Game 8: October 20th vs. Pitt at Heinz Field,
The Bearcats are back on the road in the Big East for week 8 traveling to
Since taking over the Pitt program in 2005, Head Coach Dave Wannstedt's biggest accomplishment has been landing back to back top 10 recruiting classes in 2006 and 2007. Pitt will need some of those young Panthers to step up this season to fill the shoes of big time players.
In 2006 Pitt started hot winning 6 of the first 7 game, the only loss
coming at home to
Pitts early season schedule offers some challenges with road trips to
The 2007 version of Pitt football will be significantly different than last season. The Panthers must replace 9 starters from a year ago. More important that the number of starters that need replacements, but it is who needs to be replaced that will be the challenge.
Gone is quarterback Tyler Palko who took nearly every snap for Pitt the last 3 seasons. In his career Palko accounted for 8,343 passing yards and 66 passing TD's. The only Panther QB with experience is Jr. Bill Stull who has 10 career passes. Don't be surprised if by the time this game is played the starting job is held by freshmen Pat Bostick. He is the 2006 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the year and was one of the most highly sought-after quarterback prospects in the country.
On defense all three starters at linebacker are gone including All American and Big East Defensive Player of the year middle linebacker H.B. Blades. The Panthers will be extremely young at LB in 2007. Taking over the job in the middle will most likely fall to Jr Scott McMillop, he started 6 games last year at DE. The outside linebacker duties will be decided in summer camp with several talented but inexperienced choices. This group will have to mature very quickly to succeed in Big East play.
One other major defensive lose occurred when Cornerback Darrelle Revis elected to enter the NFL draft after his Jr season. Revis was a 2 time All Big East performer.
Why UC will win this game?
Doug Goodwin: For the first time is 3 Big East meetings it will be the Bearcats who enter the game as the experienced team. Pitt has tremendous young talent, but they are unproven and the rigors of playing at the Big East level will be starting to show by week 8. The Bearcat defense has a history of making young QB's look like young QB's and this game will be no different. In addition the back 7 of the Panther defense will be inexperienced, not a good attribute when facing a Brian Kelly offense that will be in full swing by October.
Dave Berk: I've stood on the sidelines in each of the first two match-ups for the River City Rivalry and got sick at my stomach as I watched the Bearcats blow chances to win the game. Two years ago in Pittsburgh I didn't feel the Bearcats were ready for a team like Pitt on the road. They were young and inexperienced and hadn't really felt what a Big East game was about. Last season I expected the Bearcats to win and if not for about eight minutes of football before halftime and the start of the third quarter, I really feel they would have knocked off the Panthers.
This year I expect the Bearcats to battle and bring the River City trophy home for the first time in schools history. It may not the most known trophy on the Bearcats list, but I still remember how some Bearcats took it when they watched the Panthers walk away with it in tow.
The Bearcats will have to take advantage of the young players the Panthers will use for the 2007 season. As stated in the story the two biggest losses come from Palko and Blades. It seems like both of them were there forever as I'd seen my brother battle Blades and watched Palko work his magic for a win a couple of times.
The Panthers have won the past two meetings with the "Big Play" and the Bearcats must make the "Big Play" this year to earn a hard fought victory on the road. Balanced offense with hardnosed defense is the easy reasons the Bearcats will post a victory over Pitt.
What does Pitt have to do to win?
Doug Goodwin: Pitt has plenty of talent and the mental edge that they have beaten UC easily the past to seasons. If they can use that talent on defense to disrupt the UC passing attack they can stay in this game and give Pat Bostick and the offense a shot at victory.
Dave Berk: Pitt has enjoyed a couple of great recruiting classes since Dave Wannstedt took over the program. But success on the field hasn't come and knowing Pitt fans it won't take much longer for them to start running him out of town much like they did Walt Harris.
If the talent the recruiting experts have talked about for the past couple of seasons show-up, look for the Panthers to use speed, size and solid play on both sides of the ball to earn a victory.
As Doug stated I fully expect Pat Bostick to be fighting for playing time if not starting by the time this game comes around. If Bostick can keep the offense on a steady plane the Panthers may be the surprised team in the conference this fall.
Doug's Prediction: UC get's a big conference road win 31 – 21.
Dave's Prediction: The Bearcats are due to beat the Panthers this year and will win 28-21.
Bonus for Game 8:
Doug Goodwin: There is no question that Dave Wannstedt
was a top notch assistant at both the college and the NFL levels. Based on the
past 2 recruiting classes ranked 10 and 8 nationally I think we would have to
agree he can also recruit. What has yet to be proven is whether he can be a
successful head coach. In 2 shots at NFL jobs things didn't work in Chicago or
Dave Berk: When Dave Wannstedt first took over at Pitt, I had the chance to meet him at the Big 33 dinner. Great guy, who is getting lots of credit for having some top recruiting classes. But while rankings look good on paper, the Panthers have yet to do anything on the field. This team suffered some big losses in Blades and Palko and early in the season they'll have an easy opener with Eastern Michigan. But with athletic Grambling coming to town and then a trip to Michigan State the Panthers could find the going rough for their young team. If the Panthers don't get to a bowl game this year many will start to question the job Wannstedt has done and have him looking over his shoulder.