Through three games, Pitt running back James Conner has made quick work of opposing defenses in becoming one of the nation's top statistical rushers. So far, however, the competition has been questionable and Conner will have his hands full against an Iowa defense that has looked good to date.
As I mentioned in the preview on Monday morning, the Iowa run defense has been tough on running backs. The Hawkeyes rank 30th in overall defense and haven't allowed a single 100-yard rusher yet this season.
Heading into this weekend, Iowa was giving up only 57 yards on the ground per game and tied for ninth in the nation. And despite a step up in competition, facing Iowa State, the Hawkeyes were again solid at the line of scrimmage, holding Iowa State to only 82 yards on the ground. Iowa State running backs averaged only three yards per carry in the game and that should be a concern for Pitt.
The biggest problem for the Panthers on offense has been the lack of a true passing attack. That hasn't been an issue so far since Conner and company have just run over everyone. But if the team struggles to run the ball, things all of a sudden get interesting in that quarterback Chad Voytik will be forced to air it out a bit more. Voytik needing to pass more isn't necessarily a problem, but with the team ranking near the bottom of passing in the nation, we really have no idea what kind of aerial game Pitt has.
The plan should and will be to get Conner going. But against a strong rushing defense, things might not be easy as they have through the first through contests.
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