Pitt’s football season continues this weekend with a game against Virginia Tech.
Make no mistake, this will not be an easy game. Both teams are 7-3 and have hopes to win the Coastal Division. We looked at last weekend’s contest against North Carolina as a tough one but, frankly, this one looks more difficult yet.
Coaches talk a lot about teams growing during the season. But while most teams get better as the year goes on, Virginia Tech has really been a prime example of a team that has improved.
Early on, this had the look of a bad football team. They dropped an opener to Boston College, were blown out by Duke, 45-10 (!), and had unimpressive victories over Old Dominion and Furman sandwiched in between.
But then things turned around. They went on the road and beat Miami. They looked more impressive in a win against Rhode Island and they beat North Carolina in a crazy game. Since then, they cruised against a decent Wake Forest team and most recently shut out Georgia Tech, 45-0. Even their one loss since the Duke game, a narrow 21-20 defeat looked more like a positive. In my mind, they look like the second best team in the ACC right now.
So what’s the reason for the turnaround? Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi says it’s been at quarterback.
“...the Hooker kid who we recruited out of high school, we offered him, has been really sound,” Narduzzi said in his recent press conference. “He’s thrown eight touchdowns, no interceptions. He gives them a chance to be in every football game because he’s taking care of the football.”
Now, to be clear, Virginia Tech hasn’t been lights out since the Duke game. They allowed a furious comeback by Miami before narrowly holding on in that one. They also needed six overtimes to take down North Carolina after losing a halftime lead in that one, too. But the Hokies, like Pitt, have proven to be resilient.
When you factor in their impressive run with the fact that the Panthers have to travel on the road, it looks like it should be a difficult game. As if that wasn’t enough, this will be the final home game for longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster there as he’s retiring after this year, so that’s sure to be a sentimental story line pounded into this week’s narrative.
His defense has been outstanding lately but the offense has been just as impressive, scoring 81 points the past two contests. They scored 41 in the six overtime game against North Carolina, which you take with a grain of salt. But they also hung 42 on Miami and topped 30 points in two non-conference games.
Pitt, of course, has been plenty impressive, too, winning six of their past seven games with the only blemish a 16-12 loss to Miami. But they were far less impressive against Georgia Tech than Virginia Tech was and has been living on a string of very close victories.
On paper, I almost think you have to give the nod to the Hokies. Thankfully that’s only paper, though. If the Pitt offense shows up like it did last weekend against the Tar Heels, it’s easy to envision a Pitt win. But if the Panthers are able to win, my hunch is that, like practically all of the other games this year, it won’t come easy.