After three weeks, Pitt still stands unbeaten. Next up? The Iowa Hawkeyes.
With Boston College's win over top ten USC this weekend, Pitt's win over the Eagles looks to be more significant. But with all due respect to Boston College, the Iowa game at the beginning of the season was the one a lot of fans were pointing to as the Panthers' first true test.
So far, though, Iowa hasn't looked as good as some of the early season predictions.
The Hawkeyes started out 2-0, but hardly looked dominant in defeating FCS team Northern Iowa by eight and beat Ball State by only four. Things caught up to them last week as they lost to rival Iowa State on a last-second field goal at home.
Despite a modest schedule to this point, Iowa hasn't scored points all that easily. Facing an FCS program, a MAC team, and a bad Big 12 program, you'd think the Hawkeyes would be scoring a little more than the 21.7 points per game (ranking near the bottom of the FBS) they currently are.
While their passing game has been middling, ranking in the middle of the FBS, the running game has been abysmal, ranking 95th. Not only haven't the Hawkeyes had a 100-yard rusher in any of their three games, but they don't even have a player with 100 yards on the season. Mark Weisman carries the load and leads the team with 32 carries, but so far, it's been a bit of a running back-by-committee approach with four guys getting at least ten carries.
But for as mediocre as the offense has been, the defense has been stout. Iowa is giving up less than 20 points a game, ranking 30th in the nation. Again, the level of competition hasn't been all that difficult, but so far, they've done a decent job there.
One question mark specifically for Pitt is going to be the effectiveness of the running game. Iowa's rush defense has been excellent so far this year and the team hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher yet. With the ground game being Pitt's bread and butter on offense, it presents an interesting matchup with James Conner vs. the Hawkeyes' defense. Ultimately, Pitt may need to do more passing and that's something that's still a huge unknown with Chad Voytik not needing to do much through the air so far.
My biggest concern about the game may be the Panthers' secondary. Those guys really haven't played all that well IMO over the past couple of games - particularly against Florida International on Saturday. Reggie Mitchell, Lafayette Pitts, and company could be in for a rough game if they don't show up ready to play. Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock hasn't been amazing and his game against Iowa State (16-24 for 146 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick) wasn't too inspiring. But he has shown the ability to post big numbers as he did against Ball State throwing for more than 300 yards. The secondary will be tested here for sure.
One thing to watch will be the rotation of cornerbacks and I'll be interested to see if secondary coach Troy Douglas will mix things up a little. During training camp, there were a lot of rotations used and Pitt really had a hard time settling on the starters - particularly after the losses of Titus Howard and Trenton Coles. We'll have to see what the coaches thought of the play last weekend and you almost wonder if some changes will come at any point.
This is a game Pitt can easily lose, but if we go by the track record of each team so far, it's hard not to like the Panthers at home. On the road might be a different story, but the Panthers' looking more impressive so far this year coupled with the game at Heinz Field makes me like Pitt in this one.
At first glance, this isn't a slam dunk for the Panthers but Pitt still appears to be the early favorite.
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