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Pitt vs. Georgia Tech Preview: As usual, shutting down Yellow Jackets' running game will be key for Panthers

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After two miserable weeks against top ten teams Penn State and Oklahoma State, Pitt doesn't have much time to catch its collective breath. The Panthers don't face a ranked team in Georgia Tech this week, but the Yellow Jackets are a formidable foe that won't be easy for the team in its first conference game.

As usual, the key to beating the Yellow Jackets will largely be shutting down the team's running game. Georgia Tech's run offense is difficult to stop and requires that defensive players not only be in position, but follow through and make tackles. That's important because the Panthers struggled in both of those areas against Oklahoma State this past weekend.

Georgia Tech (1-1) has racked up 372.5 rushing yards per game - good for first in the nation. They didn't play this weekend due to Hurricane Irma. The good news for Pitt and their beleaguered secondary is that they actually get a break this week as the Yellow Jackets (typically, anyway) barely throw the ball. Through two games, they have a total of 17 pass attempts and only 232 passing yards. While the running game isn't easy to stop, that should play into Pitt's hands as they have generally been worse against the pass.

It's also worth noting that Pitt has played well against Georgia Tech. Last season, they defeated them 37-34 at home and while they allowed 241 rushing yards, that was significantly below the Yellow Jackets' average. Pitt didn't stop the running game in 2015, giving up 376 yards on the ground. But they still ultimately prevailed, 31-28, on a game-winning Chris Blewitt 56-yard field goal. The Panthers were blown out by Georgia Tech in 2014 (56-28) but that was to a Yellow Jackets team that was 11-3 and ended up winning the Orange Bowl.

Pitt is also going to need to score points and I'm not sure they can be as successful on offense as they have been against Georgia Tech in past seasons. We don't even know who the Panthers' quarterback will be this Saturday and Pat Narduzzi might be wise to make that publicly known at game time so as not to give anything away in advance. Ben DiNucci (who I expect to see) and Max Browne couldn't be two more different types of quarterbacks and Pitt can gain an edge if the Yellow Jackets aren't sure which one they'll see.

I'm not quite sure what to expect this weekend. It all comes down to the Panthers' ability to stop Georgia Tech on the ground and they've had mixed success with that. One thing is for certain - they'll need to tackle much better than they did in the blowout loss to Oklahoma State this week.

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