Jeff: Will Boyd and Street be able to have success against this VT secondary?
Sam Werner: Well, I think that's one of the million-dollar questions heading into this one. The Hokies have by far the best defense Pitt has faced this year, and probably the best defense the Panthers will see all season. The strength of that unit, so far at least, has been in the back end with the Kendall and Kyle Fuller and Brandon Facyson locking down a defensive backfield that leads the country in interceptions.
I certainly don't expect a performance from the passing game like we saw against Duke, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Panthers struggle mightily through the air tomorrow. That said, one of the nice things about the passing game this year is that it has the ability to hit on a big play, something Pitt didn't really do well last season. It only takes one delayed reaction by a Virginia Tech DB in coverage, and Tyler Boyd is behind them for a touchdown.
PeteyPanther: Should the Panthers pull of the W against the Hokies this weekend, do you think they'll make an appearance in the AP top 25 polls?
Sam Werner: No, not yet. If Pitt pulled out a convincing win tomorrow, I would certainly have to think about putting them at the bottom of my ballot, but at the end of the day I think they'd still be a few wins away. If Pitt beats Virginia Tech soundly tomorrow, then follows that up with good wins against Old Dominion and Navy, then I think they'd be ready to move up into the top 25.
Pitt13to9: How much do the injuries at CB and C affect VT tomorrow. I would think that gives Street/Boyd and Donald a little more of an advantage...no?
Sam Werner: I would agree with you on Donald, only because he's such a monster that any slight advantage will just increase the edge he has over any opposing offensive lineman. He's pretty much unblockable at this point, so all that really matters is how well an offense can scheme around him and how well his teammates along the defensive line play to help him out.
In the secondary, Exum hasn't played for Virginia Tech at all this year, and they still lead the country in interceptions and have one of the best pass defenses in Division I-A. I almost think that oddly enough Exum returning could've helped Pitt if he was out there and not totally back in the swing of things returning from his injury. The Fullers and Facyson have done an excellent job so far, and I expect that to continue tomorrow.
Guest: Are Pitt players still allowed to play ping pong and shuffle board?
Sam Werner: Haha, to my knowledge, yes. There is still a ping pong table and cornhole set in the Pitt locker room. I don't believe those have gone anywhere...yet.
Pitt13to9: With the noon start, does it take away from the hostile environment at Lane Stadium? I have heard the entrance is cool, but the atmosphere is nothing compared to a few other ACC schools during the actual game.
Sam Werner: I think the atmosphere will be a little bit tamer because it's not a night game, but this will probably be the most hostile environment Pitt plays in all season. I think Virginia Tech fans are just starting to come around on the idea that their team might be pretty good this year, after a couple of too-close-for-comfort wins. They control their own destiny in the Coastal and this is one of those games they have to win.
Plus, Virginia Tech fans are well aware of Pitt's recent success in the series, and they're not too happy about it. I'm sure the Hokies will be eager to get the Pitt monkey off their backs tomorrow.
Bill: How do you expect the offensive line to respond after their horrible game against Virginia?
Sam Werner: Well first of all, I don't think it's totally fair to peg the second second totally on the offensive line. Paul Chryst and Joe Rudolph were quick to point out this week that there were a number of them (specifically the two that came on cornerback blitzes) that were just as much the responsibility of a back that didn't help out or Savage for not getting the ball out quickly enough.
But, no, the offensive line did not play well against the Cavaliers. I like them to respond well this week, especially after the open date to sort of work through some of their issues. The problem is Virginia Tech's pass rush is also better than Virginia's. The Hokies have 19 sacks on the season, and I think they'll definitely get to Savage a bit tomorrow.
Frank: I know Chryst wouldn't say, but who is your educated guess as the backup center tomorrow if Rowell gets hurt?
Sam Werner: Hmm, that's a good question. Chryst was totally mum when asked who the emergency center would be if Johnson couldn't go and Rowell had to come out of the game for whatever reason. If I had to guess, and remember this is just a guess, I'd probably think it'd be Ryan Schlieper.
franky: Is chad voytik really the guy Chryst wants leading his offense into the future? I think its a lot of hot air. Chryst wants a bigger guy.
Sam Werner: I honestly don't think size really matters to Chryst when it comes to his quarterbacks. He did just fine with Russell Wilson at Wisconsin in 2011, and ultimately I don't think he'd hate having a guy with a little more mobility than Savage. Voytik was originally a Graham recruit, yes, but Tra'von Chapman was all Chryst, and he's a smaller, more mobile quarterback. I think Chryst feels confident he can win with any type of guy, and just wants the most talented player out there, regardless of size.
Now, I do think it's legitimate to question whether or not Voytik is the "quarterback of the future" for Pitt. I wasn't blown away by what we saw in training camp, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Wade Freebeck give him a run for his money on the starting job next year.
Bob: If Pitt somehow wins the ACC division, how do they match up v. Clemson?
Sam Werner: Not well. We're getting way, way ahead of ourselves here, and I think there's just as good a chance Florida State will come out of the Atlantic, too.
Given what we've seen from Pitt so far, I think Tajh Boyd would absolutely wreak havoc on Pitt's secondary. The Panthers might be able to score, but wouldn't keep up with Clemson.
shady: Where exactly is this Pitt team? They got blown away by the only good team they played and beat 3 bad teams.
Sam Werner: I think this is the week we find out. That Florida State loss doesn't look so bad now that the Seminoles have started running roughshod over the rest of the ACC as well, but it showed that Pitt still isn't really close to competing with the best teams in the league. Tomorrow we'll see how much Pitt has improved since that opener. I'm pretty confident they're a better team now than they were on Labor Day, but how much better is the question.
Stevie: Sam - Do you happen to know what the internal views are of of House. he has not shown anything and has been a lightning rod of criticism.
Sam Werner: Well I know Chryst things very highly of him, or he wouldn't have given him the defensive coordinator job. I think a lot of the criticisms are very valid, especially concerning House's almost total lack of experience prior to coming to Pitt. Essentially, spending 2012 as the Panthers' defensive backs coach was the only big-time position coaching experience he has had.
I think, to some extent, Chryst put his neck out a little bit on this hire. This was his guy, and he's going to stick by him at least through the rest of the season.
Rocky: Does Jamie Dixon attend all the football games?
Sam Werner: Most of them. He actually traveled down to Duke a few weeks ago with some of his players.
Sam Werner: All right, unfortunately that's all the time we've got for today. I have a drive down to Blacksburg ahead of me this afternoon so it's time to hit the road. As always, follow me on Twitter @SWernerPG
First Published October 11, 2013 8:28 AM