Here’s how I will handle this game-day blog:
I will break down the Pitt team, position-by-position and give you one player expected to stand out and why, and one player who may surprise you and why:
Keep scrolling down and I will give you the final score.
The Tino Sunseri bashers and doubters are out there, and I don’t understand it. I’ll give you two numbers that matter: 64.5 and 9. Those are his completion percentage and interceptions in 13 games. Plus, he’s stronger, better conditioned and here’s the big one: He has a coach who finally trusts him to win the game all by himself, if necessary. Look for 250 passing yards from Sunseri today.
The other guy: Freshman and newly anointed scholarship quarterback Trey Anderson. He’ll play a little — or he would, if I was in charge — and he will light up a tired Buffalo defense late in the game. Can’t wait for 2013 when he battles Chad Voytik for the starting job.
Ray Graham will get a nice leg up on his 1,500-yard season by rushing for a buck-65 today and catching close to 10 passes. I think his mixture of speed and power will make him the best back in the Big East by season’s end.
Looking forward to seeing freshman Malcolm Crockett run today. He’ll get plenty of opportunities because the score will get out of hand by halftime. Plus, I like the guy’s attitude: He talks like a winner.
Check out this story I wrote about him and fellow freshman running back Corey Davis last week:
Starter Mike Shanahan is faster than people think and at 6-5, he can go up and get the deep ball.
Don’t blink when freshman wide receiver Ronald Jones is on the field. You might miss him. Todd Graham insists Jones can turn into a special punt returner, too.
Here’s a nod toward H-back Hubie Graham, too. He looks like a guy who can exploit a slow linebacker, and I bet he finds a few of those today.
Senior guard Lucas Nix might work his way into the first two rounds of the draft. He is playing the position where he can best utilize his unique skills and brute strength. Plus, his work ethic will vault him ahead of most of the guards in the Big East, if not the nation, and he’ll end up drawing a nice paycheck next year. Bank on it.
I also think Ryan Turnley, previously maligned for not being tough enough to start at center, will play well today and give Graham reason to sleep peacefully — at least for the next week or so.
Pitt will manhandle the young Buffalo offensive line today, and Chas Alecxih will lead the charge. Myles Caragein gets all the publicity because he has seized his role as a senior leader with authority, but Alecxih has 11 1/2 career sacks. I’m guessing he has 15 by the time the Pitt plane touches down in Iowa.
There shouldn’t be any surprises here because the D-linemen — even the young ones — get almost daily praise from their coaches. But I’m rooting for Tyrone Ezell of Steel Valley. Ezell looks the part, 6-4, 295 pounds, steel-like jaw and nasty glare. Remind me never to make him mad.
Brandon Lindsey has received all of the preseaon accolades — deservedly so — but I think Shane Gordon’s athleticism will create havoc today.
No one talks about senior Max Gruder, who isn’t the fastest linebacker ever. But he’s 6-2, 230 and he has one stat next to name that will make a lot of difference this season — 26 consecutive starts.
I’ve heard so much about Pitt’s cornerbacks that I thought Pitt found another year of eligibility for Darrelle Revis, and he was lining up instead of Antwaun Reed and K’Waun Williams. They will play well today against Buffalo’s experienced receivers, but I want to see Woodland Hills’ Lafayette Pitts in something other than practice. I think he will distinguish himself today.
I haven’t said much about kicker Kevin Harper and punter Matt Yoklic, but they have exceptionally strong legs. With Harper, Pitt may be able to score merely by inching across the 40-yard line.
OK. Enjoy the day. Stay cool. And — as Penni Graham would say –(Football) Season’s Greetings.
Pitt 48, Buffalo 10.