The Pittsburgh Panthers will kick off their 2017 season on September 2. The date is approaching fans in Pittsburgh fast.
In this column, I look at the first six games and give my predictions.
How will they do?
Pitt vs. Youngstown State – WIN
This game is to not be taken lightly. Youngstown State is coming off a trip to the FCS National Championship game where they lost to James Madison.
The Penguins lost two stud defensive ends in Avery Moss and Derek Rivers to the NFL. However, they return key players like Hunter Wells at quarterback, Shane Kuhn at tight end and Lee Wright at linebacker.
The Penguins are known to ruin the season for the Panthers – it has happened before. They need to treat this game like it’s a mid-season ACC opponent.
Pitt at Penn State – LOSS
It is never easy to travel to Happy Valley and escape with a win. It’s even harder when you look at the reigning Big Ten Champions roster this year.
Two words: Saquon Barkley. In my opinion, Barkley is the best running back I have seen since LeSean McCoy. Their games do differ, but their impact on the field is very similar.
Trace McSorley returns under center, and is looking to maintain his 16.1 yards per completion, which led the nation in 2016. Both McSorley and Barkley are under the Heisman watch.
Marcus Allen made fans happy when he announced he wouldn’t be leaving for the NFL. Big time play-maker in the secondary and a next level player – obviously.
Let’s not forget the five star recruit, Lamont Wade, who picked Penn State over Pitt and basically every other school in the nation. Does Lamont make an impact this year? That will remain to be seen.
The Nittany Lions lost more on defense than offense this year, but they will still be too much for the Panthers to handle.
Pitt vs. Oklahoma State – LOSS
I’m assuming we all remember last year’s battle with Oklahoma State. It seemed like the Cowboys threw for about 13,000 yards. Close. Quarterback Mason Rudolph threw for 540 yards with two touchdowns.
Wide receiver, James Washington collected 296 yards and hauled in two touchdowns.
Guess what. They both return for Oklahoma State. If Pitt doesn’t get their defense in check, this could be another deep ball after deep ball game. The cowboys threw a 90 yard touchdown last year 16 seconds into the game.
The Cowboys are bringing in a No. 11 preseason ranking. The question relies on their defense, but it’s the BIG 12. Not too much defense is played in that league.
Again, just too much for the Panthers to handle. If the three game suspensions didn’t happen and if Tre Tipton wasn’t hurt do I think these first three games change? No. With a full roster I believe the Panthers are starting 1-2 this year.
Pitt at Georgia Tech – WIN
Georgia Tech will be starting a new quarterback this year in Matthew Jordan. Jordan has some experience, mostly in short yardage situations.
Dedrick Mills returns in the backfield, as he tries to build on his 86 yards per game season last year.
Defensively, Georgia Tech has never been strong. They are returning eight defensive starters and are hoping that senior defensive end KeShun Freeman has more of an impact on the field.
The Yellow Jackets came together very well last year, posting a 9-4 record, but replacing their three year starter under center, Justin Thomas, will be too much of a task. Narduzzi has the right mind to help stop that triple option. Panthers win.
Pitt vs. Rice – WIN
Rice is leaving their 3-9 season in the rear view. They do not have much to build on from last year. Their defense was terrible. They gave up more than 500 yards per game.
If you thought the Panthers secondary was bad, can you imagine this? Pitt wins.
Pitt at Syracuse – WIN
Pitt beat Syracuse last year in a strong defensive battle resulting in a 76-61 score. Looks like more of an ACC basketball score, doesn’t it?
Syracuse is predicted to finish second to last in the Atlantic division this year. Eric Dungey returns under center and is definitely a play-maker in their hurry-up offense.
Syracuse is bringing in a very talented running back. Markenzy Pierre. He will more than likely be the No. 2 guy behind Dontae Strickland. Erv Phillips is another threat on the outside and with Dungey throwing him the ball, defenses could get caught flat footed.
Zaire Franklin returns on the defensive side of the ball and is the backbone of the team. His toughness and leadership is second to none.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is closer than people think. Their offense is hit or miss. Regardless, Pitt wins.
Pitt will go 4-2 in the first six games. The Panthers have a very tough start to the schedule, and it only gets harder as we get into ACC play.
The suspensions hurt, and not having Whitehead (and possibly Ford) patrol the secondary against Penn State and Oklahoma State makes it even harder.
Stay tuned for the next 6 games.
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