Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, 1-0) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (0-2, 0-1)
Time: 12 p.m. EDT
Date: Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012
Place: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Stadium: Heinz Field
(Cap: 65,050, Open: 2001, Field: Natural Grass)
Radio: VT IMG, XM 85, Sirius 85
Spread: Virginia Tech -10
Weather: High of 76, 10% Chance of Rain
Pittsburgh: This is the third game of the season for both teams. The Panthers opened their season under first-year head coach Paul Chryst with a disastrous 31-17 home loss to FCS Youngstown State. They followed that with a 24-point loss to conference foe Cincinnati on the road. Needless to say, it hasn't been all gumdrops and sunshine early on for Chryst.
The Panthers finished 6-7 (4-3) a year ago under first-year coach Todd Graham, losing their bowl game badly to SMU. Graham infamously left the program after less than one year on the job, something he has done on more than one occasion. What really drew the ire of the Pittsburgh faithful and the national media alike was how Graham decided to leave the program: via text message. That's right, after being told by administrators at Pitt that he didn't have permission to talk to Arizona State about their coaching vacancy, he resigned, took the job at ASU and had the Pitt football operations guy forward his text to the team. That's right. He didn't really even text the team himself per se. This was incredibly inflammatory because of comments he had made just two weeks prior seemingly criticizing assistants leaving their schools to join Rich Rodriguez's new staff at Arizona, calling them "mercenaries." After his move to ASU, he said the quote was taken out of context, basically giving the excuse, "Don't hate the playa, hate the game."
Trends: The Hokies have won their last four true road openers. Their last loss in a road opener was a 48-7 curb-stomping at LSU in 2007. The Panthers have won three-straight against the Hokies dating back to 2001, with the last coming in 2003 at Pittsburgh.
History Lesson: Virginia Tech has played Pittsburgh a total of 11 times, all under Beamer, and holds a 7-4 record overall against the Panthers. Before the 2001 season, Beamer and the Hokies were 7-1 against the Panthers. When the Hokies are ranked when playing the Panthers, they are an even 4-4. On the road versus the Panthers, the Hokies are an even 3-3. All of the Hokies previous games against the Panthers have been as conference opponents. Starting next year, they will resume their rivalry as conference opponents.
What to Expect
- Pittsburgh will run a pro style Power-I formation under Chryst, after spending last year in Graham's spread attack. So far Pitt's offense has been pretty poor, but statistically, not as bad as the Hokies have been. O'Cainspring DERP.
- Offensively, the Panthers have struggled to score, despite converting on a respectable 45 percent on third down and 75 percent on fourth down. Tino Sunseri has been adequate, but has been sacked six times already. The key to their inability to score is their 57 percent red zone scoring percentage. They have also only scored touchdowns on 29 percent of their red zone trips.
- The Panthers O-line has also been pretty deficient in the run game, averaging only 3.8 yards per rush.
- The Panthers run a standard 4-3 defense under Chryst.
- The true reason the Panthers are losing is defense. On that side of the ball, they've given up 422.5 yards per game, and 231.5 yards per game on the ground. Those stats are bad, but the run statistics are amplified when considering the Panthers have allowed a whopping SIX yards per carry! That's probably a big reason their opponents are converting 59 percent of their third downs, 100 percent of their fourth downs and have scored on 100 percent of their red zone opportunities. If Pitt's opponents' stats were collectively pooled as one team, they would rank eighth nationally in third down conversion percentage.
Hokies Win If: They play their game, they block better offensively, stop running the same ineffective plays into the ground and make their tackles/keep their gap assignments. They can't overlook Pitt, who is better than they have shown in their first two games. They HAVE to be, right?
Panthers Win If: The Hokies' offensive line continues to struggle getting a push, the Panthers take advantage of the Hokies injuries in the front seven and play the game they are capable of playing. Also, if the Hokies overlook the Panthers because of their woeful first two weeks.
Dot-dot-dots: Neither team has ever been shutout in the series. Both teams have been held to a low of seven points. The Hokies high in points in the series is 63 from the first meeting of the teams in 1993. The Panthers highest total is 38 from 2001. This is the second-earliest in the season a game between these two teams have been played. The previous earliest game was in 1993 when the game was played on Sept. 11. Chryst is the fourth Pitt head coach since December 2010, when Bud Foster, originally thought to be a finalist for the opening, was passed over twice (as they had to make two hires in a span when Mike Haywood, the first coach they hired to replace Dave Wannstedt, was arrested for domestic violence exactly two weeks after his hiring. He was subsequently let go). Bet they'd like a mulligan there.