Not paying attention to this game this week? Guilty as charged.
It's been an absolutely crazy week from the real life perspective and other than catching some limited stuff on talk shows, Rutgers week never got off the ground for me other than a look at Lucas Nix' injury.
So what's this week got in store for Pitt?
Well, the big question is, was last week's game against USF an aberration or is that what we can expect from Pitt going forward? Call me crazy, but I think the Panthers are on the right track. Despite a 2-2 record, the very real fact remained that Todd Graham was right when he said the team was getting better. They struggled against Maine and Buffalo, but that was somewhat to be expected when playing with such a new offense. Was I surprised they struggled to the degree they did? Maybe a little. But here are some facts that most of us ignored as Pitt stumbled out to a 2-2 record:
- They beat Buffalo by 19 points. Not a huge blowout, but a comfortable margin - especially for their first game in a brand new offense
- They were up by 20 against Maine in the fourth quarter before giving up a couple of late scores
- They were up by 17 in the fourth quarter against Iowa on the road
- They played Notre Dame competitively and lost by three - the same Notre Dame team that practically had 5-0 Michigan beaten in the Big House
The simple fact is that while we (myself included) were busy ripping the team, things weren't necessarily all that bad. The fourth quarter collapse against Iowa was abysmal, but I'd hardly call giving up one touchdown in the fourth quarter to the Irish as a monumental disaster. Or two touchdowns to Maine late after the game was decided. I'm kind of getting a kick at all of the talk I've seen around the internet that Rutgers should win this game or this game is basically a pick 'em.
Trust me, it's not. If Pitt loses this game, it surely is an upset.
Perhaps most laughable is the fact that Rutgers fans have pointed out that Pitt has struggled against lesser opponents while in the same breath failing to mention their team's 12-point win at home against Ohio. In the words of Lisa Kudrow from Friends - 'Hello, Pot - it's Mr. Kettle. You're black.'
Pitt is not only likely the better team, they're clearly the better team. And probably by a bigger margin than most are willing to admit. Pitt has a weak offensive line and hasn't always had great quarterback play, but Tino Sunseri has played his two best games of the year in his last two starts. Things are looking up.
Now for the bad news. Pitt's been anything but lights out in Jersey, losing two of the past three games. I always cringe when Pitt has to go there, because there are lots of bad memories, to be sure. Even when Pitt has had the better team, they've found ways to lose at times. Rutgers is a scary opponent to a degree and they played a respectable North Carolina tight.
Can Pitt lose this game? Absolutely. If Tino struggles and Pitt is forced to go to Trey Anderson on the road behind a weak offensive line, that would be trouble. In addition, in any game, turnovers can kill you.
What's my pick? Well, I'm going to start off by
quietly arrogantly reminding everyone that I'm 5-0 on the season in picking Pitt's games. I've picked them to lose at Iowa and to Notre Dame, so as always, this is a pretty unbiased pick, in my opinion - I don't pick Pitt just because it's trendy and really, it's hard picking against the Panthers. Rutgers is playing at home, but last I checked that's not worth several touchdowns. And truthfully, that's about how much better Pitt probably is than Rutgers. I don't think Rutgers is as good as South Florida and Pitt beat USF by 27 points, so I don't see how that can be ignored. Pitt surely can lose this game, but I just don't see it. Panthers 31, Scarlet Knights 20