After being ranked 15th in the preseason, Pittsburgh has struggled losing two of its first-three games. Pitt opened the season with a much publicized loss at then unranked Utah 27-24 (OT). Utah, ranked 13th in the AP top 25, out-gained Pittsburgh 405-266 in total yards. Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn was effective against Pitt, throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, Pittsburgh has struggled to cover the pass, giving up six passing touchdowns in three games.
This will be the second week in a row Pitt plays host to a team from Miami. Pitt lost 31-3 to Miami at home last Thursday. UM quarterback Jacory Harris had 248 yards, 2TD and 2INT against Pitt. Pitt's lone win came against lowly New Hampshire 38-16. Pittsburgh has gotten off to slow start and there are rumors that coach Dave Wannstedt (aka the Wanstach, left) might be on his way out if he cannot right the ship. After FIU, Pittsburgh will next face Notre Dame in a nationally televised game on Oct. 9 before starting Big East play the following week.
QB: Tino Sunseri (left) has started all three of Pitt's games. Sunseri, 48-77, 520 yards, 3TD, 2INT, had his first-career start against Utah. Sunseri is an accurate passer that can scramble outside of the pocket and pick up extra yards with his feet. Sunseri, a Pittsburgh native, was rated a three star recruit by Rivals.com in 2008. Sunseri was effective (16-28 for 184 yards, 1TD) against Utah but was taken out late in the Miami game after getting knocked around.
Back up QB Pat Bostick took over for Sunseri, but his results were not much better. Last week, the Hurricanes proved that an effective pass rush will disrupt the Pitt offense. The Hurricanes had five sacks and nine tackles for loss. The FIU defense will need to put constant pressure on Sunseri to win at Heinz Field. FIU will need to continue using different schemes and blitz to confuse Sunseri like they did against Texas A&M. FIU has the speed on defense and offense to match up with Pittsburgh.
RB: Sophomore Dion Lewis (right) emerged as one of the best young running backs in college football after rushing for 1,799 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman. Lewis is a shifty back that can either use his quickness or strength to pick up extra yards. This season, Lewis has 143 yards on 47 carries and two scores. Lewis, still has not had a break out game and has struggled some.
Against Miami, Lewis had 12 carries for 41 yards. Back up running back Ray Graham picked up the slack against the Canes rushing for 100 yards on 14 carries. Graham also broke the 100-yard mark against New Hampshire.
WR: Pittsburgh relies on 6-5, 225 pound junior Jon Baldwin and 6-5, 220 pound Mike Shanahan on offense. Both are large receivers that give Sunseri big targets. Baldwin had 6 catch, 100 yard and a TD against New Hampshire.
Baldwin is a deep-pass threat that can get open off the line. Baldwin has two TD catches over 40 yards this season (44-yard TD Utah, 56-yard TD New Hampshire). In his career, Baldwin has 15 catches of 40 yards or more.
OL: There have been some moves made by Pittsburgh this week on the offensive line. According to the Tribune Democrat from Johnstown, P.A., Pittsburgh has moved junior Lucas Nix from right tackle to right guard. Junior Jordan Gibbs will replace Nix. The moves were made because Pitt felt something needed to be done to jump start the struggling running game. As I wrote higher, RB Lewis has gotten off to a slow start.
DEF: The Pittsburgh defense took a big hit after senior defensive end Greg Romeus underwent back surgery in Sept. Romeus, 2009 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, had a career-high nine sacks last year.
After three unimpressive weeks, the FIU offense showed that it is capable of scoring points on the road. FIU had a relatively easy time moving the ball against a struggling Terps' defense. For the most part, the FIU offense had its best game of the season. Even though, QB Wesley Carroll (left) struggled with his accuracy at times, Carroll played a great game, throwing for over 300 yards. After watching the game again, I noticed that Carroll is not afraid to run out of the pocket and pick up some tough yards. Carroll rushed six times for 32 yards, including several drive saving first downs.
FIU had a chance to win from the start of the game till the end. Trailing 35-21, FIU failed to score on several redzone trips that sealed the victory for Maryland.
The main difference in the Maryland game versus the first-two games is that the FIU defense played so poorly. For a change, the offense kept FIU in the game which was nice to see. FIU had a number of chances to win on Saturday but several big plays gave Maryland the win. This week, FIU faces a talented Pittsburgh team that has struggled so far. Pittsburgh (1-2) is capable of scoring a lot of points in a hurry and after last week's game, coach Mario Cristobal (right) addressed the defensive breakdowns during Wednesday's weekly news conference.
"Big plays are due to lack of little things or not doing the little things well enough. Some times our tackling technique, not running through the defender, not wrapping up correctly, taking an improper angle, not communicating on a certain single to change a certain coverage or a certain front. Things like that, seem like there little things but they are not. A lot of these football games are coming down to one, two maybe four, five plays and you have to be on point all of them," Cristobal said.
The weather has been a factor for FIU this week, after dealing with tropical storm Nicole. The Panthers were able to practice on Tuesday at FIU Stadium but had to move Wednesday's practice to the gym. The weather might also play come game time. The temperature in Pittsburgh on Saturday is expect to be the 40's or 50's.
"This might be a hand warmer game for some of the kids," Cristobal said. Cristobal also said that his coaching staff has been hard at work trying to keep the players from buying into the weather distraction. "If you start thinking about the weather and making it an issue than it will be an issue," he said.
FIU takes on Pittsburgh as 17 1/2 point road underdogs. FIU (0-3) has shown much improvement from last season but has come up short against three BCS teams.
There is no doubt the Pittsburgh coaches have warned their players about not taking FIU lightly.
Both teams will be hungry to win after tough losses. Expect to see FIU move the ball early on Pittsburgh and find success through the air. FIU will need to capitalize early. I expect the FIU defense will be able to get pressure on the quarterback and keep the game close. Unfortunately for FIU, I see Pittsburgh taking control in the third quarter and not letting up. FIU will need to turn this game into a defensive battle. Pittsburgh has a lot of weapons that will become a factor late in the game. PITT 38-28.