For the first time in more than a month, Pitt will enter a football game coming off of a win. After three consecutive losses and a bye week, the Panthers finally carry a little bit of momentum into a game with their big victory against Virginia Tech.
Pitt will face another stiff test this week in Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have cooled off a bit after a 5-0 start that included wins against Virginia Tech and Miami. But even with consecutive losses against Duke and Georgia Tech, the team still has the look of a dangerous one.
They run the always challenging option and, as a result, are again one of the top rushing teams in the country, ranking fifth with more than 300 yards per game on the ground. As is generally the case, the Yellow Jackets also feature one of the nation's worst passing attacks, ranking 117th with only 157 yards per game.
It's mostly about stopping the run. Still, Pitt has to be wary of Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas. When he has thrown, Thomas hasn't been all that accurate, completing only about 47% of his attempts. But he has ten touchdowns to only three interceptions and generally won't give the game away for his team.
This game has the chance to be a high-scoring one. Not only does Georgia Tech put up nearly 35 points per game, their defense ranks near the bottom of college football, giving up just more than 28 points per contest. Notably, they gave up 38 points to Georgia Southern earlier this year and 48 this past weekend to North Carolina. Pitt's defense hasn't given up more than 25 points in a game yet this season, but if the option gives them trouble, the Yellow Jackets could score points.
Speaking of Georgia Tech's defense, their run defense in particular really plays into Pitt's favor. The Panthers rank 20th in the NCAA with James Conner leading the way and the Yellow Jackets rank 94th in run defense, allowing about 190 yards per game. Conner hasn't had a 100-yard game since the Panthers loss a month ago to Iowa, but that could change on Saturday. If nothing else, expect on the team to lean on him more than the 16 carries he got against Virginia Tech last week.
Pitt also gets the game at home and with the Panthers an early favorite for the game, it's easy to expect a win this weekend. That said, Georgia Tech scares me. For one, they're a good team as evidenced by the wins against Virginia Tech and Miami. Just as importantly, they're coming off of two straight losses. Just as Pitt was expected to come out and play with fire last week, you can expect the same out of the Yellow Jackets.
Also, while the teams aren't the same. A mediocre Georgia Tech team also defeated Pitt last year, 21-10.
This is a game Pitt can win and with Homecoming, the crowd should even be a decent one. But I fully expect the Yellow Jackets to come out and give a strong effort to avoid a three-game losing streak.