Justin K. Aller
This week's Opponent Q&A comes to us from SBNation blog Cardiac Hill.
Let's go ahead and get to it, Tuitt.
1. Pitt's season got off to a rough start, with losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati, but the Panthers have managed to get back to .500 since then. What has changed since those first two weeks?
Well, the team seems to have more flow on offense and has gotten into a bit of a groove at times. But the fact remains that there are still a ton of questions about this team and they don't really have a signature win. They beat Virginia Tech, who was ranked at the time, but the Hokies have slipped to 4-4 themselves and that win looks less impressive by the week. Pitt is indeed 4-4, but their other wins have come against the likes of Buffalo, Temple, and FCS team Gardner-Webb - not exactly awe-inspiring. This team could squeak its way to a bowl but to be honest, haven't been able to beat the good teams on their schedule such as Louisville or Cincinnati.
2. How would you rate the job Paul Chryst has done in his first year at Pitt?
If I absolutely were forced to grade it so far and couldn't give the oh so popular 'incomplete' grade, I'd give him a C-. If we consider a C an average grade, I'd say he's fallen a little short of that. Pitt wasn't expected to win ten games or anything like that, but they are supposed to beat teams like Youngstown State and Syracuse. Losing those games shouldn't happen and part of that lies on Chryst. I've also not been a huge fan of some of the calls he's made - gambling a few times in the Louisville game, most recently. Here's the thing, though. I'm resigned to the fact that he needs time to learn as a head coach and to call for his head this year or even next year would be a bit ridiculous. I don't think he's been great this season, but I'm willing to give him more time.
3. It looks like we're both headed to the ACC. How do you feel about the move?
Pitt fans are pretty ecstatic - particularly on the basketball side. The Big East has been the best basketball conference in the nation in recent memory, but if Pitt were to leave there for anywhere else, the ACC would be the choice of most. Playing games against the likes of North Carolina and Duke will be incredible and Pitt should be able to hold their own ... at least in the regular season. On the football side, things are going to be more difficult for sure. But if Pitt ever gets its act together, it's one conference that they should be able to compete in at some point. When you throw in all of the additional money the school will get along with the chance to play some old Big East rivals, it really was a no-brainer. I'm not one who's bashed the Big East upon exiting the conference - that just comes off as petty and foolish. But the ACC is just more stable right now and if the school's goal is to best position itself, they did the right thing.
4. Notre Dame fans are probably familiar with the usual cast of characters on offense - Tino Sunseri, Ray Graham, Devin Street, Mike Shanahan, etc. - but who are some players on defense to look out for on Saturday?
Lafayette Pitts is a true freshman who plays corner that you should watch. He not only plays but starts and really can wreak havoc out there. Last weekend, he had a big strip of a wide receiver and fumble recovery...just a really solid defender that can make plays. There's also safety Jason Hendricks, who leads the Big East with four interceptions and has just had a great nose for the ball this year. And while Pitt doesn't seem to be getting as much pressure on the quarterback this year, with six sacks, junior defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Tyrone Ezell can make plays as well.
5. Any predictions for the game?
Even with Notre Dame's struggles against some pretty mediocre teams, I don't see how anyone could realistically pick Pitt to win this one. The Panthers have had some good success against Notre Dame, winning two of the last four games and keeping last year's affair close, but this is a more skilled Irish team. I wouldn't be all that surprised to see Pitt hang around a bit and I think it will be one of those games where Pitt may lose pretty handily, but could have kept it close with a few plays here and there. But they just haven't shown enough and while they were able to hang close to undefeated Louisville, things will be more difficult in this game.
Thanks again to Cardiac Hill for joining us this week! Stop over there to learn more about our upcoming match up!