#13 Virginia Tech @ n/r Pittsburgh:
TV coverage: ESPNU and ESPN3 12noon (see: blackout map below)
TV announcers: Tom Hart and John Congemi
VT is a 10 point road favorite
O/U=45 total points scored
$-line: bet 3.8 on VT to win 1, bet 1 on Pitt to win 3.15
o-2 vs. 2-o or two ships passing in the night. That’s about what this football game is all about as Pitt has opened up and opened up poorly thus far this early-on in the 2012 college football season. o-2 is not where most of the prognosticinti had tabbed this twenty-twelve Pitt Panther football team to be as they were considered to be a top-2 or unconditionally no less than a top-3 football squad in the raided Big East football Conference only a mere 3 weeks ago. Right now the blood in the water is Panther blood and as Coach Frank Beamer himself put things on Monday; this could very well be a: “wounded animal” indeed. Or this is a cat living on the edge at the tail end of life number-nine. Take thy pick.
As there is no doubt in this journalists mind that this Pitt Panther football team is better than it has showed. The only question is when will Pitt de-funk itself and shake off the heebie-jeebies of such an uneven start to the 2012 football season? I for one hope that it is not until next week vs. Gardner-Webb; as there is offensive talent and experience on this University of Pittsburgh football club. You see such in a very streaky Qb and in an all-conference caliber Tb with a pretty decent oLine out in front. The Pitt defense is physical and yet a bit pokey if not outright plodding. The Virginia Tech offense should have a speed advantage here –presuming we play J.C. Coleman a bit more. That said, this is indeed a vastly more important game for the 2012 Virginia Tech offense than most will suspect; as we really do need for our C- offense to crack the books and be ready for what amounts to much more than an announced pop-quiz as this visit to soon to be A.c.c. brethren Pittsburgh goes.
Virginia Tech should win, Virginia Tech prolly will win, and yet, do not freak-out on the techsideline.com message-boards if this one is an ugly one and if this one stays closer than you think for longer than you think it should. Pitt is not as bad of a football team as their perfectly ‘rong o-2 record suggests prima facie; and they are indeed due to play a good football game sooner or later.
- 108th, as in Pitt is ranked one-hundredth-eight in all important Turnover Margin at -2 per contest.
- 12th, as in VT is currently ranked twelfth best in TFL (tackles for a loss) in all of D-1 football (BONUS: 12 different Hokies have already caught passes this season)
- Last year Pitt had 30 starts missed due to injury, or in other words this is a well-seasoned and experienced Pitt team for it; especially on offense.
- 4 sacks given up by Virginia Tech already this season despite being on a record setting pace in terms of fewest Qb hurries, Qb pressures and pocket based Qb hits.
- 253. Total career victories by Frank Beamer — tops among active D-1 coaches.
- This is Pitt’s 6th head coach effectively in 18 games!
- 7 true freshman have had their O&M red-shirt burned for VT thus far. (Deon Clarke, J.C. Coleman, Desmond Frye, A.J. Hughes, Donovan Manning, Donovan Riley, Joshua Stanford)
- Frank is 18-1 in his last 19 road openers.
- 92nd. Pitt is ninety-second best in protecting their Qb in Sacks allowed this season!
- 106th as in Pitt is one-hindered-sixth best in rushing defense this season; so hopefully this is *the* game to get the Tech rushing attack back on track.
Power-I, 2 and 3 wide Pitt Offense: (9 starters back)
This is a little bit of a hobbled or depleted Pitt offense as their top Te (H.Graham) sustained a shoulder injury vs. Cincy last week and is now listed as questionable. One of their starting Ot’s (J.Hollins) is suspended indefinitely and their star Tb (Ray Graham) has received limited work coming off of a blown A.c.l. last season vs. UConn. That’s important as his game is speed and/or edge based as a modestly sized 5`9“ 189 lb. play-maker who suddenly has had his edge curtailed just a bit. That’s no good thing if you are a Panther fan from my hometown (Upper Saint Claire) visiting this preview. As Pitt was set to deploy one of the better –if not the best- oLine in the Big East this season with 3 to 4 all-star candidate quality players way back at the beginning of August. The Pitt Wr’s are big and they are talented with 4 all-conference potentials in the lot if Graham can give it a go at Te.
I saw a decent amount of pulling-and-trapping outta Pittsburgh upfront with what is said to be an 85-90% H.Graham behind all of that. Dood looks a step slow to me, almost a bit rigid if you will and I did not see much misdirection outta this Panther offense when they do pull. Follow the G’s and or the Fb when he is in the game right to the play a solid 9 times outta 10 as cutting back is not something you do on an 85% reconstructed A.c.l. –at least not in year number one. Note as well that Pitt will use a deeper version of the Power-I with H.Graham 8 yards off the ball where the 2011 H.Graham was very effective in reading his blocks, with enough speed to get to the hole in time, and just enough height (5`9“) to be well hidden behind what is indeed a towering Pitt offensive-line. The Catch-22 caveat being … what do you do with a kid whose game is edge based, when his speed diminishes and he is not an insider-runner by trade? Do you risk his rebuilt A.c.l. up the gut or do you shade his outside game to run just off-tackle or C-Gap plays which makes you predictable indeed? Right now you’ve got 3 2011 oLine starters back and yet you’ve got 4 of your 5 2012 starting offensive linemen playing different positions than they did a year ago. See what I mean? That said, this is a very very deep stable of Pitt Tb’s to be sure as they have a 9,000+ yard High School rusher (Rushel Shell) who enters the game in relief of R.Graham and Shell was only everybody’s #1 or #2 or #3 Rb leaving the scholastic ranks last year.
H.Graham looks games or maybe even a season away from getting his right-knee back and this oLine is weeks away from settling-in and that precludes any gelling or meshing until the settling-in process itself takes place. As I said above, Pitt has talent at Wr and it is big, tall, strong and physical talent. Kinda like F.S.U. has had most years. The Panther Wideouts will have a blocking advantage out on the edge and even more so vs. our somewhat smallish Fs and Rover downfield. The kicker here is that the Pitt pass blocking upfront is pretty porous, despite a really well mixed (S, M, L) passing arsenal from Tino that works the entire field both laterally and vertically and this will include rolling the pocket L or R from time-to-time. Pitt will motion one guy pre-snap with Tino under center and they will play-action a good deal off that as well. If not you will see a pure shotgun look that should give the Virginia Tech De’s a decent shot at Tino as the Panther pass-protection does weaken inside-out. Also observe that Tino’s accuracy really retreats the further downfield he throws; and yet again we must go full circle and speak to a lack of Time To Throw which only amplifies itself on deeper routes that insist upon more pocket time to develop. To me that avers self-correcting to compensate and going with shorter to intermediary routes that require less pocket time in and of themselves. However, that very play-action could be an issue for Bonner who has taken the bait on such in the past; all the more so if J.Graham finally rediscovers his confidence and self-trust after such an insalubrious knee injury last campaign. Overall this Pitt offense really does have a good deal more talent than it is showing, and it would do well to show Tino a good deal less venom and scapegoat villainy as well. That’s “baaaaaaaad” medicine for any offense as “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal that others” … to borrow on George Orwell’s epic Animal Farm.
So, and after some considerment, it is clear to me that we are better off playing Pitt early as opposed to playing them late in November; perhaps much better off at that as they might just get this thing sorted out before it is all over.
4-3 Pitt Defense: (5 starters return)
From the film-study I’ve already put in, I can give you this little, or this much … the 2012 Panther defense struck me with more than just a sublet whiff of the Michigan Sugar Bowl defense on several levels –one of which was not talent. This Pitt defense is willing to mix; they are at least a little physical and a bit black-n-blue as a real or perceived pseudo collision approach to football goes. They are also better the further away you move from the LOS (line-of-scrimmage) not to mention more experienced as well. They are however about a ¼ step slower than Michigan who was a bit mechanical in their own right, and they are downright just not so talented in top-11 defensive starting terms vis-à-vis. Right now I can only number two Pitt Panthers who could prolly start at Virginia Tech: Dt, Arron Donald who is a true disruptor with 18 TFL (tackles for a loss) and 11 sacks in his last 15 games. Arron could start and Ss Jarred Holley –who is very likely first string all-Big East two years running- would also likely unseat a Hokie incumbent down in the New River Valley. After those two defensive stars, I see 2 B- kinda guys, and a whole buncha C quality letter-grade ballers (or less) after that. The Panther dLine not named Mr. Donald -who could very well give ‘drew Miller and his rolled-up ankle a fit- is modest and modestly sized. The Pitt Linebackers are even smaller with only one guy north of 220 lbs. in their 2-deep. The Pitt secondary is -you guessed it- small, or in this case a scosche short with only one starter listed at 5`12“ or better. Ergo, hopefully the Hokie offense will enjoy a physical advantage this week and we will unconditionally enjoy a speed advantage should we guide our play-calling accordingly over to the C-gap and beyond in the direction of a certifiable edge.
Pitt deploys a base 4-3 defense with the throwback true Ng lined-up head-up 0-technique on your center and something of an overshift or overplay to the wide-side of the field by the Panther Will Linebacker. Pitt has a soft to off-version of Man on the edges and typically keeps the Fs in Tampa-1 or Shell-3 umbrella look that will remind you of a bit of Boston College ~5 odd years ago with a safety-valve centerfielder of a Fs just in case something does break long. The Panthers will go press-man on the short-side in the Red-Zone which might just bring our politically incorrect “slant” pattern into play; al the more so when that Sam Linebacker hard-charges on a blitz. Pitt will walk a Safety up pre-snap and there should be some hot-read opportunities to throw behind that Fs and go long as the day progresses. Pitt will deal (blitz) their MLb a lot, and one has to presume that the Ss walk-up has something to do with that. That would also posit a tip-of the hand on when to go off-tackle and key beyond the C-gap on Pitt and not even bother with said Mike Linebacker in the first place in the middle of the field. This Pitt defense likes to keep everything in front of them and they are a bit risk adverse and not very exotic beyond the MLb blitz or occasionally bringing 6 with an Olb off the edge. Not much Zone either as I surely would beign zoning LT3 and his cadre of younglings or nugget pass-catches the moment they stepped off the team bus. However, our rather “inert” 2012 Hokie offense could play right into the hands of this as soft Man based umbrella coverage. As I would box LT3 in with my De’s and keep the entire game between the Virgina Tech Ot’s which should make an “inert” Virginia Tech offense downright spark-less.
That said, with their Top-2 Linebackers potentially out due to undisclosed injury, we are clearly catching a tranquilized Panther stop-unit that has nearly been playing ball on roller stakes for 8 quarters at just the right time. Again, beyond one quality Dt, and a real nice Fs, this is a pastiche or refurbished Pitt Panther defense that has nothing short of a suspect and somewhat diminutive front-7 upfront. Further observe that this Pitt defense does not stalk well the further to the edge that your offense can stretch Pitt out in lateral or horizontal terms. It occurred to me the second time through the Panther game-tape that *this* must be the reason for the Pitt overshift as the Pittsburgh stop-unit coaches must be seeing the very same Panther defense that tends to be a day late and a 20 nickels short out beyond the hashmarks that I am on film. And do be clear, that matter is only further troubled when they must pursue to the wide-side of the field. Finally do note that Cincy did smart work vs. Pitt in their version of a Indy tempo offense and I for one suspect -and hear- that Coach Mike O’Cain and Vah.Tech will parrot the same as LT3 has been rather serrated at such in the opening phases of this season thus far.
Pitt Special Teams: (both legs back)
The Panthers enjoy a decent Kicker a very good Punt Returner and rather vanilla special teams after that. Pitt is average to poor as coverage teams go; so look for K.Jarrett to possibly put the Hokie offense in good field-position vs. the 95th best punt coverage unit. Actually make that top-shelf french vanilla as the Pitt KO return guy (#23) nets you about 29 yards per pop and the Pitt PR guy (#5) gets you 11 and change and that’s a bonus first down right there. If not for some coverage delinquencies I could go about a half-grade letter-grade higher than the one you are about to see, as there is some very sporting special-teams talent if Pitt only had a more consistent FGK and better suicide squads. (overall Pitt ST’s letter-grade, a very firm B- as there are two returners here who can change things in a hurry)
(EDITORs note: More on Friday nite including my closer and OPT digits)
Conclusion(s), Illation, OPT digits:
Off the top of my head, I really wanna come in here and tell all of you fine Hokie fans that it is mighty Vah.Tech that will whale upon an ailing Pitt Panther football team that appears to have more than an 0-2 start stuck in its 2012 paw. Right now we are witnessing the effects of numerous off-field suspensions, injuries, and critical in-game mistakes, all of which have conspired to artificially lower the twenty-twelve University of Pittsburgh pigskin ceiling in macro or extrinsic terms. Or in other words if not for bad luck these Panthers would have no luck at all.
However, this Pitt football team is indeed better than it has showcased thus far. However again, you have to wonder out-loud just how deflated they are by their unceremoniously and nary forecasted zero-two start? Raise you hand if you predicted that one a few weeks ago? Me neither; as I had thought Pittsburgh to be a bit more dangerous than Cincinnati just 15 days ago. Now, do be clear on this point, the undeniable X-factor here is the the one-man offensive wildcard his ownself, senior Pivot (or Qb) Tino Sunseri of Pittsburgh. Tino is now back at home in a Pro style offense with a slower tempo that gives him and his football literacy time to scan the football field and read opposing coverage’s pre-snap. Tino is a dead solid mid to short-range passer who is about as streaky as Byron Scott used to be for the 1980’s Showtime L.A. Lakers way back when. He can shoot his way into the game every bit as much as he can catch-n-release a Pitt Panther football game all by his ownself via shooting his very own team right in the foot with self-inflicted mental errors. This is highly unusual for the proverbial coach’s son as his pops (Sal) is the talented defensive coordinator at Tennessee and a former all-American linebacker for the Pitt Panthers in his own right back in the late 1970’s. When Tino is on, his better than average accuracy threads needles so much you’d think him to be a future Vee.Pep (vice-president) for Singer Sowing Machines. If we should catch the en fuego version of Tino a double-digit Virginia Tech road win will suddenly become code for a one play game either way. If Tino is off, or if all-everything Tb Ray Graham just so happens to have a bad-knee day, Virginia Tech will slowly yet surely pull away for something in the neighborhood of a 13-17 point rock solid -if not flashy- road victory in a game that will appear to be closer than it should for longer than you’d rightfully expect.
I checked my hometown weather and it looks very kindly upon tomorrow. I updated my injury list(s) on both teams. I tried to figure out if I was missing anything pragmatic, and then even remotely plausible as a Pitt upset call might conceivably go.
Try as I might, I could not dissect a way in which these Panthers might just scratch and claw their way to an upsetting victory. The Pitt offense does bother me a bit; though the Bud Stout defense bothers me nil. The O’Cain and Stiney offense bothers me a bit; although the Pitt defense does not bother much of anybody at all. The Pit return game could bother several teams before the year is out; and yet the Beamerball special-teams have improved each and every week since August Camp broke.
Or in other words, I need to delve into my old-school upset odds and admit that yah these Pitt Panthers have a chance to steal one at home. They could play the prefect game on offense, and Tino can indeed get sizzling hawt. Kinda like somebody’s Friday Lounge pic that chop-blocked the TSL TOS and here by merits an apology for such. The Frank-n-Stiney offense knows there are only roughly 45 more shopping days until Halloween. They could mindlessly run inside and bring the user-friendly Pitt stop-unit back to life just in time to give us a scare. We could even misQ the day away as crazier things have happened when it comes to how the oblong spheroid bounces as it sometimes does bound the ‘rong way.
That said, I can do no better than assign a 5% probability to any of that and that conspires to tell us that Pitt has no better than a 15% chance to pull this homesteading upset off. That and I can tell you right now that my quest to find some I.C. Lyte (beer) in the southern part of the Peoples Republic of the 3o4 ran dry; so I feel confident that those numbers are sober enough.
Likewise, I picked up on what I consider to be intrinsic yet credible vibes that the twenty-twelve Vah.Tech offense has a thing or two to prove tomorrow, and we all know that 151 proof Bud Stout will be on tap what with a normal work-week and a normal work-weeks worth of rest.
The rest is history as they say and I say Virginia Tech wins this one in quite reasonable if not in outright shiny fashion.
Virginia Tech=26, Pitt=9