Is Paul Chryst going to make a quarterback change?
I'll say it again, and I guess I'll have to say it every week. This team has way more pressing needs than its quarterback play. Currently, this Pitt defense is ranked 80th in the country, allowing over 422 yards a game. That right there is a far more pressing situation than anything going on with the offense--which has been anemic in its own right. Until this defense makes plays, gets the offense back on the field by making a few stops, or dare I say starts forcing turnovers--we can put all quarterback talk to rest. The only way a change will be made, is if Tino Sunseri starts a game with three interceptions, and Virginia Tech converts all three to touchdowns. If it gets to that, then you make a switch. But to answer it as short as possible--even though this is really a long answer--no, there is no quarterback change in sight because there are so many other things going wrong with this team right now.
Can we expect to see Jarred Holley and Jason Hendricks starting at safety again this week?
I believe so. I do find it interesting that Ray Vinopal and Andrew Taglianetti started and played pretty much that whole Youngstown State game. In that game, Pitt allowed 239 passing yards. With the Holley/Hendricks combination, Pitt allowed 278 yards through the air. In that Cincinnati game, we saw just Holley and Hendricks there, and even Paul Chryst said earlier at his press conference, those two will remain in there. I don't want to single out the safeties, but they need some help around them--mainly from that front seven. Jarred Holley said something real interesting this week--citing a need for more communication throughout the defense--when asked if there was one thing he felt could be better this year. Whatever the case, the safeties will be the same, and they are just two players who are being counted on to help in run support, and come in and help in that short and intermediate passing game. Otherwise, everyone's running backs are going to be scoring multiple touchdown receptions, just like we've seen through the first two games.
Are we going to see Rushel Shell?
I won't answer for the coaching staff, but of all questions this week, I'm most sure of the fact we'll see more of Shell this week. I was impressed the offensive staff gave Shell, Ray Graham and Isaac Bennett a combined 38 carries in last week's game. It also took them awhile to build that number. I think this week, we'll see a heavier number of carries between the three. 52 sounds like a good number. That would be three more for Graham, and another five or six carries more each for Shell and Bennett. By the law of large numbers, it increases the likelihood of somebody (Graham) getting 100 yards like we saw last week. It also increases the likelihood of someone breaking a 20-yard run, or some other type of big play. More importantly, it keeps the chains moving.
Does Pitt have any figthing chance this week?
I'm not going to go into overly optimistic mode, or Rocky IV/Sylvester Stallone is Pitt and Ivan Drago is Virginia Tech mode. But, I will say this. In the last three meetings between these two schools, the likelihood of Pitt winning--believe it or not--was actually less optimistic than it is heading into this matchup. In 2001, Pitt entered that game 1-5--a disasterous season that began with so many high expectations. Pitt was coming off an embarrassing homecoming loss to Syracuse, 45-7. They come out and face No. 12 Virginia Tech. Pitt dominated Virginia Tech that day, 38-7. The next year, Virginia Tech played out this whole revenge thing--which I could never understand. Regardless, Pitt went down to Blacksburg--almost an impossible place for anyone to win--and they pulled off a 28-21 win. They beat the Hokies in 2003 on a Lousaka Polite touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. I could throw in the 1997 win too--Virginia Tech was ranked No. 23 in that one, and Pitt was coming off a loss to Syracuse. That was a big one because they beat the Hokies, then pulled out a win at Morgantown to go to a bowl the following week.
Not going to say the same thing will happen, but if history teaches us anything, we must learn from this. Each of the four wins, Pitt has been the overwhelming underdog to Virginia Tech. Then again, in each of the three losses, Pitt was also the overwhelming underdog. In that case, when it comes to this series--expect a Pitt upset or a Virginia Tech blowout...there is no middle ground.
Specifically, if Pitt were to win this game, what needs to happen?
I hate to keep repeating it, but they just need to run the football. They proved they can run it last week. If they establish the run early, convert some first downs, eat some clock and get points on the board early--that would be a huge confidence boost for that team. It would be a huge confidence boost, but it will also be playing into what's realistic for this team to do well. I'm not saying possess the ball for 15 minutes a quarter, but at least establish an identity on offense en route to converting first downs and putting up points.