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Defense Key For Contending In 2012?

Pitt's defense may be the key this fall - not Tino Sunseri (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Pitt's defense may be the key this fall - not Tino Sunseri (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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We've been over this before - several times, in fact, since the season ended. ESPN's Andrea Adelson took a question in her weekly mailbag about Pitt last week and their chances to win the Big East. Here was her answer:

Adelson: Here is my argument for Pitt. The Panthers should have the best rushing team in the Big East, with the return of Ray Graham, plus the emergence of Isaac Bennett and potential of Rushel Shell. Add in a rushing mastermind in Paul Chryst, and the Panthers could beat teams by slowly wearing them down with their run game. Defensively, Pitt should be solid in the secondary, particularly at safety. Aaron Donald returns as one of the best linemen in the Big East. This is not a team that is going to throw up 40 points a game, but if it is able to play ball control and play well on defense, Pitt absolutely has a shot at winning the Big East.

The thing that interests me the most is her last statement that Pitt's defense can give them a shot at winning the Big East - not quarterback Tino Sunseri. Giving it some thought, I tend to agree - here's why.

We harp on Sunseri much of the time and while quarterback is the most oft-discussed position on most teams, it's particularly true at Pitt. We all keep saying that the key to Pitt is the quarterback play. While that's true to a degree, the Panthers' defense might have more to do with winning this season than Sunseri does. I'm sure I've contended that it all comes down to Tino at some point, but that might not be true.

Here's the logic: If Sunseri plays even at a mediocre level, Pitt should be able to hang with any team in the conference. But if the defense is only average, it's hard to see Pitt putting up a ton of points, as Adelson suggests. The fact is that Pitt doesn't need Tino to be spectacular. If he can simply (and I hate this term) manage games, then Pitt should be a contender.

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