The Pitt Panthers have yet to get caught looking ahead, and that trend will need to continue when we face off against West Virginia the Friday after Thanksgiving for the Backyard Brawl.
The Panthers got a late bye this season, which meant they started the season playing 8 games in a row with no bye. Coming out of the bye with a 7-1 record and a #13 national ranking, the Panthers were looking at what looked like an easy, but trap game against Syracuse, and then their 3 toughest games of the season against Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Cincinnati.
The Syracuse game seemed easy, but Pitt could have easily gotten caught looking ahead. However, Pitt came out and stomped the Orange 37-10. Next up, the Fighting Irish. Again, Pitt could have been caught looking ahead of this game. Not because Notre Dame isn’t a good team, but because the game was essentially meaningless in terms of the Big East and Big East standings. Also, Pitt had their rivalry game to look forward to against West Virginia. Kotite’s Corner was live in Pittsburgh for this prime time game, and the game did not disappoint. Neither did the tailgating, which was one of the best tailgates I’ve ever been too. A prime time game, tailgating from 3:00-8:00 in weather that seemed more like a June baseball game all led to an unbelievable atmosphere for the game. As for the game itself, Pitt almost let a large 4th quarter lead slip away, but was able to come out on top 27-22.
This leaves the Panthers at 9-1, and #9 in the nation going into their 2nd bye this weekend, before their final 2 games of the season, which include the Backyard Brawl, and the final game at home against #5 Cincinnati, which is for the Big East championship, no matter what the outcome of the West Virginia game is.
This Pitt team has a lot of weapons. Dion Lewis is probably the best freshman in the nation, and already one of the top RB’s in the nation. His backup, Ray Graham is as solid a backup running back as you are going to find, and he is also a freshman. These 2 guys have made the transition moving on from Shady McCoy seamless. Pitt also has stars at wide receiver, and tight end. Jonathan Baldwin, sophomore, is becoming one of the best wide receivers in the nation, and had a coming out party against Notre Dame, where he made a couple highlight reel catches, including a very Larry Fitzgerald-like diving touchdown reception. At tight end, Dorin Dickerson has been a great surprise. Dickerson is one of the 8 finalists for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s best tight end. At quarterback, Bill Stull have overcome a season’s worth of bad play to put together a tremendous senior season. Without Stull’s solid play, this team would not be in the position they are right now.
Pitt had put together a very solid season, but they need to continue to focus on each game, and it starts on Black Friday with West Virginia.