The Pittsburgh Panthers put together a good 2019 going 8-5 but with returning most of their starters in 2020, the Panthers have bigger and better things in their sights.
2019 Recap: Defense was the name of the game for the Pittsburgh Panthers in 2019 as they had one of the nation’s top-40 defenses, allowing just 22.5 points per game last year. Their offense, however, was very much a trainwreck, scoring just 21.2 points per game, ranking 114th out of 130 teams nationally. In terms of their actual season, after a 1-2 start with losses to Virginia and Penn State, the Panthers rattled off wins in six of their next seven games including a win over then No.15 ranked UCF and a win over North Carolina. They’d drop their last two regular season games to Virginia Tech and Boston College but would pick up a bowl victory in the Quick Lane Bowl, 34-30 over Eastern Michigan.
Key Losses: WR Maurice Ffrench, WR Aaron Matthews
The good news for Pittsburgh is they didn’t lose to many major players from last season. Really, the only two names to note are a pair of wide receivers. the first being Maurice Ffrench who had 96 receptions for 850-yards. The second, Aaron Matthews who only had 13 receptions but averaged 16.9 yards per reception for a total of 220-yards.
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Key Returners: QB Kenny Pickett, WR Taysir Mack, DB Paris Ford, DB Damar Hamlin, Almost all of their defensive line
In terms of key returners, Kenny Pickett returns for his senior season with the program. The game manager type quarterback will need to take a step forward if Pittsburgh hopes to get near that 10-win mark in 2020. He’ll return one of his top offensive weapons in Taysir Mack, a former Indiana Hoosier, Mack had 63 receptions for 736-yards and a trio of touchdowns last season.
The Panthers also return quite a bit on the defensive side of the ball, defensive backs Paris Ford and Damar Hamlin are two of the best at their position in the ACC while they return nearly all of their starting defensive line from last season including their top three tackle for a loss and sack getters last season in Jaylen Twyman, Patrick Jones II, and Kylan Johnson. Rashard Weaver also returns in 2020 coming off a missed 2019 season after tearing his ACL. In 2018, he had 14.0 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.
Overall, this Pittsburgh team in 2019 has a chance to be pretty good with the biggest questions surrounding their offense. The defense should carry the Panthers for most of the season and should be among the nation’s best especially their fierce defensive line. If the offense continues to struggle as it did last year, the Panthers could be in a for a tough season but if the offense can even improve in the slightest, their a team that could push for 9 wins. Games against Miami, Notre Dame, and UNC could be especially tough for the Panthers while a game against Florida State could prove to be challenging as well.