For the second consecutive year Pitt, Penn State, and WVU will all start the season in the top 25 of the coaches poll. PSU takes the top spot of the local schools checking in a #14, while Pitt follows at #15 and WVU holds steady at #24. None of these teams have cupcake schedules though, as all three will face other top 25 teams in the first four weeks of the season. The tough match-ups are going to take their toll on the teams and will leave only one squad standing top 15 after the first quarter of the season. Which team will it be?
The Nittany Lions are coming off an 11-2 season but are in store for a much tougher time this year. No quarterback and a shoddy offensive line will make it tough sledding for Joe Paterno’s unit. That being said, will they outlast Pitt and WVU to be the first local school to crack the top 10? That is like asking if Paterno brings only one pair of pants to a game-obviously no. The blue and white will be washed out by the crimson and white in the second week of the season. Alabama is the country’s number one team and will stay the country’s number one team after they face PSU on September 11th. Besides a drop out of the rankings, I see a quarterback change and a student petition form to relieve JoPa of is duties after week five. To check out a full analysis of PSU this year listen to the blackandblueandgold.com college football podcast.
With 18 returning starters WVU is not a team to sleep on. Big play makers Jock Sanders and Noel Divine are back behind an offensive line that boasts four returning starters. There are problems though. Divine is a hit or miss running back who is susceptible to bad games. However, after an outstanding year last season Mountaineers fans should be more worried about Jock Sanders. The 5’7″ wide-out only tallied three games with more than 90 yards receiving and combined for just 79 yards against Pitt and Cincinnati. With an inexperienced quarterback and a soft receiving core it doesn’t matter how good the line is. West Virginia is solid everywhere, but great nowhere–except at running back. Against a team like LSU who has multiple playmakers it won’t be enough though. Factor that in with the game being in the bayou and it will be a major upset if the Mountaineers win. An upset I do not see happening though. Ultimately WVU will not crack the top 10.
The Panthers jump right into it with a road date against Utah for their first game. Coming off a 10-3 season, the Utes will be more than ready to take on the Panthers. Unfortunately for the Mountain West bullies they play right into Pitt’s hands. Utah’s defense suffered significant losses after last season, and will be the perfect starting crew for new Panther quarterback Tino Sunseri. The Utes will also be breaking in a new quarterback, something that Greg Romeus and Jabal Sheard surely are drooling over. In anticipation of the new quarterback, Sheard started preparing over the offseason by unsuspectingly blindsiding local Pittsburghers. The road only gets tougher for the Panthers though.
On September 23rd Pitt will host the ACC contender, and 13th ranked, Miami Hurricanes. The U will be coming off a road game against Ohio State and looking to notch a very important win. Again the matchup favors Pitt though. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris threw 17 interceptions last year behind a good offensive line. Three of those experienced linemen moved on however, and Pitt’s new phenom at middle linebacker, Dan Mason, will just be starting to find his groove. Defensively the Hurricanes will be a tough task for the Panthers. They boast a strong secondary and fantastic front four who will be looking to take advantage of the young Sunseri. Pitt’s offensive line will be up to the task though, as Jason Pinkston and Lucas Nix figure to be two of the best in the conference. Ultimately, Sunseri will have enough time to find at least one of the Panthers multiple offensive threats.
A nationally televised Thursday night home game for the Panthers; do not expect them to choke this opportunity away.
So after defeating two top 25 teams in the first four weeks will the Panthers have enough momentum to move into the top 10? lets look into it.
1.) Alabama - A strong possibility to end the season at number 1. The game on September 25th at Arkansas has upset potential, but still they will not drop below Pitt.
2.) Ohio St. – I think they handle Miami in their only tough game of the first four
3.) Florida - A tough game in week three against Tennessee. The Vols’ will have about as much will power as Charles Barkley after the NCAA donkey slaps them for Lane Kiffin violations though. Phil Fulmer anyone?
4.) Texas - Cupcakes in the first for weeks.
5.) Boise State - Virginia Tech comes to town for the Bronco’s first game of the year. I would have no problem picking the Hokies if this game were in Blacksburg, but the blue turf messes with opposing players heads–don’t be fooled LeGarrette Blount, that was the turf in your head not Byron Hout.
6.) Virginia Tech - Either # 5 or # 6 will lose this game and drop out of the top 10. It does not matter to Pitt as the Panthers will move up.
7.) TCU - Cupcakes envy this schedule.
8.) Oklahoma - COuld easily see a loss at Cincinnati in week four. It is more likely that Pitt will pass the Sooners after they lose to Texas the following week though.
9.) Nebraska - No Suh, no problem. The Cornhuskers role through their first four.
10.) Iowa - When Arizona is your toughest competition through your first four games you are in good shape. The Panthers resume will be looking significantly better at this point though.
11.) Oregon - A couple of tough road challenges to begin with but they should pull through.
12.) Wisconsin - Another Big Ten easy schedule. Again Pitt surpasses them with two top 25 wins.
13.) Miami - Consecutive losses to the Buckeyes and Panthers make the Hurricanes look more like a tropical storm.
14.) Penn State – Magic 8 ball says wildcat formation by week 3.
15.) Pitt - The loser of Boise St./Virginia Tech plus Iowa, Wisconsin, Miami, and Penn-State will all drop below the fighting Dave Wannstaches.
Your local team still standing in the top 15 after the first four weeks is the Pittsburgh Panthers.