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Previewing Miami

I don't know why...don't ask. But I've had a real problem getting up for this game. Maybe it's because my expectations are lowered since the Utah game. The more and more I think about this game, the more I can't help looking ahead to Pitt's real season - the Big East schedule. If Pitt were undefeated and in the top ten, I'd feel much differently.

But any way you look at it, it's still a game of significance.

For starters, the game will have pre- and post-game shows on the new Pitt network.

Okay, so these schools do have some history including the epic 1997 game:
The Panthers and Hurricanes, of course, used to be Big East brothers before Miami bolted for the ACC. Pitt only beat the the Hurricanes once during their Big East days, also on a Thursday night in 1997.
I was at that game as a student and remember it being a pretty big deal around campus. Because the game was on a Thursday, I think total attendance in classes that Friday campus-wide was somewhere in the dozens. Even though Miami wasn't the Miami of old, they were still ranked somewhere around #17 or #18 and it was considered a big win.

Then of course, there's the history between the two coaches:
Even deeper than that, though, is the connection between the two head coaches. Pittsburgh's Dave Wannstedt helped recruit Miami coach Randy Shannon out of high school when he was the Hurricanes' defensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson. Wannstedt then went on to the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, which drafted Shannon in the final round.
Later, when he became coach of the Miami Dolphins, Wannstedt promoted Shannon on his staff. He also helped him land the defensive coordinator job with the Hurricanes from there.

And then there's Pitt linebackers coach Bernard Clark, who played at the U - he'd like to see his linebackers step up:
His main concern is production and big plays. The linebackers have yet to produce a sack or a tackle for loss.

"I've been their worst critic, probably harder on them than they are on themselves," Clark said. "We have a lot more to go, they've played good, I'll say, but not to the level we think they should play at but each week they are getting better. I thought from the Utah game to the New Hampshire game, they got better."
So Pitt and Miami are familiar with each other. What else?

Well, speaking of linebackers, Coach Wannstedt says Dan Mason may not play. At all:
Sophomore middle linebacker Dan Mason, demoted to second team last week, may not play against Miami, according to coach Dave Wannstedt. Max Gruder is starting at middle linebacker, and Tristan Roberts will make his first career start at weak-side linebacker. Greg Williams will move to strong-side linebacker. When asked how the Panthers will use Mason, who was in Jason Douglas' car during a recent arrest, Wannstedt said, barring an injury or some other factor, "I don't know if we will. As of right now he is not on the depth chart as a starter, and he's not starting on any special teams," Wannstedt said.
Personally, because of his role in the Jason Douglas/DUI incident, I'm not sure he should be playing. But since he's not suspended, I'd be surprised if he didn't play at all. I think he sees some time, even if it's only limited.

Dave Wannstedt also covered a lot of ground in his press conference. Out of everything, this is what may have stuck out the most to me:

"He’s got it all. The second play of the game, if he’s forced to play, he’s capable of doing that. We don’t have anything different for Dion (Lewis) than we do for Ray. They’re both interchangeable."
Um, interchangeable? Really? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. Funny what a difference two games can make. Lewis was a Heisman trophy candidate and two games into the season and we're ready to call it a wash between he and Graham. Wow...not sure I'm buying that just yet. In looking at the entire context of the quote, I don't know if he really meant to use that specific word or that he's saying Graham is as good as Lewis. But just the fact that we're talking about them being interchangeable parts shows just how true 'What have you done for me lately' really is.

Meanwhile, on the Miami side of the ball, it's hard to get a handle on just how good Miami may be. Like Pitt, they're 1-1 and  lost their one challenge of the year and handily won against a weaker opponent.

One thing we know is that they have a somewhat dangerous quarterback, but one prone to mistakes:
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has thrown for four touchdowns and four interceptions through two games this season, and in 2009 he hit on 24 scores but also threw 17 picks.
That may be true, but we'll have to see how Pitt's secondary responds. They haven't exactly been world beaters. Some good news is that the secondary may get Dom DeCicco and Andrew Taglianetti back.

Also on an anciliary note, Pitt will be bringing back several hundred players, enough to rival the approximate 500 that helped close Pitt stadium:
Some of the players that are already confirmed include Tony Dorsett, Jimbo Covert, Bill Fralic, Ruben Brown, Al Romano, Randy Holloway, Jim Sweeney and former Pitt head coach John Majors.

"It was my job to get in touch with these guys, which we have over 330 guys (coming in)," Clancy said. "We had guys call in (Thursday). I talked to Ruben Brown, he’ll be in. We’re going to get close to 375 guys, 300 to 400 guys. There’s going to be some guys who call up, last couple of days like they always do. I’m surprised we have this many, this early."
Should be a fun night.  Well, if the Panthers win, anyway.