Pittsburgh - South Florida Preview

<b>Game Day Preview: </b>Pittsburgh Panthers vs. South Florida Bulls <br> <b>When: </b>12/4/2004 <br><b>Time: </b>11:00am <br><b>Where: </b>Raymond James Stadium Tampa, Fla. <br><b>TV/Radio: </b>ESPN2 / WPGB (FM) 104.7 and WBGG (AM) 970 <br><b>Line: </b>Pitt (-7).... Over/Under (53)<br>

PITTSBURGH  TALE OF THE TAPE 
(per game statistics)
SOUTH FLORIDA
27.5 Points 25.7
355.1 Total Offense 353.4
110.3 Rushing Yards 192.0
38.4 Rushing Attempts 40.6
2.9 Yards Per Carry 4.7
244.8 Passing Yardage 161.4
34.2 Passing Attempts 26.9
12.9 Yards Per Pass Completion 12.7
23.9 Points Allowed 30.8
392.6 Total Defense 390.8
139.7 Rushing Yards Allowed 160.2
252.9 Passing Yards Allowed 230.6
+9 Turnover Margin -7


Game Notes: Pittsburgh and South Florida meet for just the second time ever when the Panthers visit Raymond James Stadium on Dec. 4 for a national ESPN2 encounter. The game was originally scheduled for Sept. 6, but was postponed due to Hurricane Frances.  

The Bulls defeated the Panthers, 35-26, in the initial meeting on Sept.8, 2001 at Heinz Field. The 2004 affair is a matchup of future Big East Conference opponents. Playing in their final game as a member of Conference USA, the Bulls will join the Big East for the 2005 season.

Pittsburgh seeks its eighth win of the season when it meets South Florida. A victory seemingly would secure a Bowl Championship Series berth for the surging Panthers, who broke into the nation's Top 25 this week by winning five of their last six contests. Although four teams tied for first place in the Big East Conference, the BCS berth can be claimed by only Pittsburgh or Syracuse due to league tiebreakers. (Boston College and West Virginia were eliminated by virtue of their 1-2 records within a "mini-conference" of the tied teams.) Either the Panthers or Orange will earn the berth based on the final BCS standings.  

Pittsburgh is 37-20-3 (.642) all-time versus current members of Conference USA.

USF is 3-0 (1.000) all time versus current members of the Big East conference. 

Pitt Notes: Pitt makes its fifth road trip of the season. The Panthers are 2-2 (.500) this year. 

Tyler Palko ranks third in the Big East averaging 240.5 yards per game, and is fifth in overall offense (259.7).  

Sophomore receiver Greg Lee, in his first full season as a starter, tops the Big East and ranks sixth nationally with an average of 105.1 receiving yards per game. Additionally, he ranks 11th nationally with 1,051 total receiving yards.  

The Panthers lead the Big East and rank 14th nationally in turnover margin (0.90 margin per game). For the season the Panthers are +9 in the turnover margin department, forcing 21 and giving up just 12. Pitt's 15 interceptions rank 19th nationally and second in the Big East.  

The Panthers average just 45.5 penalty yards per game this season, the lowest average in the Big East. They also lead the conference in fewest penalties (56 total), an average of just 5.6 per game.   

The Panthers defense has yielded a total of 87 points in the second half (not counting overtime periods). Five of Pitt's seven victories have featured a fourth-quarter rally or overtime decision this year. They lead the Big East in opponent third-down conversions. Panther foes are converting just 31.6% (50 of 158) of their third downs this year. Pittsburgh also leads the Big East in opponent fourth-down conversions (38.9%). The Panthers have allowed conversions on just 7-of-18 fourth downs.  

Josh Lay leads the Big East in passes defended (15).  

Place-kicker Josh Cummings leads the Big East in field goal percentage (73.9%, 17 of 23), PAT kicking percentage (tied at 100%, 30 of 30), field goals (1.70 field goals per game) and kick scoring (8.1 points per game).  

Adam Graessle leads the Big East and ranks seventh nationally with a 44.1 punting average. He has placed 17 punts inside the 20 and owns the longest punt in the Big East this year (79 versus Boston College). Of his 55 kickoffs, 17 have been touchbacks. Pittsburgh opponents' average start this season has been the 27-yard line.  

Game captains for the South Florida game are offensive tackle Rob Petitti (offense), center Justin Belarski (offense), nose tackle Vince Crochunis (defense), defensive tackle Dan Stephens (defense) and linebacker Doug Roseberry (special teams).  

Homecoming Game: Pittsburgh has 15 Florida natives on its 2004 roster. Tampa area players include, Joe Clermond (DL), Greg Lee (WR), Charles Sallet (DL), Joe Stephens (WR), Darren McCray (RB, St. Petersburg), Jerald Robinson (OL, Fort Pierce), Reggie Carter (DB, Naples), and Marcel Pestano (WR, Lehigh Acres). Remaining Florida players, H.B. Blades (LB), Jemeel Brady (DB), Kelvin Chandler (WR), Kennard Cox (DB), Clint Session (LB), Darrell Strong (WR) and Nick Williams (DL).  

Pitt Leaders:Rushing.... Raymond Kirkley 560 / 3.6avg. / 6 tds Passing. Tyler Palko.... 189 / 341 / 55.4 / 18 / 7 Receiving.... Greg Lee / 53 / 1051 / 19.8 / 6.... Joe DelSardo / 35 / 402 / 11.5 / 4.... Erik Gill / 23 / 307 / 13.3 / 3 Defense.... Sacks, J.J. Horne (3.5).... Tackles, H.B. Blades (94).... Ints, H.B. Blades, Josh Lay (3)   
  • Interesting weekly "quotes" from Pitt coach Walt Harris:   
    "I think if we start pumping ourselves up, I think we'll get our eye off the bull's-eye."
    "We don't want to put too much air up our dresses so to speak."
    "This is a different team with a different style of leadership and different players, players that no one had heard about or believed in except for our staff."
    "What we're trying to prepare against is too make sure we aren't too fired up. We'll take care of business if we're not too wired up or over-focused."
     

USF Notes: Were eliminated from bowl contention last week with loss to Memphis (31-15).  

Boast C-USA's second leading rusher in Andre Hall (1272 yds.), second in all-purpose yards (1735).  

Junior punter Brandon Baker ranks third in C-USA with a 41.6 avg.   

In the fourth quarter USF have outscored opponents (103 / 74).  

On offense the Bulls are experienced and very physical up front. Center Alex Herron (Sr., 6-3, 280) and left tackle Derrick Sarosi (Sr., 6-4, 305) anchor the line and also serve as the two offensive captains. Frank Davis (Jr., 6-4, 310) and Chris Carothers (Jr., 6-3, 290) are the two starting guards; Levi Newton (Sr., 6-4, 305) starts at right tackle. They run a good offensive system, which has gone from the spread offense to a more run oriented attack. USF ranks third in C-USA in rushing yards per game (192.0) and ninth (353.4) in overall offense per game.  

On defense, their strength is the front seven led by senior Leroy Selmon Jr. They overload against the run and put extreme pressure on the opposing QB. They bring their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage and make you try to beat their quick, athletic corners while playing play man-to-man.  

When Jim Leavitt picked up his 50th career win at East Carolina in what was his 75th game as a head coach, he joined an elite fraternity of active Division I-A coaches to reach the milestone in rapid fashion. Among active coaches, Leavitt is the seventh quickest to 50 wins. His company ahead of him includes (in order) Bob Pruett (Marshall), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Philip Fulmer (Tennessee), John Robinson (UNLV), Joe Paterno (Penn State) and Lloyd Carr (Michigan).  

USF Leaders: Rushing...Andre Hall 1272 yds. / 6.5 avg. / 11 tds.... Multi threat.... 1735 total yards / 12tds Passing.... Pat Julmiste 106 / 226 / 46.9 / 7 / 6 Receiving.... S.J. Green.... 21 / 254 / 12.1 / 1.... Johnny Peyton.... 19 / 430 / 22.6 / 2 Defense.... Sacks, Craig Kobel (5).... Tackles, Javan Camon (93).... Ints, Sidney Simpson (2)   

  • Interesting weekly "quotes" from USF Coach Jim Leavitt:  
    "They're very good, as we all know. They're extremely well coached. They're a big, physical offensive line. They run the ball well. On defense, they're big and strong. The safeties, they do everything well."
    "Their quarterback. If we would have played them at the beginning, he would have had very limited game experience. He's had 10 games to develop and now it's a different deal."
    "I don't think they need a moment in time where we're dancing on ice."
    "I would think our guys are excited about the game."

Game Analysis: The USF offense is playing better now, the defense has slipped dramatically, having allowed 1,047 yards in losses to Cincinnati and Memphis over the past two weeks. Pitt has gotten better on both sides of the ball as the season's progressed.

Pittsburgh's pass defense, which is ranked last in the seven-team Big East (252.9), might be the key to success for the Bulls. While QB Pat Julmiste and the passing game still have a long way to go, his improvement showed in the second half of last week's loss to Memphis when he passed for 183 yards on 31 attempts and ran for two TDs. Julmiste has not throw an interception in four consecutive games.

USF's offensive line has not allowed a sack in three of the past four games.

Pitt has improved enough to win the Big East and the Panthers' Bowl Championship Series fate is in their own hands. A win at South Florida on Saturday will complete the Panthers quick rise from the middle of the Big East standings and seal the bid.

Pitt is a much better team than the one that opened the season with a 2-2 record. The 19th-ranked Panthers (7-3) are assured of a BCS game with a victory and might get the Big East's automatic bid even with a loss but their fate would be determined by polls.

If the Bulls take care of the ball, run it well and cut back on penalties, they have a chance. If they don't, this could get very ugly. On that note, look for Tyler Palko to lead the Panthers to a victory and a trip to the BCS. 

Prediction: Pitt 27 - USF 16


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