I won't give away this week's staff picks for the Pitt-Iowa game, but not everyone thinks Pitt will be 4-0 after this weekend. I really like this young football team, but my expectations have not changed yet. I expected Pitt to start 3-0, and finish with an 8-4 record. I think people are getting excited about the 3-0 start, but we all need to remain cautious. This team is very young, they lack depth in some key spots, and they have some serious holes.
Earlier today, Anson wrote why the Panthers will win on Saturday. But here are three reasons why I think Iowa takes this game.
Iowa can stop the run, and force Voytik to pass.
Iowa is a solid Big Ten defense that is built to stop teams just like Pitt. It is no secret that Pitt's intent is to be built more like a power running Big Ten team than a speedy ACC team. There will be very little surprises on the field Saturday afternoon. Pitt is going to try to run it, and Iowa will be prepared to stop it. Iowa is sixth nationally in defending the run, as they surrender just 65 yards per game. The Hawkeyes were one of the best defenses in the country last season, and many holdovers return from that unit. The defensive line has extensive experience, and they are very talented. Drew Ott and Louis Trinca-Pasat have combined for 7.5 tackles for loss already, and they will give the Pitt offensive line some serious problems. If Conner and company are held in check, it will force Voytik to make some throws, and that is exactly what opposing defenses want. Pitt is ranked 120th of 125 teams in passing yards averaging just 101 yards per game. Sure Pitt has one of the best receivers in the country in Tyler Boyd, but with a QB not used to making many throws, it will fall right into Iowa's lap.
Iowa can throw the ball with Jake Rudock at Pitt's untested secondary.
Jake Rudock is an experienced quarterback for the Hawkeyes, and he is already off to a great start in his junior season. The second year starter for Kirk Ferentz has already thrown for 718 yards and four touchdowns to just one interception. The Hawkeyes have four different players with at least 10 catches in the first three games, and Rudock has the luxury and comfort level to spread the ball around to everyone. Kevonte Martin-Manley is clearly Rudock's favorite target, as he already has 19 receptions. Martin-Manley is a four year contributor, and is one of Iowa's most dangerous offensive weapons. Jake Duzey has already caught ten balls from his tight end spot, and the 6'4" 245 pound junior will be a tough match for the Pitt defense. Pitt actually ranks tenth nationally in passing defense. The Panthers only allow 133 yards per game through the air, but they have yet to see a passing game like Iowa. Alex McGough of FIU was able to throw for 224 yards last week, and that should help put things into perspective about that number ten ranking. Lafayette Pitts and Reggie Mitchell have not been overly impressive just yet, and both corners will be tested throughout Saturday's game.
Pitt is young and the expectations should not change after the 3-0 start
Pitt starts six sophomores and a freshman on offense, and they start four sophomores on defense. The Panthers are in fact the youngest team in the FBS. Sure, Pitt is out to a great start, but things have not changed that much. They beat three teams they were supposed to beat, and that's all it is right now. I get the excitement and optimism around this team, because they do have a lot of young talent. Still, the team and the fan base should remain grounded. Iowa is a good team that can throw the ball and stop the run, and they have more experience than these Panthers. I will not be shocked if Pitt does win, but I just think Iowa has the edge right now.