Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pitt- Oregon State Sun Bowl Preview

This is almost certainly the final post of the year for us here at Three River Sports, as tomorrow will be filled with watching Pitt athletic teams and drinking, and no one wants a half-drunk posting following the Pitt-OSU game, so have a Happy New Year and be safe out there kids.

But before I get to the subject of this little column, I NEEDED to link to this little story in the Trib regarding our beloved tailback LeSean McCoy who is showing some serious feistiness in wanting to get the old Pitt-Penn State rivalry resumed. Clearly the Pitt players, many of whom have high school friends at the State College, enjoy having some fun with it and want to play, but until that guy from Tales From The Crypt retires as the PSU Head Coach, the rivalry is dead, unfortunately.
Anyway, let's get to this thing, with some of the critical things to watch for in this ball game:
-As always, the Panthers are likely to only go as far as the legs of LeSean McCoy will take them. Expect McCoy to get the ball early and often, and surely Oregon State's defense is going to try to do everything humanly possible to stop McCoy short of putting 11 in the box. The Beavers would love for Pitt to have to use Bill Stull to beat them.

-Of course, Jonathan Baldwin will likely get a few shots downfield early in the game to try and keep the Beavers D honest. If Stull can complete even one of those to the scary athletic wide receiver it could change everything. I'm sure the Beavers have seen the number of missed downfield passes, and thus won't truly commit to stopping it until the Panthers prove that it can work.

-Rashaad Duncan started yapping a couple days ago, and now the Oregon State O-Line has heard it and is using it for bulletin board material. I'm not a big fan of these kinds of tactics, so I certainly could have done without all that, but let's just hope Rashaad lives up to his claims. Pitt's D-Line sets the tone for the D, and lets hope that tone is more like the one set in the Iowa and WVU games and less like the Cincy or Rutgers games.

-With Jacquizz Rodgers expected to miss the Sun Bowl, its pretty apparent that Oregon State is going to have to rely more heavily on their passing game. Its pretty clear that the Beavers aren't too comfortable throwing the ball a lot, though, because although QB Lyle Moevao has three 300 yard passing games, they were all in losses. Still, the Beavers new starting running back Ryan McCants is a freshman with 79 career carries. I expect the Panthers D-Line to mostly shut him down and force OSU to the air.

-Aaron Berry, Jovanni Chappel, Dom DeCicco, and the rest of the Pitt secondary will have their work cut out for them if this is the case. OSU has two very good receivers even with the brothers Rodgers sitting on the sidelines. Neither Sammie Stroughter or Shane Morales are the tall downfield threats that have given the Panthers fits, but they are both better than any corner the Panthers can throw at them.

-One thing I didn't mention earlier about in regards to Pitt's passing game: Oregon State has a very good secondary that is likely to give our resident head-scratcher Bill Stull some serious fits. Brandon Hughes and Greg Laybourn were both all Pac-10 players and their other two DB's were honorable mention on the conference teams, a pretty scary thought considering the fragile confidence of Stull.

-While Oregon State has some good return men, their special teams, especially on field goals, have been mostly mediocre this season, and I fully expect to see Wanny bring the house with Romeous, Taglianetti, and the rest of the special teams demons to try to get some blocks. Few teams in the country are as good as the Panthers at blocking punts and kicks, and that could be a gamebreaker for the Panthers.

-The Beavers also have a solid D-Line, so I will be interested to see how well the Panthers O-Line, which has really REALLY come on strong at the end of this season, will fair against them. This is one of the more underrated aspects to Pitt's success this season, in my mind. Remember how many questions there were at the beginning of the season regarding this O-Line? Well Jason Pinkston and Joe Thomas have morphed into very promising tackle prospects, John Malecki has turned into a nasty guard, CJ Davis has been spectacular, and Dom Williams has been solid in relief.

The Bottom Line
I think the Panthers strike early with Shady, and the Beavers are unable to respond to a few quick scores without their beloved 'Quizz Rodgers leading the way on offense. McCoy goes off for well over 100 yards, Stull puts in a solid effort, and the Pitt D does a nice job holding what's left of the OSU offense in check. Panthers 31-20


Jonathan Bryant said...

You don't seem too concerned about the passing offense for the Beavers. I mean that Pitt secondary has really struggled this season. Aaron Berry and the others couldn't cover anyone for most of the season, I think OSU keeps this very close because of that regardless of a lack of a running game. I hope I'm wrong, but I think that could be Pitt's undoing.

Ryan said...

I didn't mention this in my column after the game, but how about the play of that Aaron Berry? That guy was sick good in that game. The D in general was excellent all game long. How pissed must they be?