Coming off a very impressive 62-0 victory over Delaware, the Pitt Panthers will not only get their first look at an FBS team Friday night, but will get their first road test of the season when they travel to Boston College to open up ACC play.
The Panthers are fresh off a performance in which they ran for over 400 yards as a team with seven touchdowns and limited Delaware to only 64 yards of total offense.
The Eagles are fresh off a 27-7 win over Massachusetts, where Florida transfer Tyler Murphy starred in his debut, throwing for 173 yards and running for 118 while both throwing and rushing for a touchdown.
Both teams will find the competition much tougher in the second week of the college football season and it is safe to say that we will find out a lot more about each team at the end of 60 minutes of play.
The two teams will be meeting for the first time in 10 years.
Who has the advantage?
Let’s take a look.
When: Friday, September 5, 2014
Where: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Time: 7:00 pm EST
Spread: Pitt -4 (via Bovida)
Series Began: 1959
Series Overall: Pitt leads 16-13
ACC Series: First ACC meeting
Big East Series (1993-2004): BC leads 7-5
At Pittsburgh: Pitt leads 9-6
At Boston College: Series tied 7-7
At Neutral Sites: 0-0
OT Games: Pitt leads 2-0
Last Meeting: Oct. 16, 2004 (Pitt won in OT, 20-17)
Current Series Win Streak: Pitt has won three straight (2002-04)
Longest Pitt Series Win Streak: 8 games (1972-81)
Longest BC Series Win Streak: 4 games (1991, 1993-95)
Largest Pitt Margin of Victory: 38 points (45-7, 1977)
Largest BC Margin of Victory: 38 points (45-7, 2001)
Keys for Pitt:
1. Run, Run, Run: It was nice to see the Panthers step up and run the football in the fashion they did on Saturday. While they won’t be expected to rush for over 400 yards, the Pitt offensive line needs to be good and the Panthers need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. If they can control the game by running the football and moving the chains, and James Conner and company have another big day, I like Pitt’s chances.
“I think it will truly be a good test,” said Chryst. “I think both in the run game and handling their pressures, it’s not just falling on the offensive line. I think we’ll certainly be tested. They looked good on film and didn’t give up many yards against UMass. Knowing Steve [Addazio] and the types of teams he has and who he is, I thought they did a good job of running the football and they’re going to stop the run. It will be a true test.”
2. Down & Distance: Making his first career start on Saturday, Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik was barely tested and he didn’t have to deal with one third-and-long situation all afternoon. Making his first career road start, it will be pivotal to keep Voytik in manageable third down situations. If he is asked to do too much, it could be a long evening.
“I don’t know if I was necessarily wishing for it (third-and-long) during the game,” added Chryst. “But there are still things we have to do. We had two third downs that we didn’t convert on. It’s a new week and we just have to make sure he’s prepared.”
3. Contain Tyler Murphy: Athletic and mobile quarterbacks have given Pitt problems in the past and Murphy is the type of guy who could give the Panthers fits. Unlike against the Blue Hens, the Panthers defense will be tested this week and how they respond will determine whether or not they go home with a win. They can’t let Murphy turn broken plays into big gains. If they do then they won’t be winning the game.
“They’re pretty balanced and they’re going to run the ball,” added Chryst. “I think Murphy is a really good player and he’s a threat in the run game but can also throw it. I think they’re a good offense. He’s one of those that can make a play when something breaks down and is dangerous in the pocket and out of it. I think he’s a good football player.”
Keys for Boston College:
1. Make Pitt throw the football: Similar to how Pitt needs to control the down and distance, BC needs to make Voytik win the game with his arm. The Eagles’ secondary is the biggest question mark on their defense, but they need to stop the run and make Voytik beat them.
2. Quick Start: The BC offense came around last week once Murphy got going, but it took them a while as they had to settle for field goals early on. That won’t work this week as the Eagles need to start fast by putting the ball in the end zone a few times and then rely on their ground game to protect the lead.
3. Play Mistake-Free Football: These two teams stack up in a similar fashion from a matchup standpoint and while the Eagles lost their starting quarterback, a 2,000-yard rusher, their top receiver, leader in sacks and top two tacklers from last year’s squad, they are still very talented. But like Pitt, a lot of their talent is young, so playing a near perfect game at home will be vital. If BC allows Pitt to create turnovers and make plays in the special teams department, it will be a long night.
Prediction: On paper this should be a road game that the Panthers should win. And if they intend to win eight, nine or maybe more games in 2014, they can’t afford a loss here. It won’t be easy as BC was 5-1 at home last year and is playing their home opener on a nationally televised game. In addition we have seen this Pitt program drop a lot of winnable games on the road the past several years.
That being said, I expect a real close game here as six of the last nine Pitt-BC games have been decided by eight points or less, including four of the last eight being decided by four points or less. Pitt shouldn’t be a four-point favorite over anyone on the road right now and while all signs suggest that picking BC is the logical move here, I’m predicting that Pitt sneaks one out on the road. Pitt 24, Boston College 20
Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports