Pittsburgh vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

The offense has been bad for two straight weeks against not-so-great defenses. I respect that Brent Pry wants to instill his culture but he also has to find a way to make the offense work. In the first half, the Hokies put together a couple of nice drives (see the video tweets below). Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep up that level of consistency throughout the game. But you can see glimpses of an offense that is maybe starting to put things together.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 87th
Offense: 118th
Defense: 35th
Special Teams: 30th

Pittsburgh

Overall: 45th
Offense: 22nd
Defense: 76th
Special Teams: 121st

Pittsburgh has an efficient offense. Not as good as WVU or UNC’s but still pretty solid. Like those two teams, they are well balanced running and passing the ball. They have a running back to can pick up big chunk plays and a quarterback who doesn’t make many mistakes. A lot like WVU, this is an offense that can nickle and dime you all the way downfield. The Hokies defense will need to find ways to get off the field on third down. They held up well for three quarters against West Virginia. Now, they’ll to find a way to do it for 60 minutes — with a little help from the offense.

This looks like a traditional Pitt defense. Good not great. They are good at defending the pass and not as good at defending the run. With VT’s run blocking I’m not sure that matters much. Teams with good offenses have had success against this defense. Even Georgia Tech’s putrid offense was able to put up 26 points on Pitt. That might be an outlier but still, this defense has it’s weaknesses. It’s all a matter of if the Hokies can exploit any of them.

I’ve started to go into how-many-points-will-Tech-lose-by mode. For me, it’s less about wins and losses this year and more about showing improvement week-to-week. The defense is about what I expected. The offense is far worse than I expected. But teams rarely stay exactly the same all year long. There are ebbs and flows. I’m hoping as the weeks go by, we start seeing some more life from this offense. Until then, I’m in wait-and-see mode. I’m not going to pick Tech to score more than 10 points in a P5 game until they prove they can.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 33, Virginia Tech 10

Pittsburgh Q&A with The Loyal Sons

This week we are joined by Pittsburgh podcast The Loyal Sons. You can follow them on Twitter (@TheLoyalSons) and listen to their podcast here.

Tell us about yourself and your podcast. 

John “Squid” Cotton, 26

Dylan Mitchell, 26

David Haddad, 27

The Loyal Sons started as Dylan’s burner account under the name “Capel Faithful”, honoring the new savior of Pitt Basketball. While Jeff Capel’s tenure has not exactly been a success, the Twitter account was able to gather a surprising following. As a group of dudes in our mid-20s, modern social mores demanded that we then start a podcast. And so in September of 2021, The Loyal Sons Show was born.

While none of us could break down an All-22 to save our lives, we take pride in capturing the zeitgeist of Pitt Football fandom better than anyone: snake-bitten, yet relentlessly hopeful. Reactionary, but surprisingly patient. And above all, emotionally dependent on Kenny Pickett.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your thoughts on Pitt so far this season?

If we only had one word to describe the theme of Pitt’s first four games, it would be “injuries”. To date, 14 players on Pitt’s 2-deep have missed time, many of whom are crucial pieces with huge expectations. Plugging so many holes has forced Coach Narduzzi to play conservatively against overmatched opponents, This has resulted in unnecessarily close games, including this past weekend’s absolute meltdown against GT – the worst loss of the Narduzzi era. The game plan has been simple: run the ball, do the bare minimum to win, get back on the bus with as many guys as stepped off of it, and get healthy for the meat of conference play. But now we’re 0-1 in the ACC and getting completely (and fairly) written off, so a lot of good that did us.

Pitt fans will tell you we know very little about this team. It felt like all the pieces were there for an ACC Championship contender (or better) until Saturday’s loss. This defense has the potential to be one of the better units in the country once it gets both starting DEs and its Top CB back and in a rhythm. The offense should be capable of more than its paltry output thus far. This team could still be dangerous down the stretch. Or they might totally suck. We just don’t know yet.

How have Pitt fans responded to winning the ACC last season? 

Pitt fans couldn’t have dreamt of a season like 2021. Older fans thought they would die without ever having seen something like it again. Truly a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

Then came 2022 and the dream became an expectation. We went from praying for a 10-win season to getting greedy about rankings and playoff buzz. We came into the season feeling disrespected about the narratives that have surrounded this team. All we heard was “No Kenny, no Addison, no Whipple.” We became an afterthought despite returning everyone in the building but those three. It gave everyone – players, coaches, and fans – a bit of a chip on their shoulders. But the disrespect may have been for good reason.

This season is viewed as a make-or-break for the program. It’s massively important for Pitt to build on last season’s success if it ever wants to return to the glory of the 70’s and 80’s. Kenny Pickett opened a window, and Pat Narduzzi needs capitalize on it. Because we can’t go back to the fucking Sun Bowl.

What are your thoughts on having Virginia Tech added as a permanent rival after this season? 

We’re pretty pumped about it. Pitt hasn’t really developed many “true” rivalries since it came to the ACC, so this could be a huge opportunity. VT and Miami feel like the closest thing Pitt has, given their shared histories in the Big East. The increased familiarity could be big for this rivalry, considering we’ve barely played 20 times.

Also, pretty pumped to get to come to Blacksburg more. Cool town, good food, Enter Sandman, etc.

Do you view Virginia Tech as a rival program? 

We dislike Virginia Tech. It seems like Virginia Tech dislikes Pitt (or at least Pat Narduzzi). We play yinz every year and it always feels like a meaningful game. But The Loyal Sons don’t loathe Virginia Tech. We loathe Penn State. We loathe West Virginia. For VT, it just isn’t there yet.

But it could be! It would be good for both programs for this matchup to grow in importance. The new scheduling wrinkle is going to go a very long way in making that happen. But we also all bear some individual responsibility in pouring a little more gasoline on the fire. So screw you, Treadmill Horse. What kind of name even is that?

What’s your favorite memory from the rivalry? 

Not just our favorite Pitt-VT memory, but one of our favorite football memories, period…

Lousaka Polite’s go-ahead touchdown to put #25 Pitt over the top against #5 VT in 2003. All three of us consider it our earliest memory of watching Pitt Football.

The matchup between Pitt and VT at Heinz Field in 2018 is a fan favorite too. Pitt controlled their own destiny to win the ACC Coastal, and for that reason, Pitt fans were expecting the worst. Plot-twist, Pitt wins by 30 and nearly ran for 500 yards. We still talk about Qadree Ollison stiff-arming Caleb Farley on his 97-yard TD run to this day.

But if you want a least favorite memory, we have one that’s a bit more favorable to your side. In 2019, we rolled about 20 people deep to Blacksburg to watch the Hokies go up 28-0 before halftime in an absolute downpour. We didn’t stay much past that point. Our last memory leaving the stadium was hearing the PA man announce Paris Ford’s targeting ejection. Salt in the wound. 

What’s your outlook on the future of the ACC? 

The ACC is in a pretty stable place despite how un-sexy it’s been for like 10 years. The Grant of Rights ties all 14 teams to the conference until 2036 save a majority of schools vote to nullify it and leave. But that would almost require all of the other power conferences in CFB to coordinate together to divy up the 8+ most attractive programs in the ACC, recruit them, whip the votes, and then negotiate their exit – all behind closed doors. 

So that doesn’t seem likely. But that doesn’t do jack for the value or respectability of the ACC in the meantime. The ACC needs to be proactive about the changing winds of college football. And that starts with picking off some desirable brands from the PAC12, Big 12, and maybe even some G5 powers. Realignment is going to continue, and a P5 conference is likely to crash and burn and be picked apart by the vultures circling overhead. It would be easy for the ACC to fall behind if it doesn’t make moves ASAP. Do it for pride, do it for the TV money. Whatever. Just do it.

On top of that, the big brands of the ACC need to stop being pathetic. What the hell happened to Florida State and Miami? Hell, even GT and VT aren’t what they were 20 years ago (rich coming from Pitt fans, we know). We can’t lean on the GoR to survive. At some point, we have to do football good.

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game? 

Brent Pry is in a true Year 0. Justin Fuente left the cabinet pretty bare, and in theory there’s a not-insignificant talent deficit between these two teams. Pry has all the resources to build something special in the Commonwealth, but that doesn’t do you much good this season.

We said the same about Georgia Tech though, and we all saw how that ended up. So maybe coaching and preparation might have something to do with wins and losses as well. It doesn’t matter how much deeper we think Pitt is if they keep coming out in a tight 2-WR set on 3rd & long and either running a draw or eating a bad coverage sack. 

VT has the defensive power to keep this game slow and sluggish to start, but at the end of the day, I think Pitt pulls it out because there’s a few starters and coordinators whose jobs might depend on it.

What’s your prediction for the game?

Before the GT game we said Pitt wins 34-10. But now we’re sad and angry so we predict 17-10. Neither team’s offense is going anywhere right now.

Pittsburgh vs. Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

The Notre Dame game was a tough pill to swallow. The Hokies were so close to putting that game away but couldn’t make the plays in crunch time. Every year there are going to be close games and those games are the difference between good seasons and great seasons. So far, the Hokies are 1-2 in those games. That needs to improve as the Hokies get into conference play.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 49th
Offense: 50th
Defense: 46th
Special Teams: 56th

Pittsburgh

Overall: 10th
Offense: 9th
Defense: 27th
Special Teams: 15th

Kenny Pickett may be the best QB the Hokies see this season. He may not be the highest pick in the draft but he is putting up the best numbers at the college level. Pickett is one of the best in the nation in passing yards, passing TDs and passing efficiency. Virginia Tech has had trouble over the years with NFL-caliber quarterbacks. Kenny Pickett definitely fits that description. The Hokies defensive backs and linebackers better bring their A-game because Pickett is going to be tough to stop.

The Pitt rushing defense will be able to stop the run and make the Hokies one-dimensional. Tech will have to throw to move the ball against Pitt which means winning battles in one-on-one coverage. Braxton Burmeister is going to have to be able to throw the ball up and hope his receiver comes down with it. So far this year, the Hokies haven’t been winning many of those battles when the ball is in the air. This isn’t a game where the Hokies can afford to be tentative on offense.

Tech should have one of the better pass defenses that Pitt have faced. The Hokies’ secondary matches up pretty well against Pitt’s receivers. But it’s a balanced offense that will be tough to stop. They run the ball well which will set up some opportunities to go downfield to their deep ball threats. This Pitt offense has been a nightmare for opposing defenses because they run and pass the ball so well.

Is this a lost cause? Definitely not. Pittsburgh looked extremely mortal in their loss to Western Michigan. Maybe Pittsburgh will look a little rusty after their bye. Pitt has lost in their last two visits to Lane Stadium. The Hokies looked terrible in 2019 in the Duke game and came back the next week and beat a pretty good Miami team. Weird things happen in college football. On paper, Pitt looks like the better team but anything can happen on any given Saturday in college football.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Virginia Tech 17

Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

The Miami game was a tough way to lose. The Hokies looked like the better team for three quarters against a top ten team. Then the offense went into hiding in the fourth quarter. It’s easy to point fingers but you have to make the plays in crunch time to win the game. Miami did. Virginia Tech didn’t. It’s that simple.

SP+ Rankings

This game comes down to can Hendon Hooker complete passes against man coverage? We know exactly what Pittsburgh in going to do. They will stack the box against the run and make Hendon Hooker beat them against press coverage. If Tech’s receivers can get open and Hendon Hooker can find them the ball, the Hokies should have success moving the football. But if Tech can’t run the ball and Hendon Hooker has trouble finding open receivers, it could be a long day offensively.

The Panthers struggle to run the ball and like to move the ball in the air. That plays to the advantage of the Hokies. Tech is better at stopping teams thru the air than on the ground. Kenny Pickett will have his work cut out for him against Virginia Tech’s secondary. Pitt ranks 71st in the nation in scoring offense averaging 27.6 points per game. Watch out for Jordan Addison in the passing game. He is Pitt’s go-to receiver.

This is a game where the Hokies want to get the tight ends involved. If James Mitchell is healthy, he would be the featured receiver. If he’s not able to go, the Hokies will need to lean on Nick Gallo. Expect this game to be a low-scoring affair, where the Hokies will HAVE to move the ball through the air. If all-else-fails the Hokies should run the Jerod Evans offense and have Hendon Hooker throw up jump ball after jump ball to his receivers. In the end, the Hokies will make a couple more plays offensively and win a one possession game on the road.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Pittsburgh 24

Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

Hokies are bowl eligible of an NCAA-leading 27th consecutive season. The first goal for any season is to make a bowl game. Start with that goal first, then worry about division titles. A bowl game was a good goal for this team — especially after waiting until their 12th game to make one last year. Their excellent play of late has them in the thick of the race for the Coastal division. But to get there they need to win two difficult games against Pittsburgh and Virginia.

SP+ Rankings

Pittsburgh

Overall: 52nd
Offense: 112th
Defense: 10th
Special Teams: 92nd

Virginia Tech

Overall: 44th
Offense: 67th
Defense: 35th
Special Teams: 39th

Pittsburgh reminds me of Virginia Tech teams from the mid-2000s. Elite defense. Pedestrian offense. Pittsburgh wins by keeping the opposition out of the end zone. Pittsburgh is giving up an average of 22 points per game in ACC games this season. Pitt’s defensive statistics are impressive. 11th in total defense. 7th in rushing defense. 9th in pass efficiency defense. To beat Pitt, you need to be able to complete passes against press coverage. Wide receivers need to win the one-on-one battles. This is a good week to get tight ends involved in the passing game. If the Hokies hope to have success on offense, they need to stay out of third and long. And use the screen game against an aggressive defensive line.

This is not the offense that you’ve seen from Pitt in the past. When you think of the Pitt offense you think of a run-heavy game. This year, the Panthers have not been able to run the ball and have turned to a pass-heavy offense. Pittsburgh’s offensive numbers are ugly. 106th in scoring offense. 106th in rushing offense. 96th in passing efficiency. This is an offense that does just enough to let their defense win the game for them.

This is going to be a close game. Pitt’s defense is good enough that the Hokies aren’t going to be able to go up and down the field on them. The goal for the Tech offense will be to not turn the ball over and try to grind out a few scoring drives to win the game. The Pitt defense is good but not unbeatable. Tech needs to take a methodical approach to their offense. Take opportunities as they come but don’t force it. The Hokies offense should be able to put enough points on the board to win. And the defense is playing well enough now to keep Pittsburgh’s offense mostly in check.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Pittsburgh 17

Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

This year’s Hokies have been the definition of inconsistent. One week, it’s the defense. One week, it’s the offense. I would argue the Hokies have only had two complete performances this season – against William & Mary and against Duke. Other than those games, you either get the Hokies offense or the Hokies defense or neither. If the Hokies hope to make a bowl this season, they need to close the season with a couple of complete performances.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ Rank: 61st
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 37th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 81st
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 34th

Pittsburgh

Overall S&P+ Rank: 71st
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 50th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 87th
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 61st

This is the third consecutive game against a team with a strong running game. Hokies struggled mightily with Georgia Tech and looked significantly better against Boston College. They will need to be even better to stop the Pitt rushing attack. They are led by Qadree Ollison who leads the team with 819 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. He is backed up by Darrin Hall who has big play ability and is averaging 7.4 yards per carry. He also had 229 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns against UVA last week. Pitt uses a lot of reverses and misdirection to confuse the opposing defenses. If the Hokies defense loses track of the ball carrier, then it’s off to the races.

Pitt’s defense has been a very up and down this year – just like the Hokies. In some games, they have looked excellent and in others they’ve looked mediocre or worse. You never know what you’re going to get from this defense. Their performance last week against UVA was probably their most complete performance of the year. This defense is better at stopping the run than the pass but they have struggled with both at times this season. This defense is good at getting in the backfield to generate sacks and tackles for loss. Watch out for Rashad Weaver getting pressure on Ryan Willis.

The Hokies remaining games are winnable but the Hokies need to put a complete performance together. This one isn’t a great matchup but it does look like a winnable matchup and the Hokies need to take advantage to get a win where they can. They need to avoid penalties and turnovers. If the defense shows up like they did against BC, and the offense can show up like they did against Georgia Tech, the Hokies should be in good shape. It’s difficult to predict games this year with a team as inconsistent as this year’s Hokies. If the Hokies want to get to a bowl game, this is where they need to go on the road and pick up a win in a place that’s been tough for them to get wins in the past. They are due for a complete performance.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Pittsburgh 27

Pitt Preview and Prediction

Georgia Tech is the one game so far this season that the Hokies shouldn’t have lost. They simply made too many mistakes and couldn’t capitalize when opportunities presented themselves. Most teams will have a loss or two like that each season. These are the ones who think about weeks later and know how close you were to a win. They are the difference between a good season and a great season.

Either way, the Georgia Tech loss doesn’t greatly affect the Hokies postseason goals. Even with a win against Georgia Tech, their chances at a New Year’s Six bowl were slim. And they are still in the mix for the Citrus, TaxSlayer and Camping World bowls with two more wins against Pitt and UVA. The important thing will be to get the team refocused after two tough losses and take care of business against two teams that they should beat.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 24th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 90th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 7th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 29th

Pittsburgh

Overall S&P+ ranking: 92nd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 72nd
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 94th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 83rd

The biggest issue that the Hokies will face from Pitt is their ground attack. Pitt uses a lot of jet sweep motion to spread out the defense then they run the ball with their big tailbacks. This is something that gave the Hokies trouble last season. Not to mention in their game against UNC, their quarterback scrambled more than he has all season. Expect this game to be like the Georgia Tech game. The Hokies need to stop the run and not get beat over the top.

Pitt’s run defense is bad but so is the Hokies run game. So those two things offset each other. If the Hokies want to move the ball in this game, they will need to do so through the air against Pitt’s average pass defense. Pitt likes to use a lot of press coverage which has given the Hokies trouble this year. The Hokies young wideouts will have to find space against tight coverage and make plays. The best outcome would be for Cam Phillips to have a great day on Senior Day.

The stats say Pittsburgh is somewhere in between Duke and North Carolina this season. Two teams that the Hokies blew out before they had their confidence stomped on by Miami. And before the recent rash of injuries the Hokies have suffered. On defense and special teams alone, this is a mismatch. The Hokies offense has been so stagnant in the last two weeks that it’s hard to expect much from them. And with the defensive injuries this past week, it’s hard to know what to expect from the defense. All I know is that Pittsburgh doesn’t pass the eye test to me. When I watched them last week, they looked a lot closer to UNC than they did VT. Even though it’s a bad matchup for the Hokies, they will find a way on Senior Day.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Pittsburgh 20

 

 

Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

The Hokies bounced back from the Syracuse loss in a big way against Miami. Now let’s see how they handle coming off a big win. The Hokies didn’t handle success very well last time. They immediately lost to Syracuse after a big win against UNC. Let’s hope we see more focus from the Hokies this time around.

The Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh series is one of the weirdest you’ll see. The Hokies dominated in the 90’s and that flipped in the 2000’s. The Hokies went 7 of the first 8 games in the series. Pitt has won 6 of 7 since 2000.

pittsburgh_series

Unlike previous visits to Heinz Field, I think this visit will get the Hokies full attention. This Pittsburgh team will not sneak up on the Hokies this time. This game is the Hokies biggest remaining obstacle to a trip to the ACC Championship Game.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 12th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 56th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 6th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 23rd

Pittsburgh

Overall S&P+ ranking: 33rd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 29th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 56th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 63rd

What is Pittsburgh good at? Running the ball and stopping the run. The key to slowing down their offense will be to shut down their run game. Even if the Hokies do that, they need to be able to stop their mobile QB from making plays with his feet. He doesn’t run a lot but can break the pocket to pick up a first down or two. The Hokies need to be ready for that.

Pittsburgh has the 5th ranked rushing defense in the nation.  They are very good at stopping the run. If the Hokies hope to win this game, they will need to move the ball through the air. Pittsburgh ranks 122nd in passing yards allowed. You would think the Hokies should be able to throw against this defense. If the Hokies do pass a lot, watch out for Ejuan Price off the edge. He leads the nation with 9 sacks this season.

On paper, the Hokies should win this game. But games aren’t played on paper. The last three times the Hokies have been to Heinz Field, they scored 6 points or less in the first half. This time they need to get off to a better start and put the Pitt offense and defense on their heels early. Unlike previous meetings, I think that Pitt has the Hokies full attention. I think you’ll see a much better performance than you’ve seen in previous visits to Pittsburgh.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Pittsburgh 24

Pitt Preview and Prediction

Virginia Tech is a .500 team. It’s been that way for the last three years and not much has changed. The loss of Kendall Fuller and Michael Brewer means that this year’s team will more than likely to be a .500 team again this year. From here on out, the Hokies need to win their home games and try to steal a win or two on the road. 

These teams are very closely matched. Neither team is really exceptional on offense or defense. They both clearly have their flaws on both sides of the ball. When you combine that with sloppy conditions on Saturday, you can’t really be sure what you’re going to get from either team. This is going to be an ugly game.

I hope this week Bud has spent some time working with the defense on how to contain a running QB. There’s a good chance we see Chad Voytik this week. Remember, he’s the guy who ran for 116 yards against the Hokies last year. 

The Hokies are a much better team than what they showed last week, injuries and all. Count me as thinking that the penalties will get cleaned up and we will see improved play from the secondary and linebackers in the coming weeks. There is talent there, but everyone has yet to put it all together. I’m going with the Hokies in a close game. They’re two evenly matched teams. I’ll go with the home team.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 23 Pittsburgh 20

Pittsburgh Q&A with @CzarOfPgh

You can follow Zach on Twitter at @CzarOfPgh.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

As has been the case with basically every Pitt team I’ve watched, I have really no clue what to make of them. There have been some very positive signs.

The defense, in particular the pass defense, has been night and day different than last year. Last year’s philosophy on defense suited Paul Chryst’s conservative personality quite well: bend but don’t break. Unfortunately, the talent level just wasn’t good enough to avoid breaking. This year, Pat Narduzzi has already implemented a tough, attacking defense. Starting cornerback Avonte Maddox has had a phenomenal season so far, and last year’s top recruit in Pennsylvania Jordan Whitehead has already seized the starting strong safety spot and is among the team leaders in tackles.

On the downside, the run defense is still a work in progress. A large part of this is talent. Paul Chryst failed to recruit the d-line and linebacker positions very well. Still, it’s obvious that the new more aggressive scheme will pay off once the talent level begins to catch up in a few years.

More troubling, the offense is suddenly a mess. Sure the loss of James Conner to injury and 60% of last year’s starting OL to either the NFL or season-long injury has been a major problem. A bigger problem, at least in my opinion, is a lack of a real identity. It’s not clear to me what the offense wants to be. At least with Paul Chryst you knew he wanted a power running attack. Thus far, Jim Chaney seems very hesitant to try to run inside, possibly due to the OL concerns. The problem is that the outside running game hasn’t been so great either. There have been a lot of East-West plays that never really develop. To go with those issues, Chaney quite obviously never trusted Chad Voytik to do… whatever it is Chaney wants to do. Nate Peterman has looked like he can make a lot of accurate throws, but he’s also been fairly turnover prone. I’m eager to see the offense develop into something with a real identity rather than random elements tossed together to see what works.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

I expect a fairly ugly game, especially if the weather is as expected. I know VT’s defense didn’t look like the elite unit it was expected to be against ECU, but I don’t think Pitt can do (or wants to do) the kinds of things on offense that ECU does. I’m terrified that VT’s talented defensive line is going to eat Pitt’s offensive line for lunch. Jim Chaney is going to want to establish the run one way or another, and that is going to be a tough order. Even if the weather were ideal, I’m not sure how well Pitt could pass against a great secondary and strong pass rush. In poor weather, it might be impossible. Unfortunately, I think a good passing game that keeps Tyler Boyd and the tight ends involved is going to be the best chance Pitt has to reliably move the ball.

When VT has the ball, I hope to see an improved rushing defense. VT has a lot of talent at running back, and Pitt is going to need to hold their own in order to have any chance of winning. If the passing defense can keep up its improved play over last year, Pitt’s success is going to come down to how well they can stop the run.  In an ugly game in wet weather, I can’t really say that either team has a clear advantage.

Heinz Field is a house of horrors for VT, how do you feel about Pitt coming to Lane Stadium?

To be honest, the thought of coming into a night game at Lane would terrify me. I want no part of that. Luckily, this year’s game is at noon. It’s hard to think of any stadium that’s truly intimidating for a noon game. Couple that with the expected wet, cold weather, and it’s hard to imagine much of a home field advantage for VT.

At this point, how do you see the Coastal Division shaking out? Which team do you think will end up winning the division?

From the looks of it, Duke is going to be the class of the Coastal. They’re really playing great defense, and if recent history carries any weight, the offense will get going pretty soon too. They’re capable of easily winning the Coastal outright. Miami should be right up there with them, but it’s hard to have any faith in an Al Golden-coached team. They could easily collapse and lose several games that they shouldn’t. I also wouldn’t write off Georgia Tech either. They were too good last year to look so sloppy this year. I think they’ll still have a respectable finish.

What I am trying to say here is that I think Duke probably wins it but everyone has a good shot of finishing well. Except Virginia.

What is your prediction for the game?

Ugly. Maybe not Mizzou-UConn ugly, but pretty bad. These are two flawed teams that have been forced by injury to reconsider what their strengths are. A noon game in wet weather isn’t going to help them figure it out. I expect Virginia Tech to pull out a victory because they’re more talented on defense. If Pitt can figure out an offensive recipe that works–and it was in the VT game last year that the light bulb went off for the offense–then they have a good chance. Still, VT is the more talented team, so unless they get unlucky in the turnover department, I’d expect VT to win close.

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