Midseason review: Pittsburgh

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
12:45
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Things could be even better for Pittsburgh right now.

The Panthers had a 31-17 lead late in the third quarter at NC State but couldn't hold on, falling 38-31. Had they won that game, they would be 7-0 right now and forcing their way into BCS title discussions.

Still, things aren't half bad. Pitt is 6-1 and the first team to get to 3-0 in Big East conference play. The two biggest question marks coming into the season, quarterback play and the running game, have caused no problems. Dion Lewis is as productive as LeSean McCoy and maybe even more so, while quarterback Bill Stull has silenced his critics through solid play.

The Panthers' potholes have come from areas no one saw as potential trouble spots: the defense and mental discipline. Pitt has given up way too many big plays, particularly against the pass, and has struggled to avoid dumb penalties.

But when a team is 6-1, that seems like nitpicking. The schedule gets tougher in the second half, but Pittsburgh is in position to accomplish big things.

Offensive MVP: Dion Lewis. The true freshman has probably been the biggest surprise in the Big East this year. He leads the league and is second in the nation in rushing yards with 918. He's averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has nine rushing touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: Mick Williams. Greg Romeus has been great at defensive end, but Williams is a constant force at defensive tackle. He already has 11.5 tackles for loss, which is a huge number for an interior tackle, and four sacks.

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