Pitt's football team will face a challenging test this weekend against No. 8/9 Oklahoma State. But while the Cowboys' passing game is something to watch, the ground attack has been even better so far.
Oklahoma State is averaging 308 passing yards a game and that is good for 30th in the country. And after seeing what they did with 540 passing yards last year against Pitt, that's my biggest concern. But the Cowboys have also put together two strong rushing performances this year that deserve attention.
Through two contests, Oklahoma State is averaging 332 yards per game on the ground, which is 13th in the country. For as much attention as we've given to the passing game, their run game has been, statistically, even better.
Part of what has made them so effective is that, like Pitt, they seem to have a multi-back approach. Justice Hill and J.D. King both have 159 yards on the ground. La'Darren Brown, a third guy in the mix, has 15 carries (second to only Hill) and has ripped off 130 yards. Even more humbling is that all three guys are underclassmen. Hill is a sophomore and King and Brown are both freshmen.
These guys aren't just grinding out yards and accumulating yardage on a ton of carries, either. There's big play potential in the group, which is kind of frightening as King and Brown have both broken off 70-plus yard runs. Their yardage-per-carry totals have been somewhat boosted by those long runs, but the group has a beyond-healthy 8.1 ypc on the season.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Cowboys haven't played world beaters here. The first game was against Tulsa and this weekend, they played at South Alabama. Neither of those teams has the run defense that Pitt does. But the Cowboys' success with the run is well documented. Last year, Hill ran for 1,126 yards on the season and now, it appears he has help with two quality freshmen. Pitt also gave up 101 rushing yards to Oklahoma State's Rennie Childs last year on only ten carries and he wasn't even the primary back. Point being, Pitt should be well aware of the Cowboys' ability to run.
Another key point is that the Cowboys have likely run a little more than normal based on the two early blowout wins. With both games in control relatively early, my guess is that you'll see them do a little more passing as the year goes on. But what Oklahoma State has managed to do on the ground has still been noteworthy, particularly because of some of the big gains and that gaudy yardage-per-carry average.
Despite the run game success, my primary concern remains about the passing attack. Pitt should be able to contain the running game to some degree but the secondary will be heavily tested again and could be a real issue for the Panthers. But it's pretty clear that, while Oklahoma State has a great passing game, the Panthers will need to prepare for a strong rushing attack as well.