#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.
45-13 sounds reasonable, but being at home again, and with great weather projected, I think 48-13 is more likely.
The Nittany Turkey says
I won’t argue about a field goal. Stay safe through Irma, whether you’re in Asheville or Caracas.
New forecasts aren’t promising. Supposed to downgrade to a 3, but the eye is supposed to head strait up the middle of florida. I guess the positive here is that it loses power over land or something.
I’ll be at the game this weekend. For some reason, PSU created a new RV lot out by the white course and rugby fields. You won’t believe what my group had to pay a scalper to park out there. Absolutely jaw dropping what ORV passes are going for by the stadium. PSU continues to screw the alumni. Yes, im bitter.
Anyhoo, best of luck with Irma. My family right now has boarded up their places in Jupiter, and are ready to evacuate.
PSU wins 50-7
The Nittany Turkey says
I’m looking at the latest from the National Hurricane Center on the other screen. The regression line within the cone of uncertainty intersects the coast around Miami and exits around Vero Beach from whence it moves along the coast to Cape Canaveral by 8 AM Monday. Jupiter would thus be in the projected path. I hope that your parents can complete their preparations and get out of there. Ideally, the path would move east about 100 miles (although that wouldn’t be ideal for the Northern Bahamas, where I have several old friends from the time I lived in Nassau).
My good friend Joe in Schuylkill County gave up his season tickets, which were in the club section, when they started dicking around with prices — which they did when the team wasn’t doing quite so well. Joe found it more efficient and remarkably, cheaper, dealing with a scalper for tickets for games with decent opponents while eschewing the cupcake games.
I’ll be distracted during the game, completing last minute preparations before the onslaught on Sunday. I’ve cancelled the watch party, but I’ve told the troops to drop by around 3:30 if they’re bored or tired of doing hurricane prep, if they can do so safely. I might not have the usual food spread, but I have a good stock of alcohol.
yeah, it looks like the track is pivoting east since i last looked. Keep pushing east…..
Well first off be safe and secondly, I’m glad your hurricane emergency supplies includes a good stock of alcohol!
I’m going to make my prediction simple: 48-14 as in the final from the clash between No 1 Pitt and No 11 Penn State on Nov 28, 1981. Blackledge vs Marino, Sherrill vs Paterno and of course good vs evil!
If you’ve forgotten about that game, here’s a story out of SI’s vault:
I believe the Lions will lead from the get go, not like the ’81 game, and while I would love to see the final score mimic the ’81 drubbing, I do believe this year’s final score will be order of magnitude to that beauty from the past (and no I am not thinking ’81 will reverse itself in ’17). If you have time, there are tons of videos out there on YouTube of the game if you want to watch what I think was one of the best performances by a Penn State team under Paterno and was the springboard to that glorious 1982 season.
Again we’re all hoping that Irma runs out of gas before she makes that run up through Florida.
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks for the interesting read, replete with memories from 36 years ago. I hope the 14-0 start isn’t duplicated on Saturday!
Looks like Irma is going to hold off until Sunday evening here. We think she’ll be Category 3 or 2 by then, and we hope she’ll be 100 miles east of Cape Canaveral.
Big Al says
State will win and cover the spread because Pitt’s pass defense really sucks but I’m not predicting the point total. That will probably depend upon how stubborn CFL is about being giving Barkley ‘touches” with that damn run pass option. . I think Pitt can and will slow down State’s running game and a higher percentage of running plays will translate into fewer points.
Pitt’s offense is better than many of the B1G teams State will play this year (including maybe Michigan – Speight is awful). So, this game should provide some indications about whether Penn State’s defense is going to be a problem this year. Personally, I think Pitt will be able to move the ball and shorten the game, but I don’t expect State to give up the big plays and points that they did in last year’s game.
Each new hurricane forecast seems to move Irma’s track further east, so you might not get hit too hard. At least you won’t be NE of the eye where the damage is the greatest. It looks like its going to make landfall in South Carolina and head straight for me in central VA. Hopefully, the winds will have died down a bit when it hits here – although it would be ironic if Irma were to destroy Lee’s statue and end the bickering over it.