Wednesday, October 26, 2011

UConn vs. Pitt Preview

This game is a battle of high octane offenses, and if the sarcasm isn't evident in that statement let me assure you there is a lot of it. Both of these teams are coming off bye weeks and get the opportunity, again with the sarcasm, to play a Wednesday night game. A night usually reserved for the worst teams in America as their only opportunity to get on national television is now the home of the Big East. This game features two of the premier rushing teams in the conference and should be a long and boring game to watch for anyone who isn't a fan of three and outs.

To give you an idea of how bad the offenses are for both of these teams here are some statistics on the year as well as from their last games. Pitt ranks 95th nationally in pass yards per game, out of 120, and 75th in points per game. In their last game, against Utah, Pitt managed a whopping 120 yards of total offense. Their quarterback Tino Sunseri was four of eleven for a horrifying total of 38 yard and they had only 70 yards rushing. It was no surprise they lost this game even against a much weaker Utah team than they've played in the past.

For UConn the story is frighteningly much worse, they rank 88th nationally in pass yards a game, and 94th in both rushing yards per game and points per game. Just to clarify that means in every major offensive statistical category the Huskies rank in the bottom three fourths. While the game against South Florida was somewhat better than Pitt's showing against Utah, UConn still failed to score an offensive touchdown and had to rely on the defense to win the game. Luckily they forced four turnovers and returned one of them for a touchdown giving the Huskies a lead they would never relinquish, but that marks two games in a row without the offense scoring a single point.

Now that we've examined the inadequacies of both offensive squads, let's look ahead to the match up between these two 3-4 teams. Pitt is coming off back to back losses and boasts a 1-1 record in conference while UConn is coming off the win against South Florida which also gives them a 1-1 record in conference. Statistically Pitt's offense is slightly better while UConn boasts a better defense.

The problem for Pitt will be their weakness offensively fits perfectly with the Huskies weakness defensively and so the front seven for UConn will be able to aggressively play the run, something they do very well, because of the Panthers inability to throw the ball down the field. The only concern as a UConn fan is that if they commit wholeheartedly to aggressively stopping the run they will be susceptible to a uniquely potent screen game based around the offense talent that is Ray Graham, the first team Big East running back. Based on the success South Florida had with this style of attack I expect Pitt to use it early and often to try to keep the Huskies honest on defense and to hold the linebackers from constantly blitzing and forcing stops behind the line of scrimmage.

Expect much the same performance from the UConn offense as they had against the Bulls, lots of punting and field goal attempts, but with a little more success against a slower defense they should be able to end their streak of games without an offensive touchdown. If the UConn offense can control the ball like they did in the first half and the fourth quarter against South Florida this game should be no contest. As in every game turnovers will also be a decisive factor, as I mentioned UConn needed a fumble returned for a touchdown to win but Pitt also needed a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown to get the 14 they had against Utah.

It'll be a low scoring affair that eventually will end with UConn kneeling down to run out the clock on a sloppy defensive showdown that ends in a disgusting 13-10 victory for the Huskies. Expect sixty minutes of mediocrity on this Wednesday night between two mid level Big East foes, winner gets closer to being bowl eligible and losing gets closer to ending their season early.

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