Friday, November 26, 2010
West Virginia-Pitt pregame ponderables
By Brian Bennett
PITTSBURGH -- Greetings from Heinz Field and Happy Brawl Day. It's about 35 degrees outside with only a slight chance of snow.
(I know Thursday was the time for giving thanks, but I'm thankful for enclosed press boxes today.)
The cold shouldn't hurt the atmosphere here; in fact, I saw some hearty souls tailgating at 7 a.m. The field here looks to be in surprisingly decent shape despite the rain on Thursday night. The area between the hashmarks is chewed up and looks like sand, but it doesn't seem to be a marshy mess. Both teams have to play on it, anyway, and I don't think it will have much of an impact.
They could play this game on one of those airport moving walkways, and I'm still not sure how much the offenses would push forward. This has all the makings of another classic West Virginia-Pittsburgh defensive struggle, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a 13-10 kind of game (I picked the Mountaineers, 17-14).
The onus, I think, will be on Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti to come up with ways to beat the dominating West Virginia defense. As much as the Panthers rely on their running game, I don't think they can just line it up and pound it against one of the best run defenses in the league. Cignetti likely will have to open things up earlier than he has in other games, and Tino Sunseri will have to be sharp in the passing game.
A local columnist opined today that the losing coach may not participate in this game next year. I don't think that's true for Dave Wannstedt. But this is not one that Bill Stewart can afford to lose. His team is too talented to have four losses in 11 games.
If Pitt wins, the Big East title is close to being sown up. They'd still have to win at Cincinnati next week, but if the Panthers can't beat that inconsistent and flawed Bearcats bunch, they don't deserve to go to the BCS.
Much more to come, and don't forget that Louisville and Rutgers kick off at 11 a.m.