Creature Vs Creature : A Panther Basking In The Sun (Bowl), Pitt vs. Oregon St.

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Creature Vs Creature : A Panther Basking In The Sun (Bowl), Pitt vs. Oregon St.

While a blizzard rocks the Northeast, the only fun in the sun I’ll have this month is in Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX.

As I attempted to write a preview for this game, I realized I know nothing about Oregon State. Lucky for me Travis Rice, a regular contributor and avid Beaver fan was kind enough to talk shop with me. Then, out of the kindness of his heart he let me pretend I know what I’m talking about and asked me questions about Pitt.

These are my answers to his questions about Pitt. My questions for Travis can be found here.

1) What are LeSean “Shady” McCoy's weaknesses and can he take punishment from an active DL and fast LB crew?

Its hard to find a glairing weakness in Shady’s game, he’s so complete and so durable that if he could throw a spiral, we would go out of the wildcat for 20 or so snaps a game. I would say his two biggest weaknesses are ball security and impatience, sometimes he tends to try to turn a two yard gain into a touchdown and will end up losing yards.

Much like Quizz Rodgers, his strength is his speed and the only way to fight that is with more speed. What I’ve seen of OSU, it seems as if they mirror Pitt’s in the sense that there is more of an emphasis on speed than size. Pitt has been facing these kinds of defenses all season. The Big East as a whole has seemed to move away from the traditional bigger is better philosophy.

I think a match up to watch will be OSU’s defensive tackles versus the Pitt interior O-lineman. Pitt’s O-line overcame a real shaky start to the season and has played very well over the second half of the year. If Pitt can push the defensive tackles off the ball and Shady is patient enough to take the three and four-yard gains in the early downs then OSU could be in for a long day.

2) If McCoy goes down or is ineffective, how confident are Pitt fans and coaches that Stull can get the job done through the air against a very good pass rush?

Well, the coaches are certainly more confident than the fans as Stull has become our collective whipping boy. It will all depend on which Bill Stull shows up. He is very good on the intermediate routes but throws an awful deep ball.

When Stull throws screens and short passes, it’s hit or miss and that will be the key. In order to take advantage of the Beaver pass rush Pitt will probably look to throw a lot of screens and if Stull isn’t hitting those, then it will be a long day.

If Stull is throwing well then it will open up a lot for Pitt’s offence, especially in the red zone. 6’6” Freshman wide out Jonathan Baldwin is an athletic freak of nature. If for whatever reason Shady isn’t able to pound the rock, Baldwin is a great weapon provided Stull can get him the ball.

3) With a No. 20 ranking and possibility to end with 10 wins, why aren't there more Pitt fans traveling to El Paso? Although what they're doing is very admirable.

First off thank you for mentioning the ticket donation. I urge all Pitt fans who won’t be able to make it down to El Paso to call the Pitt ticket office and ask to have a ticket donated to charity. It costs $45 and the tickets will go to soldiers and their families based in El Paso. Not only is it a good cause but we will show future bowl committees that Pitt can sell tickets.

The short answer to the travel dilemma, it’s because we have an awful fan base. There are some die hard Pitt fans out there who are as loyal as they come but for most of Pittsburgh, the only reason for going to a Pitt game is because the Steelers ran out of tickets. Pitt has never traveled well, not even when Dorsett and Marino were on campus.

Also, El Paso isn’t the easiest place to get to from the Northeast and the economy as we all know is not in the best shape. And for those of us with a more limited travel budget, we are saving our money for a potential final four run (no jinx intended, touch wood or do what ever you have to do Panther fans).

4) With Quizz Rodgers most likely out as well as his brother James and athletic back up RB Jeremy Francis, how will Pitt defend OSU? Pitt can expect a heavy dose of passing if this is the case.

With Pitt it all starts with the front four. Pitt was second in the conference in sacks this season while rarely going with anything more than a four man rush. I would imagine you will see a lot of nickel and dime looks from the Panthers if Quizz is out or ineffective.

Ever since Rutgers burned them by going over the top, Pitt has rarely brought the safeties anywhere near the line of scrimmage. If the safeties are able to take away the deep ball and make OSU sustain drives, it will bode well for Pitt because the front four will make some plays.

5) Given a) so many OSU injuries to key players b) our performance against Oregon c) being ranked higher and d) beating us last time we faced each other, could Pitt maybe get a little overconfident?

Having the healthier star running back certainly helps. I don’t think anybody is taking the other three factors into account. We know we wont see the same team that played poorly in the Civil War. Pitt is only ranked a little higher. And unlike the Insight Bowl, we no longer have God’s gift to wide receivers playing for us. Nobody is taking Oregon State lightly, especially after Vegas made us a three point underdog.

6) Give us a range from Pitt's worst performance to their best, have they consistently improved? Are they leveling out and playing solid? Or still kind of an enigma like OSU seems to be?

The worst performance was easily the Bowling Green upset in week one. That was a Pitt team that was buying into all of the pre-season hype and expecting to line up against a team they could just bully. Once the players and coaches realized they needed to do something other than play base defense and run dive plays it was too late.

I don’t know if they’ve had a great performance yet, but there have been a lot of very good ones. The two that stand out to me were the Notre Dame game which they won in South Bend without Bill Stull and the last week in UCONN.

Pitt went up to Connecticut on their senior day and after weathering the emotion in a sloppy first half they just imposed their will on the Huskies in the second half en route to a 35 point win. While UCONN isn’t know for airing it out it was nice to see our suspect pass defense come up with five interceptions.

Any confidence we have in Pitt has less to do with how we view OSU and more to do with Pitt beating West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl then knocking off UCONN. As a Pitt fan I am hopeful because it seems as if the Panthers enjoy the big game, especially Shady who had monster numbers against Notre Dame and West Virginia.

I am also fearful since this is the first time most of the roster has been to a bowl and they might be a little too happy to be there. I think Pitt and Oregon State have equal talent and play similar styles of defense. It should be a real good one.

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