Fresh off of their second straight win, there's some legitimate optimism around the program. Yeah, I get it. New Mexico? Duke? Not exactly heavyweights. And Pitt's defense against the Blue Devils was ... okay, so there aren't any actual words to describe it. Still, if we had looked at the schedule to this point before the season, most would be expecting a 2-1 record ... and that's exactly what Pitt has.
Next up is Virginia. The Cavaliers are looking better than expected to me. The loss against Oregon was even worse than Pitt's debacle against Florida State, but they've looked good otherwise and after a BYU win, have a more impressive victory under their belts than the Panthers do.
In Virginia, Pitt faces a run heavy team. The Hoos average nearly 200 yards on the ground and rank in the upper half of the FBS in rushing. The passing game, with only 170 yards per contest, leaves a lot to be desired. Even in the team's 49-0 blowout of VMI this weekend, Virginia had a modest 223 yards. Sophomore quarterback David Watford hasn't played real well so far and even in the blowout against VMI, overall, he wasn't real impressive. The biggest problem for Watford has been interceptions - he's thrown six of them to only three touchdowns. Watford's 66% completion percentage is solid, but other than that, I'm not sure he'll beat Pitt on his own. With 481 yards through three games, the passing hasn't been the strong point.
Despite that, though, the running game is still kind of a question mark to me. Kevin Parks leads the way with 260 yards, but was subpar in the team's first two games. He exploded for 135 yards against VMI, but had only 125 total against BYU and Oregon, averaging just over three yards per carry. Freshman Daniel Hamm has also gotten a bit of a workload (21 carries for 136 yards), but all of that came against VMI as he didn't register a carry in the first two games. The bottom line is that the running game was able to get going against VMI, but struggled against their other two opponents ... and the backfield could be the best unit on offense.
Defensively is what should worry the Panthers. Looking at their games from this season, your eyes will flock to the 59 points they gave up against Oregon. But they've had their good moments, too. They held BYU to 16 points - the same BYU that went on to score 40 against Texas. They also pitched a shutout this weekend against VMI. Yeah, it's VMI, but a shutout against anyone is impressive. The encouraging thing for Pitt fans is that the offense has been clicking extremely well and they should have chances to put up points on Saturday.
I'm not sure the Cavs are a great defensive team, but they definitely will be a good benchmark for Pitt. These two teams could be pretty evenly matched, so Pitt getting the game at home is an advantage.
And, oh yeah, Pitt's special teams needs to get better.
At first glance, this won't be a cakewalk for the Panthers. A win, though, is possible and maybe even to be expected.