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Previewing the Opponent: The Pittsburgh Panthers

Pittsburgh 2005

Pittsburgh Panthers
2012 Record: 6-7
2013 Record: 0-0
Head Coach: Paul Chryst
All-Time: Pitt leads FSU 5-3

Overview: Pittsburgh debuts in the ACC by hosting reigning ACC Champion Florida State in primetime on Monday night at Heinz Field. The Panthers were better than their record shows last year and return several playmakers such as Devin Street at receiver and Aaron Donald at defensive tackle.

"This will be a tremendous game. They played very well last year," Jimbo Fisher said Wednesday. "[They] played Louisville to the heels – had them. They were up 14 on Notre Dame in the fourth quarter. The beat Virginia Tech up handily up there at home. They play at home extremely well. We’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game because it’s going to be a challenging football game, no doubt."

There are plenty of questions facing the Panthers as they enter 2013, chief among them how quarterback Tom Savage adjusts to his third team. Savage has not played a snap since 2010. Behind him Russel Shell - who was going to be relied on heavily in the run-game - left the team last Spring, tried to come back and then transferred. Street was a dynamic threat in the passing game last season, but the Panthers are likely to start a true freshman opposite him.

The rush defense was ranked 31st in the country last year and should be stout again this year. Donald, a talented defensive tackle is the linchpin and should be disruptive on Monday night. 

How FSU Stacks Up: The Seminoles will counter the biggest O-line they may face all year by using DT Eddie Goldman as the left end. He will line up on the strong-side with Dan Hicks (typically an End) lining up as the strong-side linebacker. This is probably not the configuration FSU favors against smaller, spread offenses down the road, but against Pitt it will help to combat the Panthers' power run game and force Savage to beat them.

Savage has an excellent target in Street but not a whole lot of other proven commodities beyond that. If FSU gets out ahead look for Goldman to come off the field or at least slide inside while FSU switches to quicker personnel and tries to shut down Street and company.

Offensively, FSU is likely to try to rely on the run to set Jameis Winston up with favorable situations to throw in. Aaron Donald and the Pitt run defense are solid but the Seminoles should be able to utilize their speed to get outside. 

“I think that is a big challenge. You really can’t simulate size and speed," admitted Chryst this week. "We’ve got some guys that I think can run pretty well. The speed of the game is one thing that catches some people the first time playing. Ask a freshman in camp, and they’ll say the speed of the game is faster. When you’re playing an opponent with a lot of speed at different positions like Florida State, the best thing you can do is go with your best players and then adjust. There’s a lot of adjusting in first games.”

Three to Watch

1.) Devin Street, WR - FSU will need to know where he is at all times. He is the most proven commodity on the entire Pittsburgh offense.

2.) Isaac Bennett, RB - Pittsburgh's starting tailback has been banged up recently, the Panthers will need him to carry his share of the load to upset the Seminoles.

3.) Aaron Donald, DT - At the middle of the Panther defense is arguably its most talented player. Capable of creating havok in several ways, FSU's interior offensive linemen may have their hands full with him on Monday night.

Quote of the Week: "It’s not just because it’s Monday, it’s primetime, everyone in the country’s going to be looking at one team play. That’s us. It’s going to be two teams on the field but everyone’s going to be looking to see what Florida State has. We always have that target on our back, that’s what we like to play with.” 

- Telvin Smith, Senior LB

 

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