Scott Tully's Top 25 College Football Preview: No. 23 Pittsburgh Panthers

MB MBSenior Analyst IAugust 19, 2008

With Dave Wannstedt entering his fourth year under helm for the Panthers, he looks to improve on his 16-19 record.

If Wannstedt does not improve this year and reach a bowl game, the Panther faithful will have a lot to gripe about and could very well end Wannstedt’s tenure at Pittsburgh. The Panthers were tied for second-to-last in the Big East in 2007, but could have easily have had a much stronger record.

Three times they were inside the opponent’s 10-yard line at the end of the game, needing a TD to win, and twice had touchdowns called back.

The Panthers return eight players on offense and seven on the defense. With Big East Freshman Player of the Year LeSean McCoy (1,328 yards 14 TD’s) the Panthers look to attack their opponents on the ground.

Although the Panthers return eight players on offense, the three holes that need to be filled will be on the offensive line. If the Panthers cannot get good production from the young offensive line, they will struggle not only in the running game, but the passing game as well.

Junior QB Bill Stull was the third-string QB last year, only attempting 20 passes, while completing 14 of the attempts for one TD. The Panthers do not expect Stull to lead the nation or even the Big East in yards or TDs, but they want Stull to manage the game and not turn the ball over. Stull is lucky to have a talented RB in McCoy to take an important role in the offense.

The top two WRs in yards returning from last season in Oderick Turner (486, 5 TDs) and TJ Porter (329) and are expected to have big-play abilities.

Even though the Panther’s have some play makers on offense the strongest part of the team will be their defense. DE Greg Romeus and LB Scott McKillop are ball hawkers who will create turnovers and cause great amounts of pressure of opposing offenses.

McKillop had 151 tackles last year, which led the Big East by nearly 25 more tackles than the closest player. LBs McKillop, Dunn, and Murray all returning from last season will be the strongest part of the defense for the Panthers.

The Panthers' biggest test of the season will be week 6 at South Florida, other than the “Backyard Brawl” when the Panthers host West Virginia on Nov. 28. Look for Pittsburgh to surprise some people this year and finish in the top two in the Big East.

Andy Lawson, college football analyst, contributed to this article.