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Pitt heads to Florida State after bye week

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NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Boston College Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Pitt played Florida State, it was the Panthers’ opening game in the ACC. Not only did the Seminoles give a rude welcome to Pitt, easily winning the game, 41-13 in Pittsburgh, Florida State ultimately was the national champion behind the quarterbacking of some freshman named Jameis Winston.

I suspect that many of you, like me were there. It was, if I recall, a rainy mess of a game. There was a lot of excitement around it because it was Pitt’s first ACC game. But they weren’t real competitive and ended up being a rough night.

The good news for the Panthers? This year’s Florida State team isn’t nearly as good as that one. The bad news? Despite a 2-4 record, the Seminoles probably aren’t a pushover for a team like Pitt, either.

Florida State is beatable. Let’s be clear about that. The Panthers are on a four-game slide and will be on the road here but it is certainly a game they can win. Most sportsbooks, in fact, have the game as a tossup or with Pitt as a slight favorite.

But the Seminoles are one of those teams that are not likely as bad as their record. Like Pitt, they’ve played a challenging schedule so far and we’ve even got some common opponents. We’ll take a look at that in a minute.

Florida State does technically have something Pitt doesn’t — a statement win. The Seminoles upset a No. 5 North Carolina team, 31-28, a few weeks ago. And while the Tar Heels were obviously ranked too high, that is still a bigger win than the Panthers have had to date. The Seminoles’ only other win was an underwhelming 41-24 victory against Jacksonville State.

Other than that, Florida State has had a tough time of things with losses to Georgia Tech, Miami, Notre Dame, and Louisville.

The Seminoles are incredibly tough to figure out. They started off the year terribly with that opening loss to a bad Georgia Tech team and then a 42-point loss to Miami. They then struggled and had to come from 14 down to defeat Jacksonville State. But after that, they seemed to turn the corner. They played fairly well against Notre Dame, holding a first quarter lead and trailing by as little as nine in the third quarter before losing respectably by 16. Then they came out and upset an undefeated North Carolina team.

Then, just when it looked like they were starting to play better, they were walloped by Louisville 48-16 — a team that Pitt beat. Which Florida State team Pitt gets this weekend is anybody’s guess.

We’ve seen Florida State struggle on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they laid eggs against Georgia Tech (13), Miami (10), and Louisville (16). They’ve only topped 30 points twice — one of those, they barely did so (31 against North Carolina) and the other was against Jacksonville State. The Seminoles have tried four quarterbacks and none have looked great.

Jordan Travis has gotten the bulk of the work and played the most against Louisville. But on the season, he’s completed only half of his passes and has four touchdowns to four interceptions. The most productive skill player has been running back La’Damian Webb (336 yards and a 5.9 yard-per-carry average). But Travis actually leads the team in rushing with 389 yards and five touchdowns.

Florida State’s been arguably worse on defense. After allowing only 16 points to Georgia Tech, they’ve really struggled in that department. Miami hung 52 on them while Notre Dame got 42 and Louisville got 48. Some of that’s the competition and, well, Pitt hasn’t been great defensively since the Louisville game three games into the season. But the Panthers’ defense has been a bit better overall.

The big question mark from a Pitt perspective, of course, is if starting quarterback Kenny Pickett will play. If he does, I probably like Pitt to win here. But if he doesn’t, that pick is less optimistic.

For Pitt, the thing I keep coming back to are those two one-point losses to NC State and Boston College. You win even one of those and the season has a different outlook. That doesn’t mean much since we’re inclined to just look at a team’s record and leave it at that. But just as I don’t necessarily know that Florida State is your typical 2-4 team, I think you can make the case that Pitt is a little better than its 3-4 record. Now, it’s just a matter of which team shows up Saturday.

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