Big East Versus Big Ten

Sure, there are nine games remaining on the Pitt football schedule after this one, including all seven Big East Conference contests, but the Panthers' game against Iowa Saturday at noon at Heinz Field is crucial.

The matchup between the University of Pittsburgh, representing the Big East Conference, and Iowa from the Big Ten will be televised nationally by ESPN 2. So, after opening with two Mid-American Conference opponents, the Panthers (1-1) get an opportunity to face another BCS team on a national stage.

And the Hawkeyes (3-0) can remain unbeaten after impressive opening wins that included a 17-5 victory against intrastate rival Iowa State last week. Pitt is coming off a bye week.

"Obviously they're 3-0 and have a lot of confidence right now,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "With that being said, I think this will be a good challenge for our football team, and we're looking forward to it to find out where we're at and find out what type of team we have.''

Without putting any additional pressure on their players, clearly the Pitt coaches made them aware that this is a critical game.

"I wasn't able to play against the Big Ten team on our schedule last year, Michigan State,'' fifth-year senior wideout Derek Kinder said. "So, I'm excited to go up against Iowa this year. It's going to be a good test for us to see where we stand, so we're all looking forward to it.

"Iowa, they're a typical Big Ten team, I think. They're a big, strong team with some oversized guys on the offensive and defensive lines, and I think it'll be a good test for us. (But) we're all looking at it as being a matchup between the Big East and the Big Ten Conference.''

Pitt's fifth-year senior middle linebacker, Scott McKillop, got an opportunity to be a college football fan this past weekend while the Panthers were on a bye week. And after watching various games against future Pitt opponents, he's just happy to get back on the field against a tough Iowa team.

"We didn't play as well as we wanted to in the first two games, but we need to keep improving each week,'' McKillop said. "This game is on national television, so it's a great spotlight for our football team and the university. ... So, we're looking forward to going out there and proving things to everybody.

"The Big East hasn't performed too well against other BCS teams or any other team, for that matter, so this is a chance for us to go out as a conference and beat a good team like Iowa. This is an opportunity for Pitt to represent the Big East against the Big Ten. So, we have to go out there, take care of business and hopefully come out on top. But we're looking forward to the challenge.''

Pitt's extra week of preparation was especially beneficial for the younger, less-experienced Panthers, Wannstedt noted.

"The bye week definitely helped these kids,'' Wannstedt said. "The more practice time these young guys can get, particularly in a game-plan situation now that we're into the season, it really helps us.

"Everyone got plenty of work and hopefully it makes them a little more confident and a little more ready come Saturday.''

Pitt made several adjustments to its two-deep for the Iowa game. Redshirt freshman Greg Williams is listed as the starter at strong-side linebacker. He replaced fifth-year senior Adam Gunn (neck), who likely is out for the season, during the opening game and has remained there.

However, redshirt freshmen Max Gruder and Brandon Lindsey have switched positions. Gruder, formerly the backup to McKillop in the middle, has moved to the strong side where he is the co-backup with redshirt sophomore Nate Nix. Lindsey is behind redshirt junior Steve Dell, who now is McKillop's backup.

"When we recruited Brandon Lindsey, we really felt like he was a middle linebacker, and that would probably be his best position for this team,'' Wannstedt said. "With Max Gruder, he was an outside linebacker in high school, and he probably runs a little bit better.

"So, looking at these two kids and anticipating that they probably won't play this week, we wanted to start training them now and preparing them. We felt now is the right time to do that.''

Sophomore Dom DeCicco and redshirt sophomore Elijah Fields are listed as co-starters at strong safety now, while juniors Nate Byham and Dorin Dickerson and redshirt junior John Pelusi are still co-starters at tight end.

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