Virginia Tech takes on Pittsburgh with Chas Rich of PittBlather.com joining us for this week's Opposing 5 to break down Pittsburgh. We encourage you to give Chas a follow @ChasRich27 and are thankful for his participation in this week's Opposing 5.
With that said, check out Chas' insight on this week's opponent Pittsburgh.
1. What's the vibe about the direction of the Pitt program under Pat Narduzzi?
The vibe is mixed. Cautious optimism with sheer terror, and just a bit of abject frustration for good measure.
Narduzzi has built this defense from the ground up. It is now an excellent side of the ball complete with depth that not only survived the loss of two starters in training camp, along with a starter in the secondary for several games -- but didn't miss a beat. It took a bit longer then expected, but that is here now.
The problem is the same cannot be said for the offensive side. The development and talent has definitely been dropping -- rot in hell Shawn Watson.
Couple this imbalance with Narduzzi's tendency to revert to his defensive coordinator roots and you can have a team that will start to try and bleed clock as soon as the second half begins. To try and sit on leads when they should be pouring it on.
I'm sure you noticed that all but two of Pitt's games were one-possession games. That, unfortunately, is not an accident.
All that said, and thanks for the talk therapy, I like Narduzzi and what he has done as Pitt's head coach. I just wish it was moving a little faster.
2. How has the Pitt offense looked with Kenny Pickett at the forefront?
Pickett is not a great QB. He's not a bad QB, either. He's a true junior with a new OC who not only wants to throw the ball, but prefers it. He struggles at times with his reads and is never completely sure of the condition of the O-line. But he is a good runner.
The running game is just not there. A mix of some injuries and mostly an O-line that has underwhelmed in the blocking.That further contributes to the need to throw the ball more. It also contributes to second half issues where Pitt tries to bleed clock too soon and instead gives opposing teams more opportunities.
The wide receivers have been developed. Maurice Ffrench (who is likely out with a broken jaw) and Taysir Mack are the top targets. But the group behind them in Louis, Carter and Mathews have come on in recent weeks.
I'd rather not talk about the TEs.
3. Why has Pitt's run defense been so dominant?
Again, the defense has been a long time coming. Narduzzi has done a great job at evaluating and developing players. That was expected, it just wasn't expected to take this long and be all so abrupt.
What was surprising is that there is depth as well. That means, players can rotate in on the d-line to remain fresh. That has contributed to the stout line.
As for the run defense, Narduzzi plays aggressive up front. Pitt will frequently leave the secondary in single coverage. That means the linebackers are playing closer to the line and even the safeties will sneak in there.
4. How well is Pitt built to handle bad weather conditions?
The question is with the offense that relies heavily on the passing game. On the plus side, the passing game isn't deep ball reliant. It's a lot more 5-15 yard passes and getting the receivers in space to do more.
It's kind of weird that Pitt hasn't played in particularly nasty weather to this point. Other than some cold games. So, it is mostly theory.
5. What are the keys to the game for Pitt?
Contain Hooker. Make him hand the ball off or pass. I'd rather see him staying behind the line then getting out to the edges and losing the defense.
The keys are mainly on the offense. It would be nice to see the running game click. More importantly, Pitt has to jump out early in a game filled with a lot of emotion for players and fans.
Really on offense, it will be about keeping VT off balance by spreading the ball around to the receivers. Not just locking in on Mack.
Lane Stadium is always great for big games and let's face it, the last home game for your legendary DC constitutes one regardless of who was facing VT today.
I can't legitimately say Pitt-VT is a rivalry. But there is history going back 20 years. Pitt has wrecked some VT seasons. The coaches don't seem to like each other that much. And most of the games are close ones.
As a pessimist by nature, I end up seeing this one going to the Hokies 22-19.