Quick 2018 Recap
Pitt had an up and down season in 2018. They seesawed between wins and losses, with the high point being an early October win over Syracuse, and the low point being a 51-6 evisceration by Penn State. However, in late October they went on a four-game tear, securing the Coastal Division crown. Then, as evidenced by the picture at the top of this article, Pitt faced off against eventual national champions Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, and lost 42-10. The Panthers then ended their season with a 14-13 loss to Stanford in the Sun Bowl, finishing the year at 7-6 overall.
Offensive Player to Watch: QB Kenny Pickett
Standing at 6-2 and weighing in at 220 pounds, Pickett has the look of a prototypical passer. Unfortunately, the passing game has been up and down for the Panthers of late, and Kenny completed just 58% of his passes in 2018, with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. With the offense struggling, head coach Pat Narduzzi opted to bring in Mark Whipple as his offensive coordinator. Whipple will also serve as the quarterbacks coach, and Pickett should lead the charge for the signal callers. He’s shown a scrappy attitude and may just need a change of playcalling pace to unlock his potential.
Defensive Player to Watch: DE Rashad Weaver
Weaver was a bit of an unknown coming into the 2018 season, but then broke out in a big way. Over the course of the season, the talented end racked up 14 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and four pass breakups. Rashad had an active day against Penn State, including a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and 1.5 TFLs. The defense figures to be the stouter unit for the Panthers, and will be led by Weaver up front.
Penn State Wins If
Sean Clifford has settled into the starting role by week three. The Lions’ defense should be able to handle the Panthers’ offense without too much trouble, though the run game will certainly be a challenge. But if Clifford has settled in, and the offense is finding its rhythm, the Lions should be able to overcome a fairly solid Pitt defense.
Pitt Wins If
They can get to first-time starter Sean Clifford and rattle him. The Panthers will struggle on offense, but if they can disrupt a still-jelling offensive line and force Clifford to make some errors, they could be opportunistic enough to pull out a road win.
Major Changes for 2019
The biggest change came at offensive coordinator, as Shawn Watson was shown the door after two lackluster seasons as play-caller. Under Watson, Pitt averaged 25.5 PPG in 2018 (94th in the country) and 23.9 PPG in 2017 (101st). Wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman was also replaced, after 4 years on staff.