Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jamie Dixon's career Big East record

I notice the anti-Jamie Dixon bunch often throws in the fact that Dixon is not as successful as his stats indicate because he pads the winning column with a weak schedule. True, his out of conference schedule could be stronger, to say the least, but in his decade as the head coach he's been in the toughest basketball conference in the country and has done very well against them.  In fact, amazingly well.  

Syracuse 117-55 .680  ---
Louisville  95-45  .678   1 games back
Pittsburgh  115-57  .669  2
Marquette  92-49  .652  9.5
UConn   107-65  .622  10
Notre Dame 105-67 .610 12
Georgetown  103-69  .599  14
Villanova  99-73 .576  18
West Virginia  95-77  .552  22
Cincinnati 66-74 .471
Seton Hall  68-105 .393
Providence  65-108  .376
St. John's 59-113 .343
South Florida 38-102  .271
Rutgers 45-127 .262
DePaul  27-113  .193

Final Four reality...Learn to love it

In the ten years that Jamie Dixon has been the head coach at Pitt, only 24 schools have gone to the Final Four, and that's out of 351. That includes UConn, North Carolina, Louisville, Michigan State, and UCLA three times, and Duke, Florida, Ohio State, Kansas, Kentucky, and Butler twice. North Carolina, Louisville, Michigan State, UCLA, Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky have been legendary programs for many decades. UConn became a power nearly twenty years before Dixon started coaching at Pitt. Billy Donovan at Florida, and Thad Matta at Ohio State, are at universities where their budgets are virtually unlimited, and where they have recruiting advantages over Pitt.  Brad Stevens did such an amazing job at Butler that he became the head coach of the Boston Celtics at the age of 36!!!

Among the rest, Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State, John Calipari of Memphis, and Bob Huggins of West Virginia, are also future Hall of Famers. Bruce Weber led Illinois with Bill Self's players.  Once those players left, Weber had a losing record in the Big 10 and was eventually let go. Self is building a Hall of Fame career at Kansas. Villanova of course got in with a last second shot against Pitt. Michigan got in last year with John Beilein (after his 21st year as a Division 1 coach). John Thompson III got in with a big year in 2007, but he hasn't made the Sweet 16 for the past six seasons. 

The rest are all sleepers.  Georgia Tech got in with Paul Hewitt in a year that he went 9-7 in the ACC.  He was eventually fired. In his ninth season at LSU, John Brady made it, but then was fired one and a half seasons later. The other three- George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, and Wichita State are as about as sleeper as you can get. 

Bottom line, your chances of getting into the Final Four are extremely low. If you need the cold, hard facts (and it's amazing that some of you still do), 1 in 14.625 schools made it to the Final Four in the last decade. That means only 6.8% of D-1 schools made the Final Four in the last decade. And if you can manage it more than once you are considered a legendary Hall of Fame coach. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Where Pitt basketball ranks over the last 10 years

National Championship-  20 points
Final Four- 15
Elite 8- 10
Top 5 ranking- 10
6-10 ranking- 5
Sweet 16- 5
Major conference champion- 5
Small conference champion- 2
11-25 ranking- 2
NCAA tournament- 2

1. Kansas  189 points
2. North Carolina  183
3. Duke  156
4. Louisville 131
5. Ohio State  124
6. UConn  117
7. Kentucky  115
8. Florida  111
9. Michigan State  109
10. Memphis  106
11. UCLA  97
12. Syracuse  88
13. Gonzaga  78
14. Pittsburgh   77
15. Villanova  73
16. Xavier   69
17. Wisconsin  67
18. Georgetown  66
18. Texas  66
18. Butler  66
21. Arizona  59
22. Illinois  54
23. Marquette  52
24. West Virginia  50
25. Oklahoma State  48
26. Indiana  34
27. Notre Dame  33
27. Michigan 33
27. VCU  33
30. Kansas State 32
31. Baylor  29
32. Miami   22
33. NC State  18
33. Florida State  18
35. Maryland  17

There are currently 351 schools playing at the highest level. Pitt being the 14th most successful school in the ten years that Jamie Dixon has been the coach puts them in the 96 percentile.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pitt basketball is on the right track

For some strange reason there are an alarming number of Pitt fans who are pessimistic when it comes to the Pitt basketball program.  I don't know if this is because these people are irritated with the Pitt football program and they're taking out on the basketball program, or if it's because Pittsburgh isn't a basketball city, but whatever the reason, these fans are off base.  In fact, a case can be made that things are about to get even better for Jamie Dixon.

Let's look first at Pitt's recent past.  There has been some upheaval in the last two seasons because  the results have not been as good on the court, and a significant number of players left early. While this has made some fans apoplectic, the truth is, this is not uncommon at all.

Jim Calhoun had many down years after he turned UConn into a power. In the 2009-10 season, UConn went 18-16. That was between a 31-5 Final Four season and a 32-9 National Championship season. He's had other seasons with records of 15-13, 18-15, and 17-14. Jim Boeheim has been in four NITs in the last seventeen years.  A year after going to the Final Four, Rick Pitino led Louisville to the NIT, and just four years ago he was 20-13.  Also four seasons ago, Roy Williams led North Carolina to the NIT a year after leading the Tar Heels to the National Championship. Even Mike Krzyzewski led Duke to an 8-8 ACC record in the 2006-07 season.

Nobody questioned the excellence of these coaches at the time because people knew there was extenuating circumstances. When these great coaches had the players they would win a lot. In the few instances when the players weren't there even their greatness could only take the team so far. Injuries, graduations, transfers, and even bad luck all combine to form a perfect storm of mediocrity. It even happens to Hall of Fame coaches.

The only subpar year that Dixon had was the 2011-2012 season in which Pitt won the CBI Championship and went 22-17.  This was just one year after winning the Big East with a 15-3 record, and going 28-6 to finish No. 4 in the country.  That was just three years ago!  Last year, despite starting two true freshmen and with a leading scorer who averaged just 11.5 ppg and shot 37% from the field, Dixon still led the Panthers to a fourth place finish in the Big East, 24 wins, and a No. 20 ranking.

The program has been a success for over a decade and now there isn't a high school player in the country that doesn't see Pitt basketball as a high level program.  Do they see them as Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, or Syracuse? No. Those programs have been greater longer and they just happen to be led by four of the small handful of coaches who've been more successful than Dixon. Until Pitt wins big in the postseason they will not beat those schools out for an elite player.  But that doesn't mean that there still aren't excellent players out there to be had. And being in the ACC will help Pitt immensely. Even though the Big East was always a marquee conference, there was competition for the best conference with the ACC.  Now the ACC is the conference to be in if you want to be playing with the best.

Dixon is clearly adapting to the ACC, both in style and quality of talent. Incoming and future forwards like Mike Young, Sheldon Jeter, and Ryan Luther are signs of the adapting. All three are versatile power forwards who can run, pass, and shoot. Gone are the plodding bruisers that Pitt terrorized teams with in the Big East. And guards like Josh Newkirk and Detrick Mostella are fast and explosive, another facet that the Panthers usually lacked in their Big East days.  Mostella being eligible would be a real coup for the Panthers as he can not only fly but he can also shoot the lights out. Mostella, who has had grade issues and has not been ruled eligible, joins highly talented center Joseph Uchebo, who will play little or not at all this season because of a leg injury, as players who can make Pitt excellent as soon as next year. Both are question marks, but both also have NBA talent.  They are also both examples of Dixon using his savvy to find big time talent that fell through the cracks. Every program takes gambles on players and these two players are the best gambles you can take.

But Pitt is not so desperate that they have to rely just on those two for future success. The recruiting by the staff has never been more aggressive. The rehiring of former ace recruiter and top assistant Barry Rohrssen is a huge bonus. Not only does this now allow the staff to have an extra recruiter on the road (it was a mistake not to have this before), but Rohrssen is the strong right hand man that Dixon has lacked since Tom Herrion left. And because of Rohrssen, and Dixon's new aggressive approach, I can see the Panthers' recruiting take off.

This season there has been some good local additions in Jeter and Luther, and 7'0" center Satchel Pierce may be added, too. And if not Pierce, Dixon is currently looking at other off the map center prospects that are intriguing. But it takes a few years to be involved with the truly elite prospects. And that's what the Panthers have done.

Let's start with Maverick Rowan, another local, who could end up being a top 50 player.  He's the real deal, a player that at 6'6" is a highly skilled shooting guard, something Pitt has never had in the past. He has already verbally committed to the Panthers, and even though he's currently listed as a 2016 prospect, 2015 is not out of the realm of possibility.  Does a potential backcourt of James Robinson, Newkirk, Mostella, and Rowan sound like a program that's reeling? No, that's a program that's thriving like never before. Throw in highly athletic forwards like Jeter, Luther, and Young, and you can see how Pitt has the potential to be more athletic and explosive than ever.

Then there are the national elite prospects that the Panthers are recruiting well in advance, something they failed to do in the past.  Previously Dixon did not aim high, and I even had somebody on the staff tell me that they target people they "think we have a chance with."  I found this alarming and too conservative. Dixon rarely went for the best recruits because he didn't think he could land them, or didn't want to do what it took to land them (kiss the butts of handlers and power hungry relatives). Dixon would methodically follow under the radar types for many months before finally making his move.

But no more. No doubt that the combination of Rohrssen rejoining the staff, Dixon's new contract bringing him stability, the desire to right his recent wrongs, and the move to the ACC has energized Dixon like never before. He and his staff have already targeted, and begun to recruit heavily, some of the best prospects in the country in the 2015 and 2016 classes.

At "Morning Madness" this season, Pitt put on a show like they've never done before, and had superstar prospects there to see it.  Cheick Diallo, a 6'9" forward/center from Long Island is a top 10 prospect that is as elite as they come in the 2015 class. He was there.  So was his 6'7" teammate Kassoum Yakwe, a top 25 prospect in the 2016 class. The last of the big time prospects was 6'8" 275 pound Fort Wayne, IN center Caleb Swanigan, a top 20 2016 prospect.  The chances of the Panthers getting any of three are not great simply because of the competition, but the fact that they got them on the campus so far in advance is something the program didn't, and maybe couldn't, get done before. To get these types of talents it takes years of courting and Pitt has begun to do that.

It doesn't stop with those three, though. If Mostella does not make into the program, Dixon is prepared with some 2015 possibilities. Top 20 New Jersey point guard Isaiah Briscoe has been offered, as has 6'5" top 20 shooting guard Malachi Richardson, also from New Jersey, and fast rising 6'4" Delaware guard Donte Divincenzo.

The Panthers staff may end up with none of these players, but there chances are much greater now than they ever were because more than ever the program is on track to do what it takes to land more of the better players.  They only need one special player to move to a higher level. The closest Dixon ever came to the Final Four was the only time he had two special players, in DeJuan Blair and Sam Young.  Rowan may be that player. Newkirk may be that player. Mostella may be that player. Maybe will be Yakwe or Swanigan.  Or maybe even Uchebo.  This is not the type of talent that a struggling program is involved with.

Bottom line, don't sleep on Dixon and this program. They had a two year hiccup, and if that's the worst it gets then that's pretty special.  There's many reasons why the program may be on the verge of finally reaching an even better level.  And if they don't, the program is still better than 95% of the programs in the country and that's pretty special in itself.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Navy 24 Pittsburgh 21

1.  So much for the fans who aid that at least Paul Chryst can beat the teams he's supposed to beat.

2.  Pretty terrible coaching all the way around.  Chryst seemed to have little idea what he was doing, down to keeping two of his timeouts.  The offensive and defensive play calling were just as horrid.

3.  Tom Savage was mediocre again and now the coaches don't even have him throwing deep down the field, the only thing he can really do effectively.  Savage completed 20 of 27 passes for 203 yards, and two touchdowns. He also didn't throw an interception. But, like I said, he was mostly mediocre, and didn't make plays when he had to. In other words, he was Tino Sunseri.

4. Devin Street caught 9 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Boyd caught just three passes, and two of them came late. The three catches amounted to only 35 yards with one of them going for a touchdown.

5.  Pitt started off running the ball down Navy's throat but that changed quickly. For the game the Panthers ran for 135 yards.  Navy was going up nearly 200 yards a game rushing coming into the game. Isaac Bennett led with 77 yards on 22 carries. James Conner added 28 yards on 7 carries, but he also fumbled in Navy territory.

6.  Matt Yoklic continues to do a bad job of punting and his shank late in the game was a killer.

7.  Aaron Donald was all over the field but there's only so much one guy can do.  The rest of the defense started well, but the Midshipmen then slowly and methodically drove the ball down Pitt's throat  in the second half.

8.  Pitt is now 4-3 and will be an underdog next week at Georgia Tech.  As of now, they may be looking at another 6-6 regular season record, at best, and to reiterate what I've said all season, I still see no progress yet in Chryst's regime.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jamie Dixon lands a local star

The Panthers 2014 class grew by one tonight as Hampton HS (Allison Park, PA) forward Ryan Luther verbally committed to Pitt.  The 6'8" Luther projects as a combo forward, but is currently best suited for power forward where he can cause matchup problems. A good, but not great athlete, Luther could also play some small forward but his athleticism, passing, and shooting is more of an asset at the four.

Luther was also offered by Iowa, Dayton, Duquesne, George Washington, and Virginia Tech, among others.

Midseason Grades for Pitt Football- Defense, Special Teams, and Coaching

Defensive Line:  Obviously with Aaron Donald alone this is a successful unit.  The senior currently leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, and is on pace to be the first consensus All-American for Pitt since Larry Fitzgerald in 2003.  Enough said.

Beside Donald at tackle, fellow senior Tyrone Ezell has 21 tackles and has been his usual solid, but unspectacular self. End Bryan Murphy has been pretty good at times in just four games at giving pressure off the edge. He has just 9 tackles, but 3 of them were sacks and 4.5 were for a loss. The other starting end, David Durham, has been virtually non-existent with 8 tackles in 6 games.

True freshman Shakir Soto has 8 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss, in reserve at end, while Darryl Render has 8 tackles at tackle. Undersized Ejuan Price was having a solid season with 23 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, and a sack, but he is now injured and will be out for the remainder of the season.

For the season, the Panthers defense is No. 34 in rushing defense and No. 19 in tackles for loss. Even with Donald, however, the team is only No. 41 in sacks.

Last Season's Final Grade: B-
Preseason Grade: B-
Midseason Grade: B

Linebackers:  It's been a long time since Pitt has had excellent linebackers, and at it this point the best one can hope for is for the unit to be respectable. That's the case this year. There is no individual who is an all-star, and as a unit they are not great, but at the same time they aren't killing the team either. They are the epitome of average.

 The best player on the unit, by far, is Todd Thomas, but the staff doesn't see it that way all the time.  Still, Thomas has 32 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss. Anthony Gonzalez has improved some as the season has progressed, and he has 41 tackles, 3 pass breakups and an interception, but he has struggled mightily at times.  Middle linebacker Shane Gordon never turned into what some expected of him, and in five games he has 26 tackles, 1 pass breakup, and an interception. Bam Bradley has just 7 tackles in four games, but at least 2.5 of them were for a loss. Matt Galambos has played well in reserve as a true freshman with 18 tackles in 6 games, while Nicholas Grigsby chipped in with 11 tackles.

Last Season's Final Grade: C
Preseason Grade: B-
Midseason Grade: C

Defensive Backs:  This was supposed to be one of the best, if not the best, unit on the team entering the season, but they have been a major disappointment.

Statistically, the defense is No. 75 in pass yardage, No. 76 in pass efficiency defense, No. 48 in 3rd down defense, and No. 85 in interceptions. And this was against some pretty awful offenses on the schedule.

The biggest disappointments are veteran cornerbacks K'Waun Williams and Lafayette Pitts. While both have improved some recently, they both haven't been as good as last season. Williams has 17 tackles, including 3 for loss, plus an interception.  Amazingly, though, he has zero pass breakups. Pitts has 22 tackles, including one for a loss, but he has had no interceptions, and just 2 pass breakups.

At safety, Jason Hendricks starred last season, but like the others he hasn't been as good this year. On the season, he has 40 tackles, including 2 for loss, plus an interception, a forced fumble, and 2 pass breakups. Certainly not bad, but down from last season.

Ray Vinopal was a lightning rod for criticism at the beginning of the season, and rightfully so, but he has improved somewhat as the season has gone on. He does have 38 tackles, but that's deceiving since he's mostly tackled players who just beat him. He also has 3 pass breakups and an interception.

In reserve, Titus Howard has 13 tackles, Terrish Webb has 6 tackles, and Trenton Coles and Ryan Lewis has 5.  Of all of the reserves none have an interception or even a pass breakup.

Last Season's Final Grade: B
Preseason Grade: B
Midseason Grade: C

Special Teams:  This is yet another unit that has been mediocre for awhile now, and continues to remain mediocre. Punter Matt Yoklic is No. 17 nationally with a 43.9 average, but this is where stats can be misleading since anybody who has watched the Panthers this season will say that he has not been good for the most part.  In fact, if there was an official statistic to measure how much a punter gets rolls, Yoklic may lead the country. The Panthers are No. 80 in net punting which shows, among other things, Yoklic's lack of hang time.

True freshman Chris Blewitt may eventually be good, but he's been just 4 for 6 this season, and is No. 98 nationally in field goals per game. He's also been poor kicking off.

Tyler Boyd is No. 75 nationally in kick returns, and Lafayette Pitts is No. 82. The fact that two explosive returners like these two aren't getting good returns is all you need to know about the ineffectiveness of the unit. As a team the Panthers are No. 87 nationally. Thanks to Kevin Weatherspoon's long return against Old Dominion, the punt return unit for the Panthers rank No. 41, but for the most part it has also not been good this season.

The kickoff unit has been better of late after starting poorly, and nationally they are ranked No. 47. The punt return defense, however, is No. 111 nationally.

Last Season's Final Grade: C
Preseason Grade: B-
Midseason Grade: C-

Coaching:  The always controversial coaching analysis deserves an article all it's own. It's natural for many sports fans to look at what they want to happen rather than what's actually happening, and that is the case with many Pitt fans, too.  Paul Chryst may be a success, and is the case many times if it does happen it will probably happen immediately.  But if you take away wishful thinking, there is nothing that shows that the Chryst regime will be a success.  That does not mean it won't happen, just that there's no real sign of that happening yet.

The best thing that can be said of Chryst this season is that he at least beat the four bad teams on the schedule. But there are still many questionable facets of Chryst and his staff. The promotion of Matt House to defensive coordinator was highly questionable, and it remains questionable. The defense has too many veterans, including an All-American and a few other all-star caliber players, to struggle as much as they have. The secondary has regressed, and not playing Todd Thomas at linebacker over clearly inferior players is a head scratcher.

Offense has been an even bigger disappointment, and this is the most troublesome of all since it's the domain of Chryst and right hand man Joe Rudolph.  Street, Boyd, Savage, Orndoff, and Conner are four players with NFL potential yet the offense is inexplicably No. 92 in total offense. There are more offensive numbers that are just as awful but if you haven't questioned the offensive coaching by now then all the stats in the world aren't going to convince you.

The fact that Savage is regressing is inexcusable. As is the fact that the offensive line still has made zero progress in two years of coaching. The most egregious error of all, however, may be that the excellent tight end corps is still not being utilized, despite having a poor offensive line, a subpar running game, and a quarterback that doesn't get rid of the ball fast enough.

Any impartial observer can see disturbing coaching gaffes in every game. Just in the ODU game, there was a play in which everybody in the stadium, including the announcers, thought Pitt forced a fumble. The officials said that forward progress was stopped, which was a bad call, but when Chryst questioned it the officials told him that it was not something that can be reviewed. Instead of voicing his displeasure, Chryst meekly agreed and that was that. I can't think of any top coach that would have done that. Even though it was a losing battle you have to not only fight for the next call but you have to show your team that you will fight for them at all times.

In the same game, ODU hit a Heinz record 54-yard field goal. If you watch the play you will see that the Pitt defenders did not even try to block the field goal on the play. I'm guessing they assumed that he would never make it so they didn't even try, never mind that those kinds of kicks are the easiest to block. Maybe this is what happens when you don't have a special teams coach.

I know this is the part when people scream that they are 4-2 and may even be 5-2 soon.  The record is all that matters some will say.  The truth is, at the end of the season the record is all that matters. But halfway through the season, the record may be acceptable but you have to look at the future, too. Being 4-2 and winning over four bad teams is not necessarily great. It just means you beat four bad teams that you should beat. The good news for Pitt is that Navy, North Carolina, and Syracuse aren't good either so the Panthers can be 7-5 this season (which I predicted in the preseason), and still not be good.  Because make no mistake about it, right now they are not very good.  At best they are mediocre overall, and in that mediocrity there is a lot of bad. The offensive line has been bad, the running game has been bad when playing against any semblance of a real defense, the special teams hasn't been good, the coaching decisions have been suspect, and more.

Of course there are definitely good things, too.  Donald is exceptional, as are Boyd and Street.  But most of the team, individually or by unit, hovers around mediocre. Could that change in the future? Of course.  But right now there are a lot of Cs for a reason.

Last Season's Postseason Grade: C+
Preseason Grade: C
Midseason Grade: C

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Midseason Grades for Pitt Football- Offense

Quarterback:  The long Tino Sunseri nightmare is over but unfortunately it sometimes looks like he's still around.  Despite NFL talent physically, Tom Savage has not performed as well as he should be performing this season, and worse yet he seems to have regressed as the season has progressed.

On the season Savage is No. 38 nationally and No. 6 in the ACC in passing efficiency.  He's completed  56.8% of his passes, which is not a great number these days.  In fact it's No. 85 nationally. Most quarterbacks throw for a higher percentage because of new offenses that feature high percentage throws. However, Savage throws almost entirely to receivers, and it's usually long throws. That leads to bigger completions, but also to more interceptions and incompletions.

Savage has thrown for 11 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, while amassing 1,343 yards. He is also 7th nationally in yards per completion, which again is because of his feast or famine throws.  On the downside, he has been unable to get rid of the ball fast enough, not a good trait to have when in front of a poor offensive line.  On the season the Panthers are No. 119 in sacks allowed.

Last Season's Final Grade: C
Preseason Grade: C
Midseason Grade: C

Running Back:  Going into this season there were questions, but after true freshman James Conner started quickly it looked like this major weakness may become a slight strength. But that hasn't been the case. Thanks to 240 yards against Old Dominion, Isaac Bennett now leads the team with 450 yards on 5.8 yards a carry. He's also run for 5 touchdowns, 3 against the horrible Old Dominion defense. Against ODU and New Mexico, the two worst teams on the schedule, Bennett ran for 341 yards. In the  other four games he ran for a total of 109 yards.

Likewise, Conner ran for 119 yards against New Mexico and 173 yards against Duke. Against Florida State, he ran for 34 yards and against Virginia he ran for 27 yards. Because of a lingering injury he ran for 1 yard total in the last two games. For the season he has 354 yards on an impressive 5.3 yards a carry. He also ran for 4 touchdowns.

Rachid Ibrahaim has chipped in with 80 yards, but only has a 3.8 yard average.

Nationally, the Panthers are No. 91 nationally in rushing offense and No.11 in the 14 team ACC.

Last Season's Final Grade: B+
Preseason Grade: C-
Midseason Grade: C-

Wide Receivers:  Finally a rare bright spot. The starters, senior Devin Street, and true freshman Tyler Boyd, have lived up to their lofty expectations. Street was among the national leaders in many categories until sitting out the ODU gain with an injury. In the five games he played, he has 26 catches for 549 yards, a 21.1 yard average.  He also grabbed 3 touchdowns.

On the other side, Boyd has 31 catches through 6 games, for 491 yards, a 15.8 yard average. He also had 4 touchdown receptions.  He also ran 9 times for 106 yards, an 11.8 yard average. He also had one rushing touchdown, and it was impressive.

After the two stars, there's not much production. Kevin Weatherspoon added 8 catches for 113 yards, a 14.1 average. Ed Tinker has 1 catch for 9 yards.

Last Season's Final Grade: B
Preseason Grade: B-
Midseason Grade: A-

Tight End:  This has been a very disappointing unit but it appears that's more of the fault of Savage and the Pitt offensive coaches. Manasseh Garner leads all tight ends with 9 catches for 96 yards, a 10.7 average. Included in those numbers are 2 touchdowns. Starter J.P. Holtz has just 4 catches for 38 yards,  a 9.5 average. Scott Orndoff has just 2 catches for 21 yards, and both went for touchdowns.  Bottom line, it's really unfathomable that the staff can't figure out how to get this excellent trio the ball more.

Last Season's Final Grade: C-
Preseason Grade: A
Midseason Grade: B

Offensive Line:  The more things change, the more things stay the same. Eventually one would have to assume that this unit will eventually be good, but it's not looking like it will be this year.  Redshirt freshman Adam Bisnowaty, who many had high hopes for this year, has been brutalized at times. And the rest of the unit has not been much better.  The center position, which looked like a big weakness entering the season, is as bad as expected, as has have the guards. The saddest part is that none of the promising prospects, including Dorian Johnson, appear to be ready to overtake the linemen who are playing.

I had high hopes for this unit, if only because some of these guys have been around the program for years.  You would think there would be progress, but you would think wrong.

Last Season's Final Grade: D
Preseason Grade: C+
Midseason Grade: D

Overall Offense:  This is a major problem, and quite frankly I didn't think it would be. I get accused of not being a Paul Chryst fan, but the truth is, I think he is a great offensive mastermind. You couldn't tell that this season, though.  The offensive line has not progressed, Savage has actually regressed, and the play calling doesn't always make sense. Savage keeps getting sacked, so why keep throwing more bombs? You have excellent tight ends so why not throw to them? And Chryst and the staff still can't develop the offensive line into mere competence?

Sometimes statistics lie, but not in this case.  The numbers show just how brutal the offense has been this season.  Despite playing three horrible defenses in Duke, New Mexico, and Old Dominion, the Panthers are No. 92 in total offense, No. 91 in rushing offense, and No. 69 in passing offense. It gets worse. They are also No. 93 in 3rd down efficiency, No. 74 in red zone offense, and No. 64 in scoring offense (and that's with scoring 58 against Duke and 49 against New Mexico).

Against the three quality defenses Pitt played (Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Florida State), the Panthers averaged 12.0 ppg, 42.3 yards rushing, 193.0 yards passing, and 235.3 yards total. Against the average Duke defense, and the atrocious defenses of New Mexico and Old Dominion, the Panthers averaged 47.3 ppg, 241.0 yards rushing, 257.3 yards passing, and 498.3 yards total.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Virginia Tech 19 Pittsburgh 9

That had to be one of the worst played 10-point losses in Pitt history.  The offensive line was especially horrible and Adam Bisnowaty may find himself out of a starting job very soon. He has regressed and now looks terrible.

Other thoughts:

1.  Tom Savage may still be getting sacked.  Yes, he has to know that he has no time, but I'm not sure Michael Vick wouldn't have got sacked 8 times in that game.  He has enough mobility to elude one or two guys but not when they come in waves.  On the game he completed 13 of 28 passes for 187 yards. He threw for no touchdowns or interceptions but he did show nice running ability on Pitt's loan touchdown.

2.  James Conner hurt his shoulder and only got 2 carries for 1 yard.  Isaac Bennett was the leading ball carrier as he had 31 yards on 7 carries. Technically, because of the sacks, Pitt ran for 23 yards on 26 carries. Outside of the sacks, Pitt ran for 52 yards.

3.  Tyler Boyd was held to 2 catches for 20 yards and carried once for 3 yards. Thanks to two big catches that resulted in all 9 of Pitt's points, Devein Street had 5 catches for 104 yards.  Kevin Weatherspoon chipped in 3 catches for 50 yards.

4.  Chris Blewitt made a 47-yard field goal, which was obviously great to see.

5.  Defensively, it's hard to say that Pitt did well, mostly because Virginia Tech has a rather pedestrian offense.  Virginia Tech only had 315 total yards, and the defensive line played especially well.  But again, that may be because the Hokie offensive line is not very good right now.  But Aaron Donald was again a man possessed and may be one step closer to being an All-American.

6.  Pitt falls to 3-2 on the season, and 2-2 in the ACC.  Next up is an out of conference game at home against Old Dominion next Saturday night.