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2017 Virginia Football Opponent Preview: Pittsburgh

Can the Panthers follow up an exciting 2016 with a more consistent defensive performance?

Syracuse v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

2016 Record: 8-5 (5-3 ACC)

Early in the 2016 season, Pitt set the tone for a successful year by beating the eventual Big Ten champion, Penn State, in a 42-39 shootout. Shootouts would certainly be the theme for the Panthers, as they scored more than 30 points in ten of their games - while also giving up more than 30 points in ten games. The offense featured explosive playmakers and current Buffalo Bill Nathan Peterman and the defense was remarkably poor. Wins over Clemson and Penn State probably qualify Coach Narduzzi’s second year as a successful one, but Pitt fans will hope for a more productive defense and a run at the ACC Coastal in 2017.

Notable Departures:

QB Nathan Peterman (Buffalo Bills)

OG Dorian Johnson (1st Team All American)

RB James Conner (1st Team All ACC)

Notable Additions:

S Paris Ford (4* 247sports)

RB Todd Sibley (4* 247sports)

TE Charles Reeves (4* 247sports)

Best Name on the Roster:

Fr. P Kirk Christodoulou

Better Know a Virginian:

RS Fr. LB Chase Pine (Williamsburg, Va)

With offers from UNC, VT, WVU, and Maryland among others, Pine was rated 4 stars by 247sports and was one of the more highly recruited Virginia prospects in 2016. He committed to the Panthers in June but took a few official visits elsewhere right before signing day, leading to some thinking he’d end up at Virginia Tech. In the end, the visits may have been simply been free vacations (who wouldn’t want to check out Blacksburg in February?!) and Pine enrolled at Pitt. He sat out last season but should facotr into the LB rotation this year on a defense that needs to replace three of its top four tacklers.

2017 Outlook:

An unproven offensive coordinator was no issue for the Panthers in 2016, but unfortunately Matt Canada immediately left for LSU and Pitt will be turning to another coach with a lot to prove in OC Shawn Watson, who joins the team after stops at Louisville, Texas, and Indiana. USC grad transfer Max Browne and sophomore Ben DiNucci will compete to replace Peterman, which is no small task to be sure. However, Quadree Henderson should help with the transition. The exhilarating returnman and receiver has the talent to carry an offense no matter who is calling the plays or throwing the ball.

However, the loss of Peterman and Conner should lead to at least a minor step back in scoring - and when your previous season was full of 40 somethin to 30 somethin games, a major step forward from the defense will be needed to make up for that production. Unfortunately for the Panthers, there are a ton of holes to fill in the front seven. Then again, if your defense gave up a dozen scores in every game last season, is it really a bad thing if some of those guys are gone?

As for the schedule: Youngstown State and Rice should pose little threat, but early games against Penn State and Oklahoma State will set the tone for the Panthers’ season. Win won of those, and you’re 2-1 with GT, Rice, Cuse, and NCSU coming up. That’s two cupcakes and a ton of toss ups for a team that’s replacing a quarterback and coming off a year of making most opposing QBs look like All Americans. I’d imagine the Panthers stumble in a few toss up games, but upset a few favored teams as well...which would be pretty standard for their recent successful seasons. Traveling to Blacksburg will be tough, but home contests against Miami, UNC, and Virginia should put them in good shape to challenge for the Coastal.

Prediction:

One might wonder how last year’s game would’ve worked out for the Hoos if the first half hadn’t closed with a Pitt pick-six. Frankly, that play seemed to change the course for the rest of the entire UVa season. Can Benkert, Anae, and Mendenhall fair better on the road this season? On paper, this game seems like Pitt’s easiest ACC matchup...so maybe they’ll overlook UVa? Even with the above-mentioned questions to answer, Pitt is easily the more talented team overall and playing at home. I think they’ll win by two scores.

Poll

Can UVa pull the upset on the road at Pitt?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Yes
    (67 votes)
  • 63%
    No
    (119 votes)
186 votes total Vote Now