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Penn State Football: Opponent Preview: Pitt

by on September 08, 2016 12:20 PM

It's finally here, Penn State and Pitt facing off in the Steel City after a long hiatus in one of the most storied rivalries in college football. This weekend's game marks the first of four in the revitalization of the Keystone State's marquee matchup. Both teams enter undefeated on the year at 1-0 and both are looking to take home a second victory and more importantly bragging rights for the next 12 months.

Here is what you need to know about Pitt.

Last Week:

The Panthers, much like Penn State didn't look overly impressive but still managed to work their way to an easy 28-7 victory over Villanova. Pitt scored 21 points on three redzone trips while keeping Nova out of the redzone entirely. James Conner's return to football was highlighted by two scores and 53 yards rushing on 17 attempts. Nathan Peterman was reliable under center as well tossing two touchdowns, one to Conner and another to Jester Weah.

The Offense:

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Returning to game after defeating cancer would have been enough to make James Conner a story all on his own, but add in the fact he's one of the better running backs in the nation and it's even more to keep an eye on. From there the Panthers have three upperclassmen on the offensive front guarding senior quarterback Nathan Peterman. Quadree Henderson is a talented receiver out wide that can stretch the field as well. This group is experienced which will help Pitt's cause in 2016.

Jordan Whitehead will also see snaps on the offensive side of the ball despite being a safety by trade.

The Defense:

If Pitt is going to take the next step forward this season it will likely be the result of a stout defensive front and plenty of talent behind it. Senior defensive end Ejuan Price will be a handful at 6-feet 225 and with two more seniors on that line along with him there is more than enough experience to go around. Mike Caprara and Matt Galambos both enter their senior seasons at linebacker alongside sophomore Oluwaseun Idowu at the star position. Whitehead as mentioned above will play both side of the ball but primarily at safety with senior corner Ryan Lewis and junior corner Avonte Maddox taking care of the boundaries.

All told this unit is experienced and talented, and could give Penn State trouble if the offensive line isn't up to the task just yet.

The Player To Watch:

Conner is the best story but Whitehead is Pitt's best secret weapon. He didn't play a snap on the offensive side of the ball against Villanova but James Franklin doesn't think that means it will stay that way come Saturday. If anything it's just another trick up the sleeve that the Panthers opted not to show in Week 1 to give Penn State any advantage after watching film. Whitehead will get the ball, it's a matter of slowing him down that will be key for Penn State.

The Prediction:

By the end of the year Penn State will probably better team but Pitt is likely the better team as of Week 2. Add in the fact it's a home game with lots of emotions and a veteran Pitt roster and that could spell trouble for Penn State. The Nittany Lions winning wouldn't be a surprise, but Pitt gets the first victory in this renewed series in a low scoring game. Saquon Barkley might save the day but it seems unlikely right now. Pitt 21-17



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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