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25 Questions: Pitt

A post inspired but FalconBlog's weekly 25 questions.

Program:

Where are the Panthers at:

Pitt is finally starting to return to form after the first three years of Dave Wannstedt's tenure failed to produce a winning record. The Panthers finished 9-3 last season before being embarrassed at the Sun Bowl (No matter how close the game (3-0) being shut out in a Bowl game leaves a sour taste).

Last Seasons High Point:

Beating then #10 South Florida was a turning point for Pitt. While South Florida would prove to be a top 25 pretender the confidence boost for the Panthers propelled them to their best regular season since 2002.

Last Seasons Low Point:

The loss to Oregon in the Sun Bowl was bad but coming up short against Cincinnati late in the season kept the Panthers out of a BCS bowl had to be the low point. The Panthers made it close but just could not keep up with the Bear cats.

Offense:

Do they take care of the Ball?

Can't really judge this season on the back of one game against Youngstown but looking at their body of work from last season it should be clear that the Panthers are prone to interceptions. Stull threw 10 pics on only 9 touchdowns. As a team they ranked tied for 88th with 27 turnovers, that's nearly double the number that UB committed last season.

How is their Passing Offense?

In the bottom third of FBS teams, they turn the ball over too much, average barely above 200 yards per game, and their starter did not manage ten touchdowns. Their also might be a small quarterback controversy brewing with the home fans booing Stull, and Stull responding with a whining rant to the media.

How is their Rushing Offense?

Solid, they lost LeSean McCoy to an early appearance in the NFL draft but Dion Lewis looks able to fill that role. Stopping the Pitt running game is the key to beating the Panthers.

How are their receivers?

Under appreciated and under used, the weakness in the Panthers passing game falls squarely on signal calling and the quarterback executing them. Pitts receivers are talented and fast. It will be a challenge for UB's veteran secondary to keep them covered but if the Bulls don't stop the run the wide outs will see little action.

How about their Offensive line?

Solid on run blocking but not good enough on the Pass to protect Stull. The Panthers ranked 101 in sacks allowed last season.

Are they High Powered?

No, the 27 points UB gave up last season matched the Panthers final season average. The Panthers had only one offensive showing that was truly impressive, dropping 34 on a very good UConn defense. The only other teams they managed 30+ on were Syracuse, Louisville, Rutgers, and Notre Dame (in 4ot). The UB defense should be able to keep Pitt under 30 points.

How Well do they convert on 3rd?

at 30% they are near the bottom of the Big East in third down conversions, a good stop on first down can really back this offense into a corner.

Can their offense close a drive?

Last seasons the panthers scored over 90 percent of the time in the red zone scoring, on average, five points a trip.

Defense:

How Good is their defense?

Turner Gill has said the Pitt defense will be the biggest challenge this year. The Panthers finished in the top third of most defensive categories last season. The panthers averaged giving up 21 points a game on a little over 300 yards and return their enough key starters to perform well again.

Do they take the Ball Away?

They do better than the average team but generating turnovers is not something the Panthers are especially good at. The averaged close to 2 defensive turnovers a game in 2008 and only manged two last week against Youngstown.

Can they stop the Run?

Yes, they ranked in the top 30 rushing defenses in the nation in 2008 giving up only 124 yards per game and less than 4ypc.

Can they stop the Pass?

Not as well as the run but they do have a respectable passing defense. A 19 to 16 ratio of Touchdowns to interceptions is impressive as is the under 200 yards a game. If the passing defense has a weakness it's what happens when you do get a completion on them (they give up more than 11 yards per completion).

How do they perform on third downs?

They are in the top 30 nationally. They only allowed opponents to convert 34% of the time. Last year Buffalo did ok against them converting 6/13.

How is their red zone defense?

Last season the panthers held opponents to 4.6 points a trip, the Panthers specialize in keeping teams out of the red zone but once a team got there they scored eighty percent of the time.

How well do they get after the QB?

2.5 sacks a game in 2008, which puts them in the top quarter of NCAA division one teams. Chances are Maynard will have to use his mobility a bit.

Do they get after you in the backfield?

They do an OK job, they ranked 39th nationally in tackles for loss and as I mentioned above they are 30th in sacks.

Special Teams:

How is their return game?

They are breaking in new returners for both kickoffs and punts, but they looked solid against Youngstown. They have room for improvement over last years squad which was in the bottom third of all FBS teams and did not manage a touchdown.

How well do they defend returns?

Solid, they ranked 11th and 16th respectively in yards per return on Punts and Kick Returns. Though both defensive units did give up a touchdown.

How well do they Kick?

Pitt is breaking in a new FG kicker this year, So far there is not an impressive body of work as he has attempted, and made, only one filed goal (26 yards). Only four of Hutchins seven kickoffs managed to be returned so the Bulls do have a leg to contend with.

How Well do they Punt?

Hutchins also doubled as their new Punter where he had an impressive average of 47 yards a kick with 2/3 ending up inside the opponents 20.

How does Pitt do against the MAC?

While I consider the loss to Cincinnati the low point many Panther fans might consider losing to Bowling green in week one, and getting punted from the top 25 because of it, their low point. Pitt generally does well against the MAC but on the road they are only 1-2.

How Big is this game for Each Team?

Everyone keeps saying this is the 'biggest game ever for UB', I disagree. Pitt may end up a top 25 team and it would be nice to beat them but I don't think this is going to be the biggest game of our season (Temple or Bowling Green) let alone in our history.

For the Panthers this is just another game against a MAC school, I am sure they are taking us some what seriously after BG beat them and UB scared them in 2008, but while we are thinking about another trip to the International Bowl they are thinking about winning the Big East and going to a BCS Bowl.