Midseason report: Pittsburgh



Record: 3-3 (1-1, Big East)

New coach Todd Graham brought plenty of excitement with him when he took over at Pitt, promising an exciting, hurry-up offense sure to put plenty of points up on the board. But the best thing about the offense has been something completely familiar -- the running of Ray Graham. Quarterback Tino Sunseri has struggled in the new offensive system, holding on to the ball too long, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, and failing to perfect his precision on the deep ball. The offensive line has been a wreck, especially with its two best players out because of injuries (Lucas Nix, Chris Jacobson). That has proven to be a terrible combination. The Panthers have allowed an NCAA-worst 28 sacks and Todd Graham admitted this week that getting his offense going has been more difficult than he envisioned when he arrived. At least the Panthers have Graham, who leads the nation with 899 total rushing yards and ranks second with an average of 149.3 yards a game. Without him, who knows where the Panthers would be today. The defense, meanwhile, has given up way too many big plays as the players adjust to a new 3-4 scheme. Pitt has blown fourth-quarter leads twice, and the linebackers have been a particular weak spot. But if there was one word you could use to describe the season, it would have to be inconsistency. Look at the last two weeks. Pitt went from an impressive 44-17 win over USF on five days' rest to a 34-10 loss to Rutgers this past week that can best be described as a letdown. Pitt was picked to finish second in the league this season but at this point, there is no way to know which Panthers team will show up each week.

Offensive MVP: RB Ray Graham. The shifty back has run for over 100 yards in four games this season, including two games where he ran for over 200 yards. He needs just 101 yards to top 1,000 yards on the season. Not only that, Graham has been valuable out of the backfield -- he leads the team with 27 receptions.

Defensive MVP: LB Max Gruder. Pitt has not played particularly well on defense for long stretches this season, but Todd Graham has singled out Gruder as a player who has exceeded his expectations. Gruder leads the team and the Big East with 51 tackles.