2014 Pitt Panthers Football Preview
In the 12th and final part of the 2014 opponent video series, I’m going to talk a little about the Pitt Panthers, our opponent on Nov 29th in our regular season finale at Sun Life Stadium.
Lets first look at their Talent:
Tom Savage is gone, but the offense gets eight other starters back in 2014. Some are very young here, with loads of potential. In 2013, Sophomore QB Chad Voytik (6-1, 210) was forced to play in the bowl game after Savage got hurt, and actually led the Panthers to victory. Now, he’s the man in the Steel City.
Head Coach Paul Chryst is excited about what Voytik’s potential here.
From Chryst: "I like how Chad has been approaching it a lot. Every day you're getting some stuff that you've got to clean up, but I've loved his approach to it. If he keeps doing that, then he'll maximize his opportunity."
Also back are sophomore James Conner, who had a very good freshman campaign that saw the 6-2, 230-pounder rush for a team-best 799 yards and 8 TDs on 5.5 yards per carry, senior Isaac Bennett (5-11, 205) who had 797 yards on the ground and 7 TDs in 2013. When you add highly touted incoming freshman Chris James (5-11, 210) and you have a running game that can be very dangerous.
In the WR corp, they did lose Devin Street to the NFL, but they have someone just as good returning in 2014 in Tyler Boyd. This guy, who’s 6-2 was the team leader last year in with 85 receptions, for 1,174 yards and seven TDs. Oh, he only ended up as an All-American for a Freshman. .
Chryst can’t stop gushing about Boyd’s potential here.
"Tyler is one of many young guys that need to be able to step up into a leadership role, as well as -- the best way he can lead is continue to be productive. I love the way that he approaches the game and the type of teammate that he is."
As for the O-Line, they get back four of last year's five starters and that will put at ease for Chryst and Voytik that the Line will do their job with Pass protection and opening holes for those big backs.
While the offense is going to be fine, the same cannot be said for the defense, You just don’t replace someone of Donald’s caliber with just anyone. It’s going to be very tough to replace someone that put the numbers up that Donald did (led the nation in TFL last year with 28.5, and had 11 sacks). They only have five starters back on D in 2014. .
Besides Donald, they have to fill the voids left by the two other starters from 2013 that have graduated. The ones to likely fill those voids are Junior Darryl Render (6-2, 285) and Senior Khaynin Mosely-Smith (6-0, 305) inside and have Sophomore Shakir Sota (6-3, 255) be on the outside.
The LB corp does have some experience returning in Seniors Anthony Gonzalez (79 tackles) and Todd Thomas (72 72 tackles), while in the secondary, they have back Senior safety Ray Vinopal (83 tackles, three interceptions) does the same for the secondary.
On Special Teams, Chris Blewitt had a solid rookie year last year handling the PK duties. converting 14-18 on FG attempts, with a long of 47 yards. They do have to replace last year’s Punter Matt Yoklic, who graduated. Look for RS freshman Ryan Winslow (6-5, 2-5) to get that job there.
Next, I want to talk about the Coaching:
This will be Chryst’s 3rd year in the Steel City. He’s a .500 coach at 13-13. The offense is young this year and has a lot of potential. Everything is in place for Chryst to be the darkhorse and get to Charlotte. His Panthers schedule is very favorable, one of the most favorable in college football, the pressure for the Panthers to make noise this year is pretty high.
Now, to their 2014 Schedule:They went 7-6 last year, which included a win over Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Bowl. If things break right, it’s a 10 win team we’re looking at here. Here’s how I see the schedule play out in 2014:
In their opener, 8/30 vs. Delaware: W
Look for a big game out of Conner in this one. Delaware doesn’t have the Defense to stop him. Pitt wins BIG in this one.
In Week 2, 9/5 at Boston College: L
With most games at Heinz Field this season, this will be a good road for the Panthers up in Chestnut Hill to open ACC play. While Voytik is still young and will make some mistakes, on the other side for BC, quarterback Tyler Murphy has plenty of experience (Florida transfer). Expect it to be close, but in the end, I think Voytik will make a key mistake and BC survives to drop the Panthers to a projected 1-1.
In week 3, 9/13 at Florida International: W
In the first of two trips to Miami this year, they visit FIU to take on the Golden Panthers. After the projected loss at BC, look for Voytik to be much more prepared for this game and look for a monster game out of Boyd. While it will be close for a half, Florida International doesn’t have the weapons to hang with Pitt for 4 quarters. Pitt wins this one.
In week 4, 9/20 vs. Iowa: W
They are not afraid of the big boys from out of conference. This is going to be a game where its very physical, and brutal. If you love smash mouth football, this is the game for you. Pitt needs a big game out of Conner here. If they get it, Pitt wins. I think they get that big game from Conner and Pitt wins a close vs Iowa.
In week 5, 9/27 vs. Akron: W
The Zips nearly won in the Big House last year. After a projected big win over Iowa, there’s no way Chryst will allow a letdown from his team, especially after what Akron nearly did last year in Ann Arbor. Pitt wins comfortably in this one.
In Week 6, 10/4 at Virginia: W
A road trip to Charlottesville for the Panthers and UVa is in disarray at this point, and their coach’s seat is very warm and Pitt will only make Mike London’s seat warmer after this one. Pitt gets on the board in ACC play.
In Week 7 BYE
In Week 8, 10/16 vs. Virginia Tech: L
This game will be tough. Both teams coming off BYE weeks, this should be a good one here. Look for Conner and Boyd to have good games here. However, in big time games like this, never underestimate Beamer and Foster. So, look for the VT Defense to feast on Voytik and make some plays. Also, look for VT’s Special Teams to come up big and their O does just enough to win. The Panthers just lost too much on D, and in the end, I see VT getting a big win over Pitt on the road.
In Week 9, 10/25 vs. Georgia Tech: L
Against a team like GT, which loves the Triple option, with DT Aaron Donald now gone, the Panthers will have to come up big in this one. If GT is going to start getting off the mat and get back in the win column, this would be the game to do it here. The Panthers D-Line is weak depth wise. Look for Johnson’s triple option offense to have a field day against that weakened Pitt D up front. Look for a good game out of QB Justin Thomas, especially when he doesn’t have to throw the ball too much in this one. GT gets the win to drop the Panthers to a projected 5-3 and 1-3 in the ACC.
In Week 10, 11/1 vs. Duke: L
Up next for the Panthers: A home date with the Duke Blue Devils, in a rematch of a classic shootout the Panthers won 58-55 last year in Durham. Make no mistake, the Blue Devils are the real deal. With Tom Savage now in the NFL, Duke has the better quarterback in this matchup, not to mention, the more experienced one as well in Anthony Boone. When you add David Cutcliffe’s leadership, and the Blue Devils wanting payback for last year’s loss to the Panthers in Durham, with Duke’s D a lot better this year, give this one to the Blue Devils and Pitt drops to a projected 5-4 and 1-4 in the ACC.
In Week 11 BYE Week
In Week 12, 11/15 at North Carolina: L
Coming off a BYE, and Carolina coming off a projected close game loss in Miami, look for the Tar Heels to be very upset and take it out on the Panthers. Look for Williams to make some big plays early and often in this one and Conner will be no factor here. The way Carolina played in the 2nd half of the season last year, and QB Marquise Williams coming into his own, Pitt’s D will have a very long day. Heels in this one to drop the Panthers to a projected 5-5 and 1-5 in the ACC.
In Week 13, 11/22 vs. Syracuse: W
In their home finale, the Orange come calling. People will say, fast start, and bad finish. Yes, the Orange have a dual-threat quarterback in Terrel Hunt, which I’m sure Pitt will be tired of seeing at this point. The talent level is equal in this matchup, but I just think Pitt’s running game and Boyd at WR will do just enough to make plays to pull this one out. I just have a feeling that the Panthers win this one to improve to a projected 6-5 and 2-5 in the ACC.
In the season finale, 11/29 at Miami (Fla.): L
Miami had their way with the Panthers last year and with the Hurricanes having a lot to play for in this game and it being Senior Day and possibly star RB Duke Johnson’s final home game, and WR Stacy Coley having three touchdowns in the first half of this game last season last year in Heinz Field, look for the CANES to win big in this one and end the Panthers season at a projected 6-6 and 2-6 in the ACC.
My prediction on the Game vs. CANES:
We had our way with the Panthers last year. The only reason we didn’t win by a bigger margin was because of the Defense. Pitt has no chance to win this game against us. There’s a lot at stake for us here. We’re playing for bigger things down the line, and with a projected trip to Charlotte the following week in a rematch with FSU, the key is not to get anyone hurt. Its senior day, and possibly Duke’s final regular season game at home. We have too many weapons for the Panthers in this one and this is a game we win easily.
Its been great to do this series each year. I look forward to the season ahead. Thank you for watching and here’s to a great season