#4 Nittany Lions to Host Pitt Panthers
The main title of this post is the name of a detestable brew that is a favorite of Pitt Panthers fans: Iron City Light. Known by the Pittsburgh locals (aka “yinzers”) as IC Light, it inspires me to repeat an old riddle:
Q: Why is IC Light like making love in a canoe?
A: They’re both fucking close to water!
(Well, given the impending storm and a possible impending sinus infection, this was the best my addled brain could dredge up for the occasion.)
The Pitt Panthers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) come to St. Joe Stadium at Beaver to play the #4 Nittany Lions (1-0, 0-0 B1G) at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon. Penn State, as you know, just shut out Akron 52-0, while Pitt blew a 21-point lead and had to beat Youngstown State in overtime. Florida State’s loss to Alabama, coupled with USC’s suckage, gave PSU a boost in the polls from #6 to #4.
I got yer Pitt-Penn State rivalry right here!
The Steel City’s eponymous university has produced some damn fine teams, which have created a see-saw rivalry through the years with Penn State. The Pitt game was once the end-of-season showdown for bragging rights in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The all time record is 50-43-4 in favor of the Nittany Lions; however, Pitt has won the past two games: last year’s and the previous game in 2000.
In 2016 the two teams played a thriller at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, with Pitt ending up on top 42-39. Not exactly a pitcher’s duel! That young Penn State team seemed to be awe-stricken by the rivalry, and so they came out flat, nervous, and ineffectual during the first quarter, allowing the Panthers to establish an early two-touchdown advantage. The Panthers used the power game of James Conner, coupled with the outside speed of Quadree Henderson running the jet sweep to confuddle the PSU defense, ringing up 341 rushing yards on 56 carries. Clearly, the defense fell down, as 39 points was at the time the greatest number of points scored in a losing effort. (That record perished at the Rose Bowl.)
A shadow of their former selves.
This year, the Pitt Panthers are Panthers Light — like light beer, a mere parody of their former selves. James Conner is now a Pittsburgh Steeler and wide receiver Tre Tipton suffered a season-ending injury in June. However, the Panthers still have Quadree Henderson, who has shown flashes of genius. Not only do they have Quadree, but also Qadree — Ollison, that is. The latter is a running back who was slated to replace Conner, but he suffered “an ankle” during the first half of the Youngstown State game, making him a doubtful starter for the Penn State game. He had produced 91 yards on the ground on 22 carries, scoring two touchdowns, against YSU and caught five passes for 35 more.
Now, here’s a name for you. If I didn’t warn you in advance, you’d think it was a typo. Maurice Ffrench is a sophomore defensive back for the Panthers. He’s from the Ffrench ffamily in New Bbrunswick, NJ. This is the coolest name I’ve ever seen, and it doesn’t even have internal punctuation! Anyhow, Ffrench plays offfense sometimes now, which he did during the Youngstown State game. As a wide receiver, he snagged three for 19 yyards.
Pitt still favors the rushing attack, with only 140 aerial yards against the Penguins, as compared with 208 on the ground. Max Browne, the senior QB from Southern California, was 17-24 in the opener, with one touchdown and no interceptions. I believe the strong Penn State pass rush and decent secondary will force Panther head coach Pat Narduzzi to rely on the running game once again.
Defensive suspensions’ll killya.
Pitt’s problems extend to the defense, on which Narduzzi suspended standout safety Jordan Whitehead for the first three games of the season. The coach also dismissed senior defensive end Rori Blair and suspended senior linebacker Quintin Wirginis for three games. Whitehead was regarded to be the best player on defense, while Blair and Wirginis (who led the team in sacks) were thought to have been starters before the suspensions were announced.
Youngstown State torched Pitt for 418 yards, 311 of those via the pass, averaging 9.7 yards per pass. Even though they rushed only 26 times, YSU averaged 4.1 yards per rush. The Penguins were 4-11 on third down and 2-2 on fourth. The conclusion is that the Pitt Panthers’ defense suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks!
Special teams newbie has big shoes to fill.
Pitt will also be relying on a red shirt freshman place-kicker, Alex Kessman, who will replace the very consistent, yet comically named (for a kicker), Chris Blewitt. Blewitt had been the kicker for four years, and therefore Kessman has big kicking shoes to fill.
The weather in State College on Saturday will be a helluva lot better than it will be here in Central Florida, that’s for damn sure! Current forecast calls for partly cloudy with a high of 63°F. No rain means no excuses for dropped passes.
Official Turkey Poop Prediction
The current betting line favors Penn State by three touchdowns, with an over/under of 67.5. This suggests a comical final score of 44-23. So, what we used to call “Reno” thinks Penn State’s defense will give up 23 points after last week’s shutout? Hell, it took Pitt an overtime to get to 28 last week — against Youngstown State. Ain’t gon’ be no overtime this week.
I’m dashing this off early because of the possibility that Hurricane Irma will impact me later in the week. I wouldn’t want to deprive you all of my prediction because I was blown away. Seriously, this is “The Big One” and if you don’t hear from me for a while, you’ll know why. My fervent hope is that she takes a right turn very soon and stays out at sea. Even if that happens, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will be hard hit.
Back to the game. You know, I kind of like our chances this year. One of the problems last year was that head coach James Franklin attempted to minimize the concept of the rivalry, which had an impact on the players. Both Franklin and the team are older and wiser this year — and the Nittany Lions are playing at home. The big question is whether the Penn State D will solve the jet sweep. For the most part, I think they will. Penn State 45, Pitt 13. Take the under.
If I make it through the storm, have a workable computer, and otherwise am in a position write an article, I’ll be back after the game with a recap.