Huggy Bear: What makes the Temple team much better than everyone originally anticipated coming into their first Big East season and getting off to a quick 2-1 Big East record?
Sam Werner: Well I think first you have to put into perspective what exactly Temple has done this season. They beat a talented but perennially underachieving South Florida team and eked out a win over Connecticut in overtime. Yes, the Owls have been pretty good this season, but they were exposed a little bit in the second half of the Rutgers game last week (although they did put a scare in the Scarlet Knights in the first half).
The biggest difference for Temple this year is the addition of transfer Montel Harris from Boston College. When you have a running back that talented, it allows a multiple-option rushing attack to really flourish because defenses have to pay attention to him every single play. Also, the Temple of the last four years is not the same team that was kicked out of the Big East in 2004. The Owls went 9-4 and won their bowl game last year.
Frank: Can we even still tip our cap to Chryst on the VT game? Looks like VT is awful.
Sam Werner: I think there's still some value there. Sure, VT isn't the BCS contender that it usually is, but the Hokies are still one of the most talented teams Pitt has played this year. I think the biggest takeaway from that game was the play of the offensive line. A lot of people (myself included) thought VT's defensive line would dominate up front, but quite the opposite happened. Pitt's offensive line paved the way for over 200 rushing yards and played probably its best game of the season. You look at that game, and if they were able to plow over Virginia Tech like that, it makes the running game's recent struggles all the more curious.
Big Al: If Robert Foster hasn't committed, can't we begin to question if he ever will?
Sam Werner: I don't think so. A lot of kids don't like to make commitments or focus too much on recruiting during their seniors seasons, and I get the sense Foster is that kind of guy. He's also just very quiet. At the same time, though, it does look like he's going to take his time with the recruiting process. I'd be very surprised if Pitt doesn't stay in it until the very end, but I wouldn't expect anything from him soon.
Tyler Palko: Which Tino Sunseri should we be expecting to see this week?
Sam Werner: Tyler Palko! Whoa! Seriously, I think we'll see the same Sunseri that we've seen all season. The Buffalo game is sort of an anomaly because of the conditions and the gameplan never really called for him to do much downfield. Temple is decidedly average against the pass this year, so if Sunseri is on like he has been this season, that should be an advantage for Pitt.
GreeneCountyPantherFan: Are Shell and Graham expected to be at 100 percent this week? I knew each has been dealing with issues, just wondering if this week, they both should be ready to put the hammer down? Also what is Hubie's status?
Sam Werner: Shell and Graham are both 100 percent, or as close as you can be with various bumps and bruises at this point in the season. Barring something totally unforeseen, both will be ready to go Saturday.
Hubie returned to practice this week, and said the other day that he was optimistic that he'd be able to play this week. If so, just having another tight end in the lineup should be a huge help for Pitt.
Mike: How do you see things shaking out the rest of the year? No bowl a big failure?
Sam Werner: Right now, Pitt has very little margin for error if they want to make a bowl game. They basically have to beat Temple, UConn and USF to get to six wins. Otherwise, it would take an upset over Notre Dame and/or Rutgers, which I don't see happening. I think Pitt certainly could win all three of those games, but based on what we've seen, they could also lose all three.
Certainly, not making a bowl game would be a disappointment for Pitt based on expectations coming into the season. In a big picture sense, though, Pitt has a lot more to worry about than whether or not they're going back to Birmingham this January. It's much more important that Chryst establishes some sense of stability in a program desperately needing it. That's a much longer process than just one year.
Panther in the Temple: Next year with Voytik and Chapman both competing for the QB, which one do you think would get the job?
Sam Werner: Don't forget about Tom Savage, too. I think he'll definitely be in the mix. Even though Chapman plans to enroll early, it's really tough for a freshman quarterback to win the starting job over two guys with more experience. Chryst really likes veteran quarterbacks, so I wouldn't be surprised if Savage got the job while Chapman redshirts and the staff grooms him and Voytik to compete for the job the year after that.
Teacher: How would you grade Chryst thus far? Losing to YSU makes this either a D or F, no?
Sam Werner: Man, that's harsh. Like I said before, Paul Chryst wasn't hired to just be good this year. He was hired to infuse the program with some stability and identity. In that respect, it's hard to totally grade him based on this one year.
The funny thing about the Youngstown State loss is that, while it's certainly bad for the perception of the program, it actually doesn't have any impact on Pitt's bowl eligibility. Only one FCS win can count towards a team's six, so Pitt would have had to go 7-5 to get bowl eligible if they beat the Penguins.
That said, though, it's probably a good idea going forward to avoid losing to FCS teams.
pitt10: What is Shane Gordon's status and what is the depth behind Mason if he goes down?
Sam Werner: Gordon missed last week's game with a high ankle sprain, and we'll learn more about his status for this week this afternoon. I suspect he'll probably be a game-time decision.
Behind Mason would be Joe Trebitz, who has been working back from some injury issues of his own, but did see some action against Buffalo.
Tim: What's up with the supposed o-line coaching advantage Pitts coaches have? By my account they have done a poor job.
Sam Werner: The offensive line play, especially the last couple of weeks, has been a little concerning. The most puzzling thing, like I touched on earlier, is that this is a group that absolutely ran all over Virginia Tech. Say what you will about the Hokies, but they're a certainly more talented than Buffalo, a team Pitt struggled to run consistently against.
The biggest problem for the offensive line at this point is depth. Behind the starting five, there's no one with any real experience. I'm not saying that to suggest a change should be made, but when the backups aren't even close to being ready for game action, it's tough for them to really push the starters to get better in practice.
Offensive line is also one of those positions where you just need numbers. While Pitt weathered the coaching carousel storm fairly well from a recruiting perspective, they just didn't get as many offensive linemen coming into the program. At that position, it's more important to get five 3-star guys that you can develop for three years rather than one or two 4- or 5-star players.
Philly Faithful: Rumors swirling Paul Zeise will be dressed like an owl this weekend. Can you confirm?
Sam Werner: I can neither confirm nor deny these reports.
WVU Still Better ThanPitt: With the first ACC season on the horizon for Pitt, does Chryst see this season as a gut check for his team with the thought of bouncing back next year, or can we expect much of the same wins and loss in 2013?
Sam Werner: I have a feeling that's not your real name.
Certainly, Chryst wants to be better from a wins-losses perspective next year. He's such an even-keel guy that I really don't think he cares what conference he's playing in, just who his team is playing that week.
ShellShocked: What is your impression of how the new staff is doing in ganining momentum in recruiting? They had a late start but it seems like they are beating out MAC teams and not the bigger football schools for the commits that they have. That doesn't sound like a formula for success in the ACC.
Sam Werner: This staff does have sort of a unique recruiting approach, something I hope to write about after the season sort of slows down. First of all, there are still plenty of uncommitted guys out there who could end up at Pitt (namely Dorian Johnson and Robert Foster) and swing the meter back up, so to speak.
It's also important to remember that Chryst's teams at Wisconsin never topped the Rivals rankings. The staff knows the type of player they want and are very targeted in their offering of scholarships, rather than just spamming every 4- and 5-star player with an offer. That's not to say they won't take talented players, but the focus is definitely finding guys who are right for the system and type of team they want to have.
Rod Rutherford: Sam, I've seen a number of Owls drafted into the NFL the last couple of seasons (including Matt Balasavage, a Lancaster County stud), who are the key Temple players to keep an eye on for Pitt Fans?
Sam Werner: The biggest one is running back Montel Harris, a transfer from Boston College. He's the focus of Temple's run-oriented attack. Quarterback Chris Coyer also averages of 50 rushing yards per game.
I also think Matt Brown, their running back who also returns punts and kicks, is someone to look out for to make a big play.
Sam Werner: Alright, that's all for today's Pitt football chat. Looks like 63 percent of you are thinking a close win for the Panthers Saturday, so we shall see. Join me again next week. Same time, same place.