So Pitt returns to national TV tonight at UConn with the hopes to advancing to 4-0 in Big East play and taking an even firmer grasp on the conference title.
So of course, it’s time to debate Pitt at UConn in this week’s Blogger Debate! If you’re new to the debate, Pitt Blather, Pitt Script and The Fighting Wannstaches join me to preview every game to give our take. So for this week — could the Panthers really blow a two-game lead on the rest of the conference?
Question #1: Pitt has at least a two-game lead on the rest of the Big East. Is there any way the Panthers blow this and don’t win the conference?
Pitt Blather: There is always a way, and not just because of injuries. Three of four on the road. Just because Pitt has won its first three Big East games, does not mean this team is incapable of losing 3 of 4.
UConn has some confidence back and has had extra time to prepare. Plus Pitt has hardly done well with extra time. USF has B.J. Daniels looking much better. He’s an athletic threat at QB that has it in him to torture Pitt. The Backyard Brawl is the Backyard Brawl. You don’t assume anything there. Cinci has shown flashes of its offense. Pitt’s secondary is exploitable and the Bearcats can take advantage of it.
Pitt Script: It would be an absolutely monumental collapse if Pitt did not win the conference this season. A win on Thursday would effectively eliminate UConn, who would then have 3 conference loses and would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker against Pitt. WVU and Cincinnati play each other this weekend, so someone has to lose there too. With Syracuse’s loss last week against Louisville, the Orange will have a tough time overcoming Pitt’s head-to-head win, even if the Orange were to win their final two Big East games.
The Fighting Wannstaches: Is there any way Pitt blows a 21 point lead at home in the last 31 minutes for the BIG EAST championship? Oh wait. We have been here before and nothing is ever a sure bet in sports, let alone Pitt. All that cynicism aside, Pitt has been playing great football since the beginning of conference play and it would take a huge lapse for them to drop two of the last four games.
4-1-Zoo: I’ve said it since they were 2-3 and I’ll continue to say it now — the Panthers will run through the Big East. They are by far the most talented team in the conference and should have no problem as long as they continue to play up to their potential.
Question #2: Most bowl projections have Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl against a Big 12 opponent. How do you like that potential matchup?
Pitt Blather: I guess it depends on which Big 12 team. If it is Okie State, it could be a long night with their offense. Nebraska has big lines, but I like Pitt’s chances somewhat better against them.
Pitt Script: No clue. Pitt has been looking very solid lately, but it’s so hard to determine whether that’s because Pitt is actually pretty good or the Big East is just that bad. The non-Texas Big 12 teams are perennially overrated — but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t beat the champion of a sub-par Big East.
The Fighting Wannstaches: Ask us again once we know who the Big 12 champion is. The Big 12 currently boasts two of the Top 6 passing offenses in Oklahoma St (#3) and Oklahoma (#6), plus Nebraska (#7) in rushing offense. While the Panthers are a Top 20 defense, we would certainly prefer to play to Pitt’s strengths in rush defense, which ranks 4th behind only Boise St., Kent St., and Boston College. We know Nebraska was down to their third string QB this past weekend, but they certainly looked beatable against Paul Rhoads’ Iowa St. Cyclones.
4-1-Zoo: Honestly, I don’t like Pitt’s chances at all unless by some kind of luck it gets paired up against the ACC champion. Even though the Big 12 is having a little bit of a down year, I still don’t think it helps Pitt, whether the opponent is Nebraska, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
Question #3: UConn on Thursday night can be a tough atmosphere. What’s your level of worry for this game?
Pitt Blather: This season has shown that Pitt needs to worry about every game. Blow some redzone chances. Let UConn hang around, and it can completely go in the crapper.
Really, I worry about this game because this is one of Pitt’s last chances to make some sort of statement in front of a national audience. O-3 in that respect so far this season. It’s why they don’t get any votes in the polls (and hence hurts their BCS numbers).
Pitt Script: On a scale of 1-10, my level of worry regarding any game involving Pitt football can never recede below a 3. I’d say I’m about a 5 for this game. I expect to roll UConn, but I’m just conditioned to begin doubting Pitt whenever the stakes become somewhat high. A win on Thursday would set Pitt up so well the rest of the season that it feels like it just can’t happen yet. They haven’t really been tested in conference play and it just feels weird to be in the position Pitt is in right now considering winning the conference outright is something Pitt has yet to ever do.
The Fighting Wannstaches: We feel pretty comfortable about this game even after UConn’s upset of WVU, which was more of a case of WVU’s four turnovers than UConn blowing their doors off. Also, the Huskies’ quarterback depth chart is a mess right now. They have started three different QBs in each of their three conference games, and have come full circle to the previously benched Zach Frazer since Cody Endres left the program and Mike Box sustained a concussion. Top that off with the fact that even at a sellout, Rentscheler Field holds less than half of the fans we saw at the Notre Dame game earlier this season. While their fans will be loud and try to rollover their dislike for Pitt from basketball into football, it should be nothing new for the Panthers as long as they take care of business.
4-1-Zoo: This atmosphere has, for some reason, been colored as vaunted by many writers and personalities. It is in no way relatable to Rice-Eccles Stadium at Utah or Notre Dame Stadium. Pitt may struggle, but it will not be because of the atmosphere.
Question #4: What scares you the most about UConn?
Pitt Blather: Zach Frazer. I know what to expect with Todman running the ball. The Huskies defense will be good. It comes down to whether Frazer plays like he did early in the season or the way he did after injuries forced his return in the last game. I almost feel like he’s playing with nothing to lose at this point.
Pitt Script: Despite their success against Bilal Powell, I think Pitt will have a tough time stopping Jordan Todman. Todman is averaging over 130 yards per game — and that’s come mostly against 8 men in the box. UConn can rely on Todman to keep drives despite the passing game which ranks 102 in all of FBS. For Pitt, it’s a game of third downs; they have to get Todman off the field after 3-5 plays or else they’re going to find themselves in a tight, low-scoring game.
The Fighting Wannstaches: Besides the crime rate of nearby Hartford, the only thing that scares us about UConn is the fact that they are coming off a huge win against WVU. Jordan Todman has been UConn’s most consistent player, but going up against Pitt’s 4th ranked rush defense, that shouldn’t be an issue. Likewise with 1st string-turned 3rd string-turned 1st string QB Zach Frazer. Pitt needs to start quickly and squash any momentum that may be leftover during the 11 day break.
4-1-Zoo: Todman, Todman, Todman… and that crime rate TFW was talking about!
Question #5: Predictions…
Pitt Blather: Have I even been close all season? Probably not. Yet you keep asking. I figure Pitt pulls away slowly to win 30-20.
Pitt Script: While it pains me to predict success on national TV, I think Pitt takes care of business early to establish a big lead and then slowly allows UConn back in it before delivering the knock-out blow. 33-17.
The Fighting Wannstaches: Pitt continues to push on towards the conference championship, 31-14.
4-1-Zoo: I think it’s close until the second quarter starts. Not a blowout, but not a stressful watch. Pitt takes it, 27-10.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog