If there had been fates on the side of Pitt. this off-season, we might be viewing this game a lot differently than we are right now. Well, at least for me, I am seeing a far different Pitt team than the one I saw before.
Forget the loss of Larry Fitzgerald and Pitt's starting QB, it's been all the losses that weren't planned for that has killed them.
Pitt lost their next best receiver after Fitzgerald, Terrell Allen to a season-ending injury. Then, they lost their next best receiver after Allen, Princell Brockenbrough to a season-ending injury. If that's not enough, they lost the next best receiver to Brockenbrough last week as he injured his leg against Ohio.
Their starting running back for the season, Jawan Walker was lost due to academic issues.
They lost their starting TE to graduation.
Pitt only brought back two starters on the offensive line, lost both their starting cornerbacks and all their special teams starters are gone as well.
Oh, and they have a redshirt Sophomore starting, Tyler Palko. Against Ohio, Palko was 6 of 19 for 49 yards, an interception and a touchdown.
Let's face it folks, this team is the walking.......well, they might not even be walking that much come to think of it.
It's gotten so bad over there in Pitt., I came up with a joke, albeit a horrible one.
"Hurricane Ivan was spotted on campus at Pittsburgh, but shortly after arriving, it was injured and ruled out for the season."
Like I said, horrible.
Defensively, this team gave up 300 yards in total offense to a team that last year ranked 89th in that category.
Offensively, they scored 24 points on a team that gave up 31 on average last year, putting them about 90th in that category as well.
Now, Pitt faces a Nebraska team that ranks 11th in total offense and 13th in total defense. Heck, the only category that might save them is turnover margin, something Nebraska probably cringes at every time they hear how bad they were the first two weeks.
Bad enough to be ranked 109th in the country in turnover margin and it's the only real issue NU has as it travels to play the Panthers. Heck, if it wasn't for those turnovers, we wouldn't be talking about an NU team trying to rebound, rather one that's trying to maintain the momentum.
That's how big turnovers are though and with a wet field expected on Saturday, that looms large as the biggest danger Nebraska faces.
That means all eyes will once again be on Joe Dailey, not for the passes he completes to his own guys, but the ones they hope don't stray to the other team, something Dailey did at a nation-leading pace, the Sophomore QB with 7 on the year.
Just to give you kind of an idea though about how that compares to last year, Jammal Lord ended the season with 8 interceptions, his pass efficiency rating not even in the top 100. With 7 interceptions in just his second game, Dailey's rating manages to stay in the 80s.
Yes, I know, that's like putting lipstick on a pig, but it gives you some idea of just how much this team is throwing the ball.
Considering the nature of Pitt's team and the fact that they might be submitting by P.A. to fans for spots on the depth chart, we'll simply concentrate on what you should expect to see in this game.
If the field is wet as it's anticipated to be even if the rain does indeed stop, that sets an interesting scenario for the coaching staff that will no doubt try to run Cory Ross in somewhat a similar fashion as it did last week, Ross toting the ball 27 times.
For the hard-cutting Junior though, that could be difficult on a slippery field and even for Tierre Green, who's strength is his sheer speed to the outside, turning up-field might be an issue as well. The initial running attack could come down to the true freshman, Brandon Jackson as his north-south style works well on a surface that isn't exactly friendly.
The staff will try to pass though, but it's going to be ultra-conservative and might stay that way depending on how Dailey adjusts to the rhythm of the game. A lot of short stuff to Matt Herian, dump-offs and screens to the running backs, high percentage throws early and often for Joe.
If Dailey can make it through the first quarter or so without any major hiccups, the staff might open up the playbook and utilize the returning speed of Willie Amos, who was sidelined last weekend with an injury and use Ross Pilkington and Terrence Nunn for the longer posts or slants.
Yes, there will be more than enough of Matt Herian as he figures to be used early, but if Joe can hit his wideouts with a few to stretch a defense that will be expecting Nebraska to run, Herian's routes should become progressively longer over the course of the game.
On defense, it's all about one word as you are likely to hear it over and over again.
When you have a redshirt sophomore coming off a very sub-par performance, one has to figure the inclination of the defensive staff is to get in this kid's grill and get their fast. See if they can shake him up and if they can, it's going to be a long day for the Pittsburgh QB.
To do that you can expect defensive coordinator, Kevin Cosgrove to overstack the line, alternating pressures from either side. The safeties, the corners, the linebackers, nobody will be outside of the realm of being used in what should be a variety of defensive fronts the Panthers are going to see.
My first inclination is to think that with rush end, Adam Carriker and starting CB, Lornell McPherson not making the trip, NU will be best served bringing the blitz off the left side where Fabian Washington is at so first time starter at cornerback filling in for McPherson, Cortney Grixby will not lose his inside and over the top.
If Palko can get the ball off, it's probably going to go Grixby's way. Cortney is definitely going to be a target as the Panthers will want to test any possible advantage they might have.
My guess is that Palko won't get the chance to test that as along with the Blitz, I would anticipate NU defending the underneath routes and Cortney's side almost exclusively early on.
If this were a healthy Pitt team and a team that had all of its possible players available, this game might offer a very different landscape to viewers. The comfort level in leaving Fabian Washington on an island or not respecting the deep routes being too much of a risk.
This isn't though and an undermanned and sorely outmatched Pitt. team mostly due to those aforementioned losses is going to be in a prevent mode, both literally and figuratively for this game.
It's hard to pick who might have the hot hand in this game, but if Dailey starts off well, it could be Ross Pilkington's time to get in the act, joining Willie Amos, Grant Mulkey and Matt Herian with big catches and big scores for a contest.
On defense, it's anyone's guess here, but if it's the blitz that be o' coming, we'll take Stewart Bradley as our defensive MVP as he should spend a lot of time coming in from off the edge.
Our lofty prediction for this game is Nebraska 35 and Pittsburgh 3.
Honestly, it could be even uglier than that.
BUT, NO TURNOVERS