Pitt Football Preview: Sept. 26 vs Louisville

By Dylan Mitchell, Capel Faithful Team

There will be a top 25 matchup at Heinz Field this Saturday at noon *insert Paul Rudd ‘who would’ve thought’ meme*. The #21 Pittsburgh Panthers host the #24 Louisville Cardinals in a game that has major implications for both teams. Pitt will look to stay undefeated in what should be their toughest matchup until their October 17th road trip to Miami. Louisville will want to avoid moving to 1-2 (0-2 in the conference) and likely ending any ACC Championship hopes they still have. The Panthers will rock their “Steel” inspired uniforms, the first alternate uniform combo unveiled by Nike since Pitt’s major rebranding in 2019.

5 thoughts heading into Saturday:

  • Young guys are stepping up
    • It is always exciting to see underclassmen step up and make things happen. On top of the immediate production, it creates excitement for what those guys can end up doing down the road. Two guys in particular have started to turn heads through the first two games, Jordan Addison and Calijah Kancey.
      Addison’s emergence was somewhat expected, but that doesn’t make his performance through two games any less promising. He leads the team in receptions with 14, and also has shown some explosiveness getting the ball on jet sweeps. On top of the offensive production, the coaching staff has also tasked him with return duties. That shows just how much confidence they have in the Maryland product. He scored his first career TD against Syracuse on an absolute strike from Kenny Pickett. It is clear that he is going to be a focal point in the offense moving forward, and he is only going to get better with experience. Dare I say this is the best freshman receiver Pitt’s seen since Tyler Boyd?
      Calijah Kancey had also received praise from his coaches and teammates, but his emergence is especially important as he is helping replace the loss of All-American DT Jaylen Twyman and his 10.5 sacks in 2019. After posting 1.5 sacks against the Orange, I think this could give the redshirt freshman some momentum to grow into an even bigger force in the pass rush. Charlie Partridge deserves every penny Pitt is paying him as he continues to churn out studs on the defensive line.
  • Will Pitt clean up the mistakes?
    • The Panthers were able to overcome four illegal formation penalties, two missed field goals (plus a botched hold), and two turnovers to pull off a double-digit win last weekend. That is not going to fly against Louisville. Simply put, Pitt needs to clean things up if they want to win this game. They cannot start behind the chains on 1st downs because they don’t line up correctly. They cannot leave points on the field because the special teams unit does not do their job. They cannot rely on the defense to bail them out when they turn the ball over in the opponent’s territory. These are fixable mistakes, but they cannot happen if Pitt hopes to beat an opponent of Louisville’s caliber.
  • Who will step up offensively?
    • At some point, the Pitt offense will need one of the skill players not named Jordan Addison to step up. Looking at the receivers, DJ Turner has shown that he is reliable but not someone who will be the #1 option. I think the offense is missing Taysir Mack, and once he is back on the field we will see things open up a bit. Jared Wayne is a big body who has had solid production when he actually sees the field, and Shocky Jacques-Louis’ speed makes him a homerun threat. I believe the talent is there in the Wide Receiver room, so I am holding out hope that one of these guys will emerge as a big time playmaker.
      The tight ends and running backs are a different story. At tight end, it appears Lucas Krull could be missing significant time after some cryptic tweets he sent out early this week (these have since been deleted). Kyi Wright is likely the next man up. The former Farrell High School quarterback is a big-time athlete, but he also dropped a surefire touchdown in the season opener. The running backs have been underwhelming to say the least, but we’ll go into deeper detail on that later in this post. The bottom line is this: It does not matter how accurate Kenny Pickett is if the skill players don’t make things happen once he gets them the ball. If Pitt wants to have ACC Championship aspirations, someone needs to be that guy.
  • Speaking of the running game…
    • I know we touched on this in last week’s preview, but it’s still a mess. The four tailbacks who received carries against Syracuse combined for 135 yards on 32 carries. The bulk of those carries went to the Davis’s. Vincent and AJ are averaging 3.9 and 3.8 yards per carry through two games, respectively. On top of the low averages, it is fairly obvious that none of our backs have showcased the ability to make guys miss, run through tacklers, or break big plays on a consistent basis. Vincent Davis is a burner. We’ve seen his speed once he gets loose. Quite frankly, I don’t know that we will ever be able to lean on AJ Davis. This is his fourth year in the program and he has yet to prove that he can be “the guy”. The same can be said about Sibley, although I’d argue he’s been just as effective as a runner and is considered the best pass blocker of the group. Daniel Carter looked effective on his two carries but had to leave the game with an injury. Israel Abanikanda was unable to earn a touch against Syracuse. Unlike last year, it does look like the offensive line is starting to make some room to run up front. So what is the excuse now? I said last week that I thought we’d start to see more of a youth movement moving forward. Does Daniel Carter take a chunk of those carries that went to AJ Davis if he stays healthy? Maybe. That’s what I’m hoping to see this week. At some point, we need to let these younger guys have the opportunity to get in a rhythm and get a feel for the speed of the college game and hope that turns into something. What we’ve seen this year and last obviously is not the answer.
  • Can the defense continue to dominate?
    • Before I go any further, yes, they can. But to what extent? A better question may be, how much can Pitt continue to rely on their dominance? Outside of a busted coverage against Syracuse, the defense has been near perfect. Rashad Weaver plays his first live football game in two years and earns himself the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week. Paris Ford has two INTs through two games. The defensive line is living up to all of the hype. I feel how I always have, and that is that the defense will be good enough to keep Pitt in any game they play. My only worry is that they haven’t faced an offense that is capable of putting up points like Louisville. Louisville’s Big 3 of Malik Cunningham, Javian Hawkins, and Tutu Atwell are special. This offense will exploit Pitt if there are any mental lapses like the 69 yard TD they gave up against ‘Cuse. I expect another stellar showing from the defense, but I anticipate we will need more than the 21 points it took to get a W last week. Let’s hope the offense can pull their weight.

Prediction: Pitt 27 – Louisville 23

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