Pitt Vs. The FIU Isiah Thomases

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 23: Tino Sunseri #12 of the Pittsburgh Panthers calls a play in the huddle during the game against the Miami Hurricanes on September 23 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Face it, unless you went there, the only thing you know about FIU is that Isaiah Thomas is the basketball coach.

You probably didn't even know that Dave Wannstedt was at Miami for the beginning of FIU current football coach Mario Cristobal's time there as a player:

“He was a freshman, and we redshirted him when he came in (at Miami). Obviously I knew who he was, but I did not have direct dealings with him. Tony Wise actually coached him. I know that he was one of those recruits that was around the program all the time, right there in our back yard, I believe from Columbus High School right there."

Usually a game with a team from the Sun Belt is an easy way to get healthy and reload. But Pitt should face a test in this game. True, FIU is 0-3. But the school has lost three fairly close games to BCS-conference teams, Rutgers, Texas A&M, and Maryland. None of those teams are world beaters, but FIU kept each game close.

First it was blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Rutgers.

Then they couldn't hold a whopping 20-6 lead against A&M - again in the fourth quarter.

Last week FIU hung with Maryland, trailing by only seven in the fourth quarter, only to fall short yet again.

Sensing a theme here?

Well, actually it hasn't only been the fourth quarter that's been an issue. While FIU has outscored its opponents 45-10 in the first and third quarters, the team has been outscored 78-17 in the second and fourth quarters. Ouch.

Still the fact that they've managed to be in each game is cause for concern for Pitt. Need another reason to be cautious about FIU? How about the fact that their offense has actually performed better than Pitt's in terms of moving the ball. FIU ranks 56th in the nation in passing - Pitt is 85th. FIU is 78th in rushing - Pitt is 83rd. Utah and Miami are stiffer challenges than anyone FIU has played, but Pitt's offense shouldn't be struggling this bad.

Another thing to think about is the fact that FIU ranks 10th in the nation in sacks allowed (.33 per game). Pitt has had a fairly hard enough time getting pressure on opposing QBs and this game could make things even tougher for the defense. If Pitt is unable to get any pressure on the QB, well, we've all see what happens in the secondary when opposing teams have time to pass.

Meanwhile on the Pitt side, Dave Wannstedt isn't panicking yet, as evidenced by only making one significant move this week:

"I hate to make a change in one position when we're struggling as a group," Wannstedt said Monday. "When you don't win a game, when you get beat like we did on Thursday, as a coach you have the tendency to look at everything under the microscope a lot closer after a loss than you do after a win."

One change that wasn't made was benching QB Tino Sunseri. Even though Frank Cignetti says Sunseri isn't on a shortened leash, it sure doesn't sound that way:

"I wouldn’t say (Sunseri) is on a shorter leash, but every position, you’ve got to evaluate performance," Cignetti said. "If the guy on the field isn’t giving us the best chance of winning the game, then changes might have to be made."

I'm not in favor of benching Sunseri. I've gone over this before, but I think we've seen what Pitt has in Pat Bostick. He's a capable backup, but even in the major wins he's had over his career, he's struggled mightily. Sunseri may not have performed great to this point, but he's not giving games away with costly turnovers. I'd stick with him at this point for the simple fact that I don't think Bostick is a better option.

The bottom line is that Pitt should have enough talent on both sides of the ball to win this game. Mix in the fact that they're off to a bad start desperately needing a win before going on the road at Notre Dame, and I fully expect the Panthers to win. But I don't know if you can expect to see a 19-20 point win like the oddsmakers are calling for.

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