview
Its time! The college football season will be here soon and we wont have to rely on MLB or ESPNs replays of games from last season to get our sports fix. It is, thank God, the FINAL year of the BCS and the year when we get to see the on the field effect of conference realignment. The ACC welcomes Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame into the conference, well most of Notre Dame. Lets take a look at the Pitt Panthers.
Just like last season, the last few years has been a roller coaster ride for the Panthers football team. Through all the coaching changes Paul Chryst is ready for his second year as head coach. Pitt finished last season 6-7 (3-4 in the Big East) and with a loss to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl 38-17. The lows began with a loss to Youngstown St of the FCS 31-27 but they rebounded to beat Virginia Tech and then #19 Rutgers. There was also a couple of heartbreaking losses as well, a 1 point loss to Syracuse and a 3 overtime loss to the eventual national runner-up Notre Dame. Can Pitt steady the ride in 2013?
This will be the first time in four years that they will not be playing in a new system but they will be playing in a new conference. One of the glaring stats from last season that most be improved on is sacks allowed, they gave up 38 and were last in the Big East. Some bright spots from last season was their BE leading 10 turnovers and their 52.5% opponent TD rate in the red zone.
Pitt will have 13 returning starters (5 offense & 8 defense) but will be without QB Tino Sunseri, RB Ray Graham and RB Rushell Shell. Key returners are S Jason Hendricks (90 tackles 6 Int.), DT Aaron Donald (64 tackles 18.5 TFL 5.5 sacks), LB Todd Thomas (59 tackles) and WR Devin Street (73 Rec.). They are also bringing in a solid recruiting class that features OT Dorian Johnson, WR Tyler Boyd, QB TraVon Chapman and DT Tyrique Jarrett.
Finding reliable starters at QB and at RB will be crucial for the Panthers but they have alternatives. At QB will be ether redshirt freshman Chad Voytik or senior Tom Savage. With TraVon they should have 3 quality QB to chose from. Isaac Bennett appears to be poised as the starting RB after a solid preseason game. Malcolm Crocket and Desmond Brown would be his backups. This trio combined for only 41 carries in 2012. With the questions at QB and RB and with the loss of their #2 receiver, the offense looks to be the weakness of the team.
Tom Savage is 6-5 and has a strong arm but he hasn’t played since 2010 with Rutgers. At Rutgers he was a freshman All-American but struggled during his sophomore year. He is 192-368 for 2732 yds with 16 TD for his career. He led Rutgers to a 45-24 victory against UCF in the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl in his freshman year. After a falling out with the Rutgers coaching staff he transferred to Arizona but came to Pitt instead after a coaching change at Arizona. This will be his last year of eligibility. He was a 5 star recruit coming out of high school.
The defense is the clear strength of this team as they return 7 of their top 8 tacklers and return their top leaders in INT and sacks. Donald and Hendricks are hyped as preseason All-Conference selections.
Following a tough season opener against Florida St. the schedule could be set up to allow them to get their feet set under them during the first part of the year before ending with 5 tough games. The key to a successful 2013 for Pitt will be finding a QB and RB to step up and take control of the starting position. If this happens then an 8 win season is certainly possible but I will predict them to finish 7-5 (4-4) and in the mid pack of the ACC, which is certainly a good accomplishment in the tougher conference.
Here is a look at the Pitt 2013 football schedule;
Sept 2 Florida St its hard to pick against FSU here.
Sept 14 New Mexico should be the start of a winning streak.
Sept 21 @ Duke the Pitt defense should be enough to get the W.
Sept 28 Virginia playing at home gives the Panthers the edge.
Oct 12 @ Virginia Tech VT gets revenge from last season at home.
Oct 19 Old Dominion Pitt will need to avoid a Youngstown St repeat.
Oct 26 @ Navy A must win game for Pitt.
Nov 2 @ Georgia Tech GT playing at home gives them the edge.
Nov 9 Notre Dame ND will be favored.
Nov 16 N Carolina Pitt has the home field advantage here.
Nov 23 @ Syracuse A possible W and will be needed to reach 8 on the year
Nov 29 Miami another crucial game for Pitt to get 8.