Louisville is 5-0 on the season and the Pittsburgh Panthers are 2-3. That should be the ballgame, right? This Panthers team knows better than that.
The Panthers were counted out earlier in the season when they started the season 0-2 with underwhelming losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati. Today the Panthers take on 18th ranked Louisville and their sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who will be out for revenge after the Panthers won 21-14 last season.
If there is a positive for the Panthers, it is the recent success in this series. They have emerged victorious in each of the past four matchups. At Heinz Field, the Panthers won 41-7 in 2008 and in 2010 they won 20-3.
The key for this game will be the offensive line and what protection they offer quarterback Tino Sunseri. Sunseri has emerged as a leader in these past three games and leads the Big East in passing yards. Sunseri has completed 73% of his passes and in addition is the 11th most efficient passer in the nation with a rating of 164.67. If the offensive line can protect their quarterback while avoided the dreaded penalties that have at times plagued this team, they will have a good chance of getting the win.
Looking at Louisville’s schedule, it is clear that for the past three weeks they played, they have has chances to lose. The 39-34 win over North Carolina, a 28-21 over Florida International and a 21-17 win against Southern Miss all mean they know how to win close.
As great as the Panthers defense has played recently, the Cardinals defense has been that much better. They allow just 18.6 points per game and just 229.8 yards to the pass. This is the Cardinals first Big East game of the season, and it comes after a bye week.
Bridgewater leads this Cardinals offense with 1,134 passing yards, eight touchdowns and a completion rate of 73%. Much like the Panthers, the Cardinals have a two-pronged running attack. Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright have combined for 887 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground this season. Their kickers are John Wallace and Matthew Nakatani. Neither have missed on the season. Wallace’s season long is 43 yards and Nakatani’s 45.
Of Note: Tino Sunseri will be without tight end Hubie Graham once again, as he has been ruled out of today’s game. J.P. Holtz will take his place. Cornerback K’Wuan Williams looks to be a go for the Panthers today and his defense will be needed for this team.
Milestone tracker: Wide receiver Mike Shanahan needs five receptions to pass Greg Lee for ninth and seven receptions to pass Jon Baldwin for eights in career receptions as a Panther. Wide receiver Devin Street needs three to pass Jake Hoffart for 14th overall on the same list.
Remembering Beano: Before the game there will be a moment of silence honoring Beano Cook. Cook’s legacy extend beyond his Boston roots and establishment in Pittsburgh. He was a national figure widely respected and beloved.
“Beano left a legacy never to be matched. Not matched in accomplishment, wit or loyalty to Pitt and his friends,” Athletic Director Steve Pederson said in a statement released earlier this week. “Like so many others, it has been my privilege to be the beneficiary of Beano’s counsel and friendship. He loved the University of Pittsburgh and his name is synonymous with all good things at Pitt. We all feel a tremendous void in our lives today.”
Game Prediction: I don’t even know how to call this one. It really depends on which Panthers team shows up to play today. History says to take the Panthers, however common sense says to take the Cardinals. Earlier in the preview of this game on Pitt Livewire, Jeff Hathhorn talked to wide receiver Devin Street and he admitted that this game had a Virginia Tech like feel to it, but said that ‘with all due respect to Virginia Tech, Louisville is a better football team’. I trust him and for that reason I will go with Louisville 31 Pitt 21.