Kurt Hess, YOUNGSTOWN STATE
The Pitt defense will get a test in the opening game against Yougnstown State. Kurt Hess was a Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year in 2010, then a first-team all-conference selection last year, finishing third in the voting for the conference's offensive player of the year. A protypical pro style QB, Hess has already etched his name in multiple spots of the record book. In two years as a starter, he has already tied the school record with 13 200-yard passing games and owns the school-record for passer rating and passing yards per game.
Munchie Legaux, Cincinnati
In week two, Pitt will take on Cincinnati. In years past Cincinnati quarterbacks have set marks against Pitt's defense. Look no further than Tony Pike, who captured a pair of Big East Championships in 2008 and 2009 against the Pitt defense. This time around the Panthers will have to deal with first-year starter Munchie Legaux, who replaced Zach Collaros late-season after an injury against West Virginia. Legaux helped the Bearcats to the postseason, throwing five touchdown passes with no interceptions in the final two wins of the season, before Collaros returned to help lead the Bearcats to a bowl win ocr Vanderbilt. Legaux didnt take much to accustome hismelf as a starter at the end of last season. He should ease into becoming the full-time starter this year, amd will be a force to reckon with.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Things don't get any easier for the Panthers in week three when they take on Virginia Tech on September 15. The Panthers do have a three-game winning streak against the Hokies, but the last time they faced Virginia Tech, Marcus Vick was the quarterback. While the Panthers were fortunate enough to not to have to face Tyrod Taylor in his brilliant career, they will face to face Taylor's replacement--Logan Thomas. All Thomas did in his first year as a starter was earn second-team ACC honors, with 3,013 yards passing--second most in a season in school history. Good luck dealing with Thomas' unique size--6-6, 262. He can run too, as he rushed for 11 scores in 2011.
Chandler Browning/LUCAS BEATTY, GARDNER-WEBB
In Week Four, with Gardner Webb coming to town, the Panthers may have to prepare for two quarterbacks entering that game. Chandler Browning split time last year with Lucas Beatty. Neither did much to separate himself from the other; Browning with three touchdown passes and six interceptions; Beatty with two touchdown throws and three interceptions. You hate to assume anything, but after the first three quarterbacks they will face, it looks like the Pitt secondary has a little of a breather.
Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
This'll be the final game for Ryan Nassib gainst Pitt. For Nassib, three starts, three losses. In his career againt Pitt, Nassib has completed 43 of 94 (45.7%) for 477 yards, 2 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions. In his last meeting against Pitt, Nassib completed 23 of 32 passes for 225 yards, 1 touchdown and an interception. Nassib is 0-3 starting against Pitt, but don't ever rule out the Carrier Dome crowd lending a hand in this nationally-televised Friday night game.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
the Panthers return home the following week to take on the Louisville, arguably the conference's marquee player in sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. In his only meeting against the Panthers, Pitt's defense found a way to stymie Bridgewater after the freshman was coming off a career-defining victory over West Virginia the previous week. Bridgewater did complete 18 of 26 passes for 175 yards, 1 touchdown and an interception. Interestingly, Bridgewater had a season-high 54 yards rushing on 10 carries against the Pitt defense, yet he still did not come out on top. This could be an interesting match up at this point this season, simply because it will be the halfway point of the season. If Bridgewater picks up where he left off after an impreessive freshman year, and he progresses through the first half of the 2012 season, this is going to be one of Pitt's tougher matchups.
Chazz Anderson, Buffalo
It doesn't get much easier with the week seven trip to Buffalo. While there's a myth that a MAC opponent should be an easy win, Pitt should know better (2003 loss to Toledo, 2005 loss to Ohio, 2008 loss to Bowling Green). This will be a challenge because of what quarterback Chazz Anderson can do. Last season, Anderson made his first career start at Heinz Field, completing 30 to 49 passes for 276 yards. Even though Buffalo didn't come out on top, Anderson set the tone for a pretty decent first year as a starter; throwing for over 2,400 yards, 11 touchdowns with 9 interceptions. Anderson's play will be key for Buffalo early on in the season as the Bulls travels to Athens, Georgia to take on the Georgia Bulldogs. If he is able to garner anything from his other non-conference games, perhaps it may prove to be trouble when Pitt rolls into town on October 20.
Mike Gerardi, Temple
Perhaps the Panthers get a breather when Temple comes to town on October 27. The Owls are no pushover, but their passing offense ranked 116th in the nation last year. Last year's starter, Chester Stewart is in training camp with the Baltimore Ravens. Mike Gerardi split time with Stewart last year. The Owls will be your definition of smash mouth football; running the football, which will at least give the Pitt pass defense a little breather in this area.
Tommy Rees, Notre Dame
Tommy Rees will return as Notre Dame starting quarterback, but first he will have to overcome some off-season issues that included being arrested at a party in May. Notre Dame's quarterbacks have yet to live up to the reputation or produce similar type numbers and like the ones Tony Pike had when Brian Kelly was his coach at Cincinnati. This was a big reason why Kelly was such a big hire for Notre Dame three years ago. Reese was still in the early stages of it's starting tenure when he played at Pittsburgh last year. Rees played well enough to win at Pittsburgh last year--completing 24 of 41 passes for 216 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He struggled over the final three games, throwing just 1 touchdown pass with 4 interceptions in the final three games, including the bowl loss to Florida State. Pitt is also getting Rees in a dangerous part of the season. He'll have practically a full season under his belt by the time November rolls around. If he's not progressing, Pitt may face heralded freshman Gunner Kiel.
JOHNNY MCENTEE/Chandler Whitmer, UCONN
UConnn has a question mark at its quarterback position. Last year's starter, Johnny McEntee had a decent game against Pittsburgh last year, but is now battling for the starting job, or hoping to just hold onto the starting position. Chandler Whitmer might surpass McEntee as starting quarterback this season. Whitmer threw for two scores and 187 yards in the UConn spring game, McEntee completed 17 of 33 passes for 195 yards and two touchdown passes against the Panthers last year.
Gary Nova/Chas Dodd, Rutgers
Believe it or not after leading Rutgers to an impressive 34-10 victory over Pittsburgh last year, the Scarlet Knights may also have a starting quarterback controversy. Gary Nova threw for a pair of touchdown passes in a 34-10 victory last time around. He went back and forth with Chas Dodd for the starting job last year. First-year head coach Kyle Flood says he would like to wait no more than 10 days prior to his team's opener to name a starting quarterback. In a start at Pittsburgh in 2010, Dodd completed 8-of-19 passes for 62 yards and an interception. If Flood uses previous performances against Pitt as a deciding factor in naming a starter, Nova gets the nod.
B.J. Daniels, SOUTH Florida
We saved the best story line for last, with B.J. Daniels getting one last crack at Pitt. Daniels always seems to be coming off of a big game heading into the Pitt game. However in all three of his matchups against the Panthers, Daniels has combined to go 37 of 73 (50.7%) for 409 yards, no touchdown passes and three interceptions. If he has a stellar senior season, and with bowl implications and possible conference standings at stake in the regular season finale, it will be interesting to see if Daniels has the ability to rise to the occasion for one last time against Pitt.
Do we have to play him? Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Can we play him every week? B.J. Daniels, South Florida
Quarterback Pitt likely won't face: Johnny McEntee, UConn
Do we have to play him at this junction of the season? Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Dark Horse candidate for breakout game: Chazz Anderson, Buffalo
OPPONENT QB RANKINGS
1. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
2. Munchie Legaux, Cincinnati
3. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
4. Tommy Rees, Notre Dame
5. Chazz Anderson, Buffalo
6. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
7. Kurt Hess, Youngstown State
8. B.J. Daniels, South Florida
9. Gary Nova, Rutgers
10. Johnny McEntee, UConn
11. Mike Gerardi, Temple
12. Chandler Browning, Gardner-Webb