Nobody Expects the Bull Run Inquisition!
Another season another year of Inquisitions! Same drill as last year. First you find a blogger who covers this weeks opponent invite them over for a friendly conversation, and then turn loose the inquisitor and get the information UB Nation wants to hear. This week's Guest is Anson Whaley who manages SBNation's pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.
In years past the method of torture for Pitt fans was easy. A good old fashion stache Waxing! Sadly with the coaching change at Pitt such means don't inspire any anxiety in your average Panther fan so this season we had to try something a little different.
The first idea to come to mind was forced relationship counseling from Mike Haywood, but as he seems to be in a litigious mood I thought it best to stay off his radar. So I had to go to my second option... Spray on stache!
See you just take one newly minted Coach, one brought on for a high power offense and spray
Side Effects of Spry on Stache may include:
A limp offense and uninspired play calling. Year after year of marginal conference results, tickling under the nose, rectal bleeding, problems in your engine room (pitt fans know what I am talking about), hair loss (on your head), hair gain (on your back), Gas, explosive diarrhea, and insonomia
Spray on stashe should not be used until you're ready for a full night of sleep after watching the Panthers choke away another Big East Game.
All in all it's pretty potent stuff but when you have an AQ team roll into the inquisition you have to bring out the big guns. After applying it to Coach Todd Graham Cardiac Hill was begging for the old fashion waxing, and offered up the following information so that the 'Stashe' would be gone by gameday
Bull Run) So where are expectations sitting with Pitt right now? Last season was a really down one throughout the Big East so will there be a quick bounce with your new coach?
Depends on who you talk to. I took a poll on my site last week about the level of disappointment if Pitt doesn't win the Big East and votes were pretty well split up. Personally, I never use only the conference championship as a barometer. If Pitt went 10-2 but lost the Big East, I'd consider that a successful season. Personally, I think eight or nine wins this year would satisfy most fans and it would take a pretty poor showing from the team for there to be widespread angst. Most reasonable fans understand that there are new schemes in place and it's going to take a while for not only the players to get used to them, but also for Graham to recruit his type of players.
As you point out, the Big East has been really down and that makes the conference winnable. But it's by no means a done deal and I'd pick West Virginia as the favorite right now. I'd personally like to see nine wins and if Pitt wins the Big East this year, I'd consider it a bonus.
Bull Run) How is the offense adjusting to the new temp and do you really have the Quarterback to pull off the offense that Tulsa has been sporting?
The offense, by all indications, is starting to feel more comfortable. The biggest concern is on the offensive line where Pitt is starting a new center, Ryan Turnley. Turnley has struggled with some snaps in practice, but has reportedly been better - at least good enough to win the job, anyway. I think Pitt has enough speed and depth (the two things needed most for this system from what I can tell) to pull it off, but they'll be running a scaled back version of the offense. In speaking to one of the local beat writers here, Todd Graham said that he thinks the offense is comfortable with about 65% of it, so he's not thrown everything at them and that will limit the playbook at least a little bit this season.
Tino Sunseri will have his moments, I'm convinced. Part of it may have to do with the snaps and the offensive line, but I really think he'll be okay. Graham would have been fine with changing quarterbacks, but Tino wasn't seriously challenged in the Spring or the Fall. Is he the best fit possible? Not likely. But I do think he's got enough command of the offense to handle it. His play in the Spring game where he threw for more than 400 yards on a rainy and windy day was encouraging. He wasn't allowed to be hit, so that helped, obviously. But the point is that I think he can do an adequate job.
Bull Run) Not a huge likelihood of UB walking away with a win here but if it happens how is it likely to happen?
Turnovers. As I mentioned, the offensive line is in flux and snapping the ball could be a major issue. Pitt does have an insurance plan in place as guard Chris Jacobson is also able to play the center position (Graham even went so far as to call him maybe their best center, but really needs him at guard and if Turnley struggled), I'd look for Graham to play Jacobson there. The other thing that could come into play is the pressure factor. Losing this game would derail all of the positive energy built up in the offseason (a la Pitt's 2008 opening loss against Bowling Green) and if the offense starts slowly, there will be added pressure with each play. As you point out, Pitt probably wins this game, but if the new offense sputters and gives up some field position, that could cause some problems.
Bull Run) How are Panther fans feeling about the new coaching situation? Given the amount of chaos that you suffered is there a comfort level with where you ended up?
Looking back on how things played out, I think Pitt was rather fortunate. As I said repeatedly on my blog, I was never sold on Michael Haywood and brought up the fact that he had merely one good season as a head coach in the MAC. That's not meant to disrespect the MAC, rather to show his limited experience as a successful head coach. So to end up with Todd Graham, who's really come in and revitalized the program, it's hard to be down on things right now. Keep in mind that I say that as someone who thought Dave Wannstedt deserved another season to get Pitt to that next level. Judging from the response on Cardiac Hill and from fans I've talked to locally, I was definitely in the minority on that. So I think the consensus is that Pitt ended up in a pretty good place - even though it took a while to get there.
Bull Run) How much are panther fans buying into all this realignment hype?
Got a few hours? No, in all seriousness, I think it's safe to say there's a lot of interest. The realignment posts always generate a lot of interest and the intriguing part is that no one has any real idea how things will shape out. I wouldn't be surprised to see Pitt stay in a stronger Big East, get an invitation to the ACC, or even generate interest from the Big Ten if they decide to expand. The Big East isn't completely stable, but they're in a far better position because of the negotiations for a new TV contract. Regardless of the fact that they're the weakest football conference in the BCS, that contract will still draw a significant amount of money. Money that could help bring in additional teams should the Big XII explode or potentially keep teams from jumping ship.