2011 Football preview – Week 12, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh—a perennial favorite to win the BIG EAST—figures to be in the mix to finish atop the conference again, even with a new coach taking the helm.

When Syracuse visits the Panthers on Dec. 3 for the teams’ final regular season game, coach Todd Graham will be looking to improve upon Dave Wannstedt’s 8-5 (5-2) record in 2010 and capture at least a share of the conference title for the second straight year.

Graham led Tulsa to three 10-win seasons in four years, but he also has a BIG EAST pedigree. He spent two years as assistant coach for West Virginia. In 2001, Graham was the Mountaineers’ linebackers coach and was co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach in 2002.

The Hurricanes’ no-huddle, spread offense averaged 41.4 points and 505.6 yards per game last year. Coach Graham will lean heavily on preseason all-conference running back Ray Graham and four returning offensive linemen.

Pitt’s defense should be strong too, returning nine starters. But Graham is moving to a 3-4 base, compared to Wannstedt’s 4-3 base. Graham’s switch puts returning starters at each position on the defensive line.

Pitt was picked to finish second in the BIG EAST preseason poll. It received two first-place votes, compared to West Virginia’s 21.

Pitt leads the all-time series with Syracuse 33-30-3. The Panthers have won six straight after last year’s 45-14 win.

Players to watch (Offense):

RAY GRAHAM (TB): As a sophomore coming off the bench, Graham was second in the BIG EAST in yards per carry. He led the league in rushing yards (922) and touchdowns (eight) for any non-starter. He was the lone scholarship tailback in spring practices.

TITO SUNSERI (QB): In his first year as starter last year, then sophomore Sunseri completed 64.5 percent of his passes and threw for 2,572 yards and 16 touchdowns. Despite losing All-BIG EAST wideout Jon Baldwin, Sunseri will have an experienced group of wide receivers to find downfield, including junior wide receiver Mike Shanahan, a returning starter. Shanahan pulled in 43 receptions for 589 yards and one touchdown last year.

Players to watch (Defense):

JARRED HOLLEY (S): Holley is one of three preseason all-conference picks on defense. He had five interceptions and 54 total tackles as a sophomore.

BRANDON LINDSEY (DE): The 6-2, 250-lb., senior had 10 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss last year on the defensive line. He tallied 51 total tackles and three forced fumbles.

Fearless Prediction: The Panthers recent dominance of Syracuse will continue. Graham will run for 150 yards and two touchdowns and Pitt’s stout defense won’t cave to the Orange.

35-14, Pittsburgh.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestEmail this to someonePrint this page
Dan Brannigan

About Dan Brannigan

Dan is currently the editor of Common Ground magazine for Community Associations Institute (CAI) where he has won an Association Media & Publishing award for newswriting. Dan has also won a New England Press Association award while working for the The Inquirer and Mirror in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he grew up. Dan is a 2005 Syracuse University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @djbranni.
Orange will need to reverse history in season opener
2011 Football preview – Week 11, Cincinnati
This entry was tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. More From:

The Juice on the Cuse Podcast



Discussion