Despite their offense not clicking through the first three games, the Pittsburgh offense has enough skill and talent to give the Georgia Tech defense fits.
The Pittsburgh Panthers offense has not gotten off to a strong start, to say the least. The Panthers who lost their offensive coordinator Matt Canada, quarterback Nathan Peterman, and running back James Connor look light and day compared to their offense from a season ago.
After having a top ten offense in 2016, Pittsburgh’s highest offense ranking is 82nd. Their full rankings are below;
- Points per game: 21 (110th)
- Passing yards per game: 205 (84th)
- Rushing yards per game: 155.3 (82nd)
Just a look at the numbers and it’s obvious there are huge holes in the Panthers offense that have only been magnified with the departure of Matt
Canada to LSU.
Replacing Nathan Peterman at quarterback for the Panthers is another transfer quarterback, this time, Max Browne. The former five-star recruit left Southern California after losing the starting job for USC to Sam Darnold. After the first three weeks of the season, it appears Browne’s starting job once again may be in jeopardy.
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Through the first three games of the season, Browne’s numbers are up and down. His completion percentage of 65.5% his very respectable but his numbers lack the yardage and more importantly, scoring. Through three games, Browne has thrown for just 338-yards and one touchdown. He’s also thrown two interceptions, both coming in Pitt’s 33-14 loss to Penn State.
If Browne isn’t the starting quarterback on Saturday it will be sophomore Ben DiNucci. When it comes to pure talent, Browne is the best quarterback. DiNucci, who saw most of the playing time against Oklahoma State has completed 18-of-34 passes this season for 277-yards. He’s also thrown for one touchdown while throwing two interceptions in the process.
On paper, Browne should give the Panthers a better chance of winning but DiNucci’s ability to scramble when needed might be a deciding factor. So far this season, Pittsburgh has allowed opponents to sack the quarterback 10 times, Browne a less mobile quarterback who doesn’t have tremendous pocket presence is often getting hit hard in the pocket. DiNucci provides Pittsburgh with a quarterback who can scramble when needed and pick up a few extra yards.
Whether it’s Browne or DiNucci, the Panthers have plenty of receiving targets to go around. That being said, there are two primary targets to keep eyes on, on Saturday. Those two targets are Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson. That being said, neither has yet to make a significant impact this season.
For reference, last season, the two combined for 1,780-yards offensively. This season, the two have combined for just 235-yards of total offense and is on pace for just 940 total offensive yards combined. That being said, both are still tremendous weapons for the Panthers.
Weah, is a tremendous down the field threat who averaged over 20-yards per reception last season. He’s the type of player who is bound to break out eventually and going against a Jackets secondary that has ton of questions may allow him to do so.
Henderson is one of the most versatile players in the country. Last season, Henderson had over 2,000 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns, four of those touchdowns came on punt and kick returns. Whenever he touches the ball, there’s a chance he takes it all the way without much of a problem. Expect the Yellow Jackets put a ton of emphasis on stopping Henderson on Saturday along with Weah.
While Henderson and Weah are the two major players to watch out for on Saturday, there are plenty of players that Jackets can’t forget about on defense. Junior wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes is the Panthers leading receiver so far this season with 11 receptions for 136-yards and one touchdown.
Tight end Matt Flanagan transferred to Pittsburgh from Rutgers as a grad senior and has already made an impact on the offense. Through the first three games of the season, Flanagan has eight receptions for 97-yards.
When it comes to the running game, the Panthers have two running backs they focus on. Junior Qadree Ollison and sophomore Chawntez Moss. Ollison is more of a bruiser type running back who doesn’t have great speed, running a 40-yd dash between 4.5 and 4.6.
Ollison is more of a bruiser type running back who doesn’t have great speed, running a 40-yd dash between 4.5 and 4.6. He’s the type of running back who can have a great day if a team is struggling with tackling, something that the Jackets have had their troubles with through the first two games.
Through three games this season, Ollison has rushed for 193-yards and two touchdowns on 44 attempts. While he had solid games against Youngstown State and Penn State, rushing for a combined 187-yards. Last week against Oklahoma State, however, Ollison struggled, picking up just six yards on seven carries. That being said, Ollison also has the capabilities to beat opposing teams in the receiving game as he has eight receptions for 72-yards.
Like Ollison, Moss is not a running back that will beat a team purely with his speed. So far this season Moss has 23 carries for 82-yards and one touchdown. The sophomore had a decent freshman season picking up 227-yards on just 42-carries and could potentially start this upcoming weekend.
No, the Pittsburgh offense is not as dangerous as a year ago and it’s not shocking when considering the talent lost. That being said, the Yellow Jackets cannot come into Saturday’s game and underestimate the Pittsburgh offense. The Panthers still have tremendous talent on the offensive side of the ball that can break out at any second. The one thing for certain is that Paul Johnson, Ted Roof, and the rest of the defensive coaching staff will have to come up with a better game plan defensively than they had for the season opener against Tennessee.