Pitt faced a top ten opponent last weekend in No. 4 Penn State and, don't look now, but things aren't exactly easing up this Saturday. The Panthers will battle No. 8/9 Oklahoma State this week in their second game against a top ten team in as many weeks.
The Panthers' secondary will again be tested by a more than capable passing attack. If you're looking for a key matchup for the game, look no further than the Pitt defensive backs vs. the Cowboys' receivers. That matchup, of course, didn't go well at all for Pitt last season as the Panthers allowed a whopping 540 passing yards in a 45-38 shootout that went against the team. Had Pitt had anything resembling even a passable defense against the aerial attack, they likely win that game.
Jhajuan Seales, one of the Cowboys' receivers that had a big game last season (seven catches for 129 yards), hass graduated. But the Panthers still must contend with Oklahoma State's top target, James Washington, who returned for his senior season. He had 1,380 receiving yards last year and more than 20% of that came against the Panthers alone. Washington had 296 receiving yards on eight catches and added three touchdowns. Washington is already off to another fast start this year with 243 yards in his first two games (albeit against some weaker competition).
Leading the offense is quarterback Mason Rudolph, who torched Pitt's secondary last year. He's also a senior and, through the team's first two games, he already has 638 passing yards.
The funny thing is that, for as good as the Cowboys' passing game has been, the rushing game has been even better this year. That's likely due to two blowout games and a lot of late runs but the Cowboys are 13th in the nation in rushing yards. Still, the threat of an effective rushing game will make it harder to play purely against the pass and makes their passing game that much more dangerous.
Defensively, Oklahoma State has been solid, too. Their first two opponents aren't great teams (Tulsa and South Alabama) but they've allowed only 31 points. I believe that Pitt's offense will be able to move the ball some and don't believe the Cowboys' defense is stifling. But I'd probably bet again Pitt putting up 38 points as they did last year with a better team.
It's hard to get a good handle on Oklahoma State. They are a very good team but how good is anybody's guess right now because they haven't played any real competition yet. That's true of most teams this early, though.
Pitt has a couple of things I like here. First, they've been tested significantly more with the Penn State game. And second, of course, they get the game at home. Is that, along with what looks to be an improved secondary, enough to give Pitt a win? I'm not sure. But if the Panthers clean up a few things from last week and can put touchdowns on the board instead of field goals, it should make for a competitive game.