It’s no secret that Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett has put on an outstanding showing through the first five games of the 2021 season, but just how great he has been can be difficult to enumerate with quality of competition and other factors complicating comparisons. However, as Pro Football Focus sees it, Pickett checks in as the No. 2 quarterback in college football, with a grade of 92.6 through the first five weeks.
Top-4 QBs in College Football pic.twitter.com/e9yeIaUvSA— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 13, 2021
So far, the fifth-year Pitt signal-caller has thrown for 1,731 yards and 19 touchdowns with just one interception. Pickett has also been extraordinarily accurate, as he has connected on 72 percent of his 168 pass attempts, and he has moved the Panthers offense downfield with ease, amassing 10.3 yards per attempt. And as a result of the improved play of Pickett, Pitt has gotten off to a 4-1 start with convincing wins over Tennessee and Georgia Tech.
With that said, the knock on Pickett has been that his performances against UMass and New Hampshire helped pad his stats. However, Pickett has also been criticized for his schedule far more than other big-name quarterbacks like Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, who had tune-up games in their early-season schedules as well. And it seems that with Pickett now gaining national attention and a bit of Heisman buzz, that particular argument against him has been widely dismissed.
Pro Football Focus places Pickett behind Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, who has a grade of 93.7, but he grades out higher than Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who has a grade of 91.7, and Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, who has a grade of 91.1. Pickett is also the leader in passing touchdowns among the four, and he trails only Armstrong in passing yardage. And while Pickett has been a more effective pure passer than Willis, Willis has impressed as a dual-threat quarterback with 498 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground, which has bolstered his value.
On Saturday, Pickett will look to further pad his resume with another quality win over an ACC rival when Pitt heads to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. The matchup has been tough to predict in recent years, with Pitt and Virginia Tech splitting the series 3-3 since Pat Narduzzi became the Panthers’ head coach in 2015. But with Pickett under center, Pitt will enter the matchup with a chance to go 5-1 and give Narduzzi a winning record over the Hokies.