This week Virginia Tech football will get a sneak peek at one of next year’s additions to the ACC, Pittsburgh. The Hokies will travel to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers in what will still be an out-of-conference game, though for the last time in the foreseeable future. What we do know about Pittsburgh is that they are 0-2, including losses against FCS school Youngstown State and Big East contender Cincinnati. Both of these losses were pretty bad beats too (14 point loss against Youngstown State and 24 point loss against Cincinnati).
What we do know about Pittsburgh is that they have a pretty good running back in Ray Graham, who is coming off injury from last season. Tino Sunseri is also well established at quarterback in Pittsburgh, this being his fourth straight year of playing time and his third straight year as the starter. Sunseri has never been a world burner, but he’s solid enough to be a viable threat. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive lineman Aaron Donald is probably Pitt’s best player and has shown an ability to get to the quarterback in years past.
That was the past though. This is now. And this Pitt team seems to be largely a mystery under new head coach Paul Chryst. Under Chryst the Panthers have undergone a transition from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3, but so far have had little success stopping anyone. That might not matter much if the Hokies, who have been very mediocre offensively this season, can’t execute against the new defense of Pittsburgh. What complicates matters more is the fact that the Hokies frankly don’t have much film on the new Pittsburgh team. The Panthers will likely only send Virginia Tech two tapes – those being their only two games this season. That’s not a lot to go off of if you’re a coach for Virginia Tech.
Also, this is the first time the Hokies will be on the road this year. You never know how teams will fare on the road, though as of late the Hokies have been dominant on the road (seven of Virginia Tech’s last eight losses have either been at home or at a neutral site). Still, this game against Pittsburgh has all the makings of a letdown. It’s a noon kickoff in what will most likely be a half-filled stadium (seeing as Pittsburgh is already 0-2 at a school that seems to value basketball more as it is). The atmosphere will be dead, but Pittsburgh might not be.
Therein lies the mystery with Pittsburgh. Frank Beamer himself said that they don’t even know what Pittsburgh’s goal line defense looks like. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster said that Pittsburgh is like a wounded animal. Pittsburgh very well could be ready to defend itself with all it has left to give against a larger predator. That predator is Virginia Tech, strutting into their home territory. The combination of a potential weak atmosphere, an early kickoff, a new defensive system, and a sense of desperation might be all Pittsburgh needs to topple and upset the Hokies.
This is a game that Virginia Tech should win pretty handily, but at the end of the day we just don’t know.