Last week, there was a lot of talk about Miami being the toughest remaining game on Pitt’s schedule. This week, the Panthers could be facing their easiest remaining opponent.
No conference game is a layup, really — at least if your name isn’t Clemson, anyway. And we saw that as Georgia Tech actually beat Miami recently. But if you’re in the prediction-making business, the game against the Yellow Jackets on Saturday looks like the Panthers’ easiest one on paper.
In short, Georgia Tech has not been good this season, folks. They upset Miami in a shocking 28-21 game but are only 2-5 on the season. Their other lone win was a 14-10 squeaker against a .500 South Florida team.
How bad are things at Georgia Tech these days? They lost to The Citadel and were beaten soundly by Duke, Temple, and North Carolina. And they were (like everyone else) beaten badly by Clemson, losing 52-14. It’s been a rough year and with games still remaining against Virginia, Virginia Tech, and NC State before a finale against top ten Georgia, well, there doesn’t look to be a lot of promise moving forward.
Offensively, Georgia Tech has been a disaster. They’ve not topped 30 points all season and, facing a very good Pitt defense, that could mean trouble. The 314 total yards per game they’ve put up is near the bottom of the entire FBS, as is the 18.1 points per contest they are average. The Yellow Jackets are, of course, adjusting to a new offense that isn’t the triple option like we’re used to seeing. And even though the triple option is gone, ironically, part of the reason Georgia Tech couldn’t beat The Citadel was because they couldn’t stop the triple option.
Now, the Panthers haven’t been world beaters on offense, either. Let’s be honest here. The 21 points they’re scoring per game is just slightly better than what the Yellow Jackets have done. Plus, Georgia Tech scored 28 on Miami, which was more than twice what Pitt could accomplish. The difference in this one, though, should be the defenses.
There, of course, Pitt has the edge with a team that ranks No. 14 in the nation in total defense. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, checks in at No. 83 in that category, allowing about 120 more yards per game than the Panthers.
The Pitt defense should be licking its chops coming into this one. Georgia Tech has played three quarterbacks this year and none have been very good. Lately, though, it’s been the James Graham show. Graham, a freshman, has predictably taken his lumps. He’s completed just under 46% of his passes and has thrown three picks to only five touchdowns. The feature of the Georgia Tech offense is really the running game with the key guy there being Jordan Mason (566 yards, 6.0 ypc and six touchdowns).
My guess is we see a lot more Mason than we do Graham. Mason has rushed for more than 100 yards in his past two games while Graham didn’t even throw for 100 yards in the last game against Miami. I suspect the Yellow Jackets will lean on the run — at least unless Pitt absolutely shuts it down and routinely forces Georgia Tech into third and long situations and makes them play from behind.
Like I said, I’m not exactly chalking this up as a gimme for the Panthers. It’s a road game and Pitt’s offense really struggled in the red zone last week, which is cause for concern. Georgia Tech is also coming off of a bye and should be well rested. But it’s also hard to see the Panthers losing this one and they should be plenty motivated after that disappointing loss to Miami this past weekend.
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill’s Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.