Chris: Is there any player who you think will be a breakout/surprise player next season? Maybe someone who is redshirting or backing up this year?
Sam Werner: Might not be a "sexy" answer, but my best educated guess would be tackle Adam Bisnowaty, who is redshirting this season. The staff really likes Bisnowaty's talent and has raved about his development this year. He was a little underweight coming into camp, and had some problems bulking up at first, but has apparently put on some good size over the last couple of months. I wouldn't be surprised to see him win the starting left tackle job next season, with Cory King moving back inside to guard to take over for Chris Jacobson.
Jason: When do you think Boyd and Foster will commit? What odds would you place on them going to Pitt? 50/50? Thanks
Sam Werner: Boyd said on TV after the WPIAL championship that he will announce his college decision Jan. 4, the day before the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio. Foster has been much quieter about his recruitment, but I have to think he's nearing a decision fairly soon. It has been down to Pitt and Alabama for a few months now, and he has taken official visits to both schools, so really all that's left is to make a decision.
Pitt has a very good chance to land both guys. I think they probably have slightly better odds with Foster, which I'd put at a little over 50 percent. I think Boyd is much more of a 50/50 proposition. I believe West Virginia -- long considered the leader for his services -- is still in play, and Penn State's strong year has put them back in the mix as well. Still, Pitt is very much in it for both of them.
Pitt13to9: Are Hubie Graham and Devin Street practicing at all this week? Would be nice to see them play Saturday night.
Sam Werner: Both guys have been limited this week, but the staff seems to have been giving a lot of the older guys some time off from practice (or at least from full contact) this week. At this point, these guys don't need a ton of work learning the offense, so it makes more sense to have them fully recovered and healthy on Saturday night.
Chryst seemed optimistic about Street on Monday, but it was early in the week. We'll get a chance to talk to Chryst this afternoon for a final injury update, so stay tuned for word on both guys then.
Pitt13to9: With recent coach firings around the country, do you see any assistants from those staffs that would make a good fit for Pitt? Maybe a special teams coach?
Sam Werner: I think the first thing would be seeing what happens to Pitt's coaching staff when the season ends. While I think most of the staff will stay intact heading into next season, I would never be surprised to see one or two assistant shakeups. Don't want to throw any specific names out there, but there's certainly a talented pool of assistant coaches available from staffs let go this season.
With special teams, I do think that'll be an area that Chryst evaluates this offseason. This year, they've taken a collective approach to coaching special teams, with secondary coach Matt House sort of being the de facto leader. If there is a staff shakeup, even a minor one, Chryst may think about installing a dedicated special teams coordinator.
Andrew: Sam, with all the news lately about schools switching conferences...is it safe to say that the Big East and the Conference USA just switched names?
Sam Werner: I'm just excited for the day when I'm bouncing my grandkids on my knee, explaining to them why a 64-team megaconference is called the "Big Ten" ("Well you see, Johnny, there once was a man named Jim Delany...").
In all seriousness, the Big East does seem to have just become a superconference for the current BCS have-nots. While I'm sick of all the realignment in general, I think it'll be interesting to see what the Big East basketball schools (Villanova, Providence, Georgetown, Marquette, etc.) decide to do. I can't imagine they want to stick in a hoops conference with UCF and Tulane, so, while it won't have the financial ramifications of any football moves, that'll be a domino to watch for.
hoohoohoohoosier: With a win on Saturday, where do you think the Panthers will end up for bowl season?
Sam Werner: While Birmingham is still on the table, there are actually a couple of other different options that could provide Pitt a respite from the Compass Bowl.
The first is the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. The only scenario where I see this happening is if the bowl has a chance to matchup Pitt and West Virginia in a Backyard Brawl rematch. Otherwise, the Pinstripe will almost certainly take Syracuse and their New York alumni base. For WVU to fall to the Pinstripe Bowl, though, they may have to lose to Kansas this week. Despite how bad the Mountaineers have been, I don't see that happening.
The other option is the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg. This game actually has a pick behind the Compass Bowl, but I've heard that Pitt could still be in play, with the Compass Bowl taking another team to avoid having the Panthers for a third straight year. The best way to ensure this would be to have Connecticut beat Cincinnati Saturday, which would make the Huskies a fifth bowl-eligible Big East team and likely send them to Birmingham.
And, of course, the BBVA Compass Bowl is still on the table.
Doug: Good Pitt or Bad Pitt Saturday night? How has the practice atmosphere been?
Sam Werner: This week's practice atmosphere is pretty similar to last week's, a little bit looser, more fun than it had ben earlier in the season. Guys know what's at stake Saturday, but they're also enjoying what could be their last week ever of college football practice. Signs are pointing to Good Pitt Saturday night (plus the two wins, two losses pattern would hold), but you just don't know with this team.
Cold as Zeise: Do you forsee any underclassmen like devin street or aaron donald going pro this year?
Sam Werner: First off, love the name.
Sam Werner: We talked to those guys last week about the possibility that the Rutgers game could be their last one at Heinz. Street said, very straightforwardly, that he will be coming back next year. Donald was a little more non-commital, saying that he was just focusing on the last two games and that the decision on his future would hold off until after the season. I'd be surprised if he left at this point, but if he gets a high grade from the NFL talent evaluators, that could make a difference.
Ryphia: Who you got tonight Sam, UL or RU?
Sam Werner: Gotta go with the Cards in this ACC/Big Ten barnburner. Pitt exposed Rutgers' defense to an extent last week, and Louisville's offense has more firepower than the Panthers. The Scarlet Knights' offense looked downright anemic against Pitt, too, so I think the Cardinals bounce back nicely.
The only x-factor I see is if Louisville is distracted by some swirling rumors about Charlie Strong looking at other jobs.
Zinger: What are your thoughts on the ACC's move to add Louisville this week? As usual, the WVU fans are spinning this move as disastrous, with them saying it is only a matter of time before the Big 12 takes over the ACC and the rest of college football. Bitter much?
Sam Werner: I think the ACC's decision to take Louisville was brilliant. It looked for a while like they were thinking about Connecticut, which would have been good from a TV/marketing perspective, but not as great from an athletic one (similar to the Big Ten grabbing Rutgers and Maryland).
I would even argue that Louisville is, from an athletics perspective, an upgrade over Maryland (better basketball, better football). While most conferences have been focusing on which TV markets to add, the ACC decided to simply do the best think for its athletic profile. What a novel concept. I don't think the days of skyrocketing TV payouts are going to last forever and, eventually, conferences are just going to have to straight-up play good football. The ACC became a better football conference yesterday.
Imma Man! Im 40!: Pitt hasn't been a good road team this year, to say the least. Give us reasons for hope, why the game this coming Saturday should be different?
Sam Werner: Pitt has struggled on the road this year, but also had their most impressive game of the season away from Heinz Field at Notre Dame. I don't think home or away has been much of a factor for Pitt, as much as it's just inconsistencies across the board.
Sweet Caroline: With the lack of attendance at the ACC championship games, and tickerts going for $4, would they consider the team with the best record in conference getting a home game?
Sam Werner: I don't think it's something that the ACC has considered to this point, but it's certainly an interesting model to look at. Last year's Pac-12 championship at Autzen was electric, but I have a feeling this Friday's UCLA-Stanford rematch in Palo Alto will be less so.
That said, the ACC does need to look at something to spice up its championship game. WIth the conference expanding geographically, more and more teams are further away from the traditional locations of Charlotte and Jacksonville. Everybody wants to be the SEC, but that's just not going to happen when you have 6-6 Georgia Tech playing in your championship game.
Imma Man! Im 40!: If Pitt wins Saturday, is the "Backyard Brawl" in the Pinstripe Bowl in NYC a done deal?
Sam Werner: No. There might have to be some machinations in the works to get WVU into the Pinstripe Bowl (and not, for example, the Holiday Bowl). That said, I know Pinstripe Bowl executives would love that matchup if they can get it.
Imma Man! Im 40!: Based on practices, who do you predict ends up being "ABT" playing QB next year?
Sam Werner: At this point, the leader in the clubhouse is Tom Savage. He's big, has all the physical tools and is a veteran guy that Paul Chryst can rely on. Also, he'll give the younger guys (Voytik and Chapman) an extra year to develop and learn the system.
Guest: OK so Pitt doesnt play any Saturday night games all year. Then they get a 7PM night game on Championship Saturday against a USF team that has what 3 wins. How did that happen as I figured an early day game. Plus, definitely conflicts with the Pitt bball game against Detroit at 7.
Sam Werner: This game time puzzled me a little bit, too. I think one of the problems is that, for all the awesome games Saturday, ESPN doesn't have rights to a lot of them. The SEC Championship is on CBS, and the Big Ten and Pac 12 Championships are on FOX. The Big 12 Championship goes to ABC, and that doesn't leave ESPN with a whole lot of desirable games for its primetime lineup.
So it puts the ACC title game on ESPN and, really, Pitt playing for bowl eligibility is the most interesting storyline left to put in primetime on ESPN2.
Sweet Caroline: Is the BBVA Compass Bowl pulling some strings to try and not get Pitt? I mean if we win that would be three years in a row!
Sam Werner: I don't know if I would characterize it as "pulling strings," but there are definitely some things in the works to avoid sending Pitt there once again. There's still a decent chance Pitt ends up going to Birmingham, but the fact that the Panthers have been there two years in a row is factoring in to some bowl decision-making.
Sweet Caroline: Has the football schedule been released yet for next year?
Sam Werner: Not yet, but we can piece together most of it (except for home/away split).
Pitt will play the other six Coastal Division teams, so Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia, North Carolina and Duke. There's six games.
They'll play Syracuse as the annual crossover opponent, and one other Atlantic Division team (BC, Clemson, FSU, Maryland, NC St. or Wake). That brings them to eight games.
Pitt has three non-conference games lined up. Notre Dame and Villanova at home, and Navy away. They have one non-conference game left to schedule, likely a home game against a MAC-level team.
Sweet Caroline: Chryst mentioned on his press conference show about notes. Does he get notes on questions you guys are going to ask him?
Sam Werner: Haha, no. He was referring to the game notes distributed to the media every week. These include just some interesting stats and trends about that week's game. The game notes have mentioned Sunseri's interception-free streak for a few weeks now, which prompted my question about it.
For those who missed it, Chryst asked if I played baseball, and jokingly compared me to the guy in the dugout talking about a no-hitter, which, for the record, I would never do. All in all, it was a very ebullient Paul Chryst this week.
TOF2209Hobie: In which game do you think Pitt showed the most potential this season(win or lose)?
Sam Werner: Definitely the Notre Dame game. Taking the No. 1 team in the country to triple OT in their house (and having a field goal to win the game) is more impressive than any win Pitt has posted this year (and that's no disrespect to the teams Pitt has beaten this year).
Pitt played with poise and passion against the Irish, and if they can bottle that energy for every ACC game next year, they'll be a very, very tough team to play.
Pitt13to9: If Pitt goes to the Compass Bowl....is it a fact that are required to have a coaching search??
Sam Werner: Little known stipulation: You ARE in fact allowed to go to Birmingham with the same coach you've had all season.
JeffB: I hate to get too far ahead of myself, but how do you see next year's group of LBs shaping up?
Sam Werner: I really like the linebackers for Pitt next year. All of them are coming back, and should be healthy, to boot.
Shane Gordon will hopefully shake of some nagging injuries he's been dealing with next season to be the anchor in the middle. Eric Williams should hold down his job at the SAM linebacker spot, and Todd Thomas has excelled at the WILL spot since he moved there a few weeks back.
Further, Dan Mason will hopefully be healthy for a full season, and guys like Deaysean Rippy and Bam Bradley will likely see their way into the mix, as well. There's a lot to be excited for there, and on Pitt's defense in general next year.
Ryphia: Will we see Ray Graham showcased on special teams more Saturday and potentially in a bowl game? Is that whats going on, getting some ST plays on tape (hopefully without penalties going forward)?
Sam Werner: We actually talked to Cam Saddler (another guy who moonlighted on special teams last week) about this yesterday. He said he and Ray heard Chryst's comment about a lack of effort after the Connecticut game, and it didn't really sit well with them. They thought about what they could do to lead by example, and decided that playing gunner on special teams was one way they could show younger guys how to go an extra mile to put in some effort. Now, it didn't really play out perfectly with Ray's 15-yard penalty, but that seems like some good leadership from your fifth-year seniors.
Zinger: Don't you think a 16 team conference with 4 'pods' of 4 is the best setup? It is going to suck playing in a 14 team conference and play teams from the other division once every 3 years or so. Playing FSU once at home every 6 years does little to increase my excitement of the ACC.
Sam Werner: This is one reason I think the superconference model is, ultimately, untenable. The exorbitant TV payouts are great now, but as technology moves more towards on-demand programming and away from the traditional cable model, I think that bubble will burst. At that point, some of the teams whose football programs draw less revenue (take Indiana, for example) are going to be unhappy with Michigan coming to their place once every seven or eight years, and things might go back to smaller conferences. Alabama and Georgia are playing in the SEC championship game this weekend, but haven't played since 2008. How are you in the same conference if you haven't played in four years?
IronMike55: With the ACC starting to look like Big East 2.0(strong bball, weak football), should we be worried that Florida State, Clemson Va tech, traditional strong football programs, will be looking elsewhere?
Sam Werner: The ACC is certainly weak in football this year, but I think it's set up better for long-term success than the Big East ever was. Teams like Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami and Florida State will bounce back and improve the conference's standing, and the addition of Louisville helps there.
Realignment concerns are just a fact of life in college football these days, so I guess it's always a worry that Florida State or Clemson is going to jump at the short-term monetary gains of joining the SEC, for example. But people need to remember that everything in college football is cyclical. The SEC isn't going to be the best conference forever and ever. Just eight years ago an undefeated SEC champ was left out of the title game, which seems like heresy now.
Bens Shoulder Sling: Sam, what has been your favorite chat name so far this year?
Sam Werner: You're making a run for it, but I think "Cold as Zeise" from earlier today is the winner.
Panther in London: Sam, if the Acc had taken Louisville with The Cuse last year and Pitt was left in the Big least, would they have been invited to the Big Ten with Maryland? Would that have been better for Pitt?
Sam Werner: Pitt doesn't bring the NYC TV market with it, which was the big draw for adding Rutgers, so I'd say no.
I also don't think that the ACC would have ever seriously considered bringing Louisville over Pitt last year. At that point, it was still concerned with the academic profiles of the schools it was considering, and Pitt is much stronger than Louisville in that regard. UNC chancellor Holden Thorp admitted yesterday that the biggest reason for adding Louisville now is the strength of its athletic programs, rather than buzzwords like "academic profile" or "common mission" like we've heard at a lot of other expansion press conferences.
jim in vt: Looking at the Coastal even this year's Pitt team would have contended for the lead. Would youa gree that they should be a perennial contender given their likely schedule?
Sam Werner: Pitt could have very, very easily won the Coastal Division this year, but that's a much stronger statement about the division than it is about Pitt.
I think Pitt will certainly be in the mix every year, but I doubt programs like Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami will be down this badly every year. Miami might hurt for a bit depending on how hard they're hit by the NCAA, but Virginia Tech will be back to an elite level sooner rather than later. Even in a disastrous year by Frank Beamer's standards, the Hokies still made a bowl game.
Mike: If there were two freshmen next year to come in and play who would they be? One on offense one on defense
Sam Werner: On offense, I'm going with Robert Foster (if he commits) and Dorian Johnson (if Foster goes to Alabama). Foster because he's a physical specimen with all the tools to be a factor as an outside receiver right away. Johnson because Pitt's o-line still has some question marks next year, and he said a few weeks ago that he has talked to the staff and wants to play early in his career.
On defense, I really don't see any of the current commits coming in and playing right away. There are no stud elite-talent defenders on Pitt's commit list and, with only one regular starter graduating, it'll be tough to crack the lineup.
Pitt13to9: Sam...any chance Rutgers gets invited to the PinStripe Bowl...you know, since they are REALLY NYC's team...according to some (Delany)?
Sam Werner: I grew up in the NYC market and can confirm that no one out there really gives a hoot about Rutgers football. New York's college football teams are Notre Dame and, to a lesser extent, Penn State and Syracuse (and most alums don't really care about Syracuse football).
The thing is, though, that doesn't matter. NYC cable providers now have to account for the Big Ten Network in their sports packages. Right now, it's on the highest level of premium packaging in NYC, but with Rutgers joining, they'll have to at least consider moving it down to a less premium package, which would give the BTN more subscriber fees, and Jim Delany more hundred-dollar bills for a his jacuzzi (I only assume Jim Delany has a jacuzzi filled with hundred-dollar bills).
Sam Werner: And I think that's probably a good note to end this week's chat on. Thanks everyone for joining, we had our highest readership of the season this week, so thanks for all the great questions. I'll have a new Redshirt Diaries post up shortly, and likely another one this afternoon with some injury updates. Not sure what the future chat schedule will be like for the postseason, but follow me on Twitter @SWernerPG, and I'll be sure to let you know.