There's been a surprisingly little amount of Pitt-Utah stuff out there this week. Not sure if it's because it's a matchup of two lackluster teams or if it's because it's a non-conference matchup, but media coverage on the game has been lacking.
So what sticks out about this one?
Mostly, it's a matchup of two teams that have underachieved - in a big way. Utah's first season in the Pac-12 might not have been guaranteed to go well, but the Utes sit 2-3. The difference is, though, that Utah's played a killer schedule to this point. As SB Nation's Utah site, Block U, points out, their strength of schedule according to the Sagarin rankings is No. 8 in the nation.
Pitt's schedule has been tough, too (29th to be exact), but not murderous as Utah's has been. The Utes have already gone on the road to play USC and BYU and have played Washington and Arizona State at home. Those four teams are a combined 17-5 and no team has more than two losses. Even the one 'patsy' on the schedule, Montana State, is 5-1. Now, they've got the Panthers up next.
Another similarity? Quarterback situations.Both teams are struggling at QB, but for different reasons. Pitt's QBs have simply played below average, while Utah has quarterback issues due to injury. As Greg wrote this week, Utah starter Jordan Wynn is out for the season and has been replaced by Jon Hays. Last year against Pitt, Wynn had a big game completing 21 of 36 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns in Utah's win. You never like to see anyone injured, but Wynn being out is clearly a good thing for the Panthers. It doesn't guarantee a victory, obviously, but, well, Pitt's chances should be considerably better. Hays hasn't played all that well in place of Wynn and last week, like Tino Sunseri, threw three picks.
We've been over Pitt's quarterback situation a
hundred million times, but Sunseri is again getting the start this weekend according to head coach Todd Graham. I think the leash got a whole lot shorter, though, as Trey Anderson played a few series last week. Graham seems more willing to switch things up if needed, but the pickings are slim. As I mentioned yesterday, Mark Myers isn't likely getting a shot anytime soon.
Another advantage Pitt might have? The oft-quoted west coast to east coast trip. Head coach Kyle Whittingham admits it's a bit of a disadvantage:
Between the early kickoff and the time-zone difference, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is concerned his team might not be ready to play, so he is taking every precaution he can to acclimate the Utes for their 10 a.m. (noon eastern time) kickoff Saturday.
The Utes have been practicing in the mornings this week and are leaving for Pittsburgh on Thursday, a day earlier than usual.
"It is a concern, but we play the games when they tell us to," Whittingham said.
Traveling across the country? Eh, lots of teams do it. But playing the game at noon? I do think that could be a bit of a disadvantage. Utah's schedule is already thrown a bit off by leaving a day early. That will help the team get acclimated a bit better to the early game time (which is the plan), but I think that helps Pitt at least a small amount.
Then, there's the bulletin board material that we talked about earlier.
Pitt's Ray Graham is second in the nation with 149.8 yards rushing per game. Utah's John White is third in the Pac-12 and 27th nationally with a 100-yard average.
The Utes' "Wolfman," though, isn't looking at it as an individual matchup in any way, shape or form.
"Nope. I don't even know who he is, honestly. I really never pay attention to other players and stuff," White said. "I just worry about my team, you know, and we're going to go out there and compete and try to win."
Again, just stupid.
The bad news for Pitt? Todd Graham thinks Utah's defense is similar to Rutgers'. Great.
Look, I've got not clue about this game. At home and playing against an inexperienced quarterback (after playing horribly against Rutgers, no less), I think Pitt pulls this one out, but it's far from a guarantee. Pitt isn't nearly as bad as they looked last week, but they're not as good as they looked against USF, either. I think this is really an up and down team and I expect them to rebound for homecoming.
Pitt 24, Utah 20