After an unexpected off week, Pitt’s football team will prepare to face Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Following the postponement of last week’s game against Georgia Tech, it’s clear that the Panthers playing a game this weekend is anything but certain. Head coach Pat Narduzzi reiterated that in his weekly press conference when asked if he expected a game to be played this weekend after the last game was canceled due to Covid-related issues.
While Narduzzi said they expect to play, that’s clearly up in the air, as he would sort of confirm.
“You don’t know until really Friday at midnight or Saturday morning when you wake up you get your text message that says, hey, everything’s good,” Narduzzi said. “And again it’s been that — we’ve gotten used to it. We’ve gotten spoiled that the results have been great.”
Logistically, Narduzzi wasn’t even sure of the team’s practice situation as of that Monday presser. The team tested on Sunday afternoon but had not yet gotten any results yet. That test, along with tests on Wednesday and Friday, will make the picture clearer.
If there is a game, it looks to be a good one.
What’s the thing that sticks out to me? That these are arguably two very good football teams.
Get this — these two teams are a total of six points away (not each, total) from having four more wins and each being 6-2. Pitt’s lost two games by a single point and Virginia Tech lost games to Miami and ranked/unbeaten Liberty by a total of four points. Neither of these teams are elite and there’s proof of that. Elite teams don’t get pounded by Notre Dame, 45-3, or lose to, well, Liberty. But these are teams that could both be better than their records show.
I understand fans don’t care about that — they care about wins and losses. But what I’d suggest is that this game is not all that far from being a Top 25 ranked matchup.
That, however, is not what it is. Instead, both Pitt and Virginia Tech are 4-4 on the year and entrenched firmly in that sea of mediocrity in the ACC that I mentioned briefly in the weekly power rankings. Neither team is really having the kind of year to make you take notice and, even though the Panthers get the game at home, they are a slight underdog as of now.
That’s understandable. Both teams have identical records and if you look at benchmarks, Virginia Tech’s got the edge. The Hokies not only beat the NC State and Boston College teams that Pitt lost to, but they did so with little trouble, winning both games by more than 20 points. They also beat Louisville by a larger margin and while both teams lost to Miami, the Hokies played them much tighter, losing by only a single point.
Consider this, too — Pitt’s best win is arguably a nailbiter against Louisville. Of Virginia Tech’s four wins, that one is neck and neck with Duke as being their least attractive win. Nothing on paper in those head to head matchups with common opponents suggests Pitt would be favored here.
Fortunately, the teams have to play each other to determine a winner and there are a few things to like here if you’re a Pitt fan.
Virginia Tech does have a strong offense, hitting for 40 points or more in half of their games. In fact, only twice this year have they failed to reach 35 — a loss to Wake Forest and a loss to Miami. But the Hokies have dominated their opponents by running the ball, and that’s where Pitt has really excelled on defense — stopping the run.
Khalil Herbert is one of the top backs in the nation with 852 yards. But if you’re Pitt, you much rather want to face a strong ground attack than a strong passing one. The Panthers are getting plenty of pressure on quarterbacks to make passing games uncomfortable. But with the No. 2 rushing defense in the nation, giving up 2.2 yards per carry and fewer than 80 yards a game, you take that all day. If nothing else, Herbert should have to work for what he gets.
The Hokies have also not been great defensively this year, ranking 96th in the nation in total defensive, giving up just over 450 yards a game. And giving up just over 30 points a game, Pitt will have the chance to get on the scoreboard enough to make a game of things.
I don’t know — my bias probably will not allow me to pick against Pitt here but I think the Panthers have a legitimate chance to win this game. Obviously no one’s happy about the team having to postpone last week’s game against Georgia Tech but Kenny Pickett, if he’s available, had another week to rest up and get healthy. That goes for the whole team, including defensive lineman Keyshon Camp, who’s been out. Maybe that plays into the Panthers’ favor, too.
Oh, and it’s also Senior Day as it’s the team’s final home game of the year. Hey, whatever opportunity slight edge I can dig up, I’m good with.