One of the most intriguing games on Thursday’s slate during the first weekend of college football is West Virginia traveling to take on Pittsburgh at newly-named Acrisure Stadium (formerly Heinz Field).
The matchup will kick off on Thursday, September 1, at 7 p.m. ET. ESPN’s College GameDay will be on hand.
West Virginia is coming into 2022 off a 6-7 season in 2021 and a 4-5 record in the Big 12. Not where head coach Neal Brown wants his program to be, but a bowl appearance (even if it was a 12 point loss to Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl) isn’t an embarrassment either.
The Mountaineer offense has a bit of a Trojan feel to it, as both offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and quarterback JT Daniels headed to Morgantown from USC.
In fact, this whole game feels like it should be played in the Coliseum.
Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback is none other than former Trojan Kedon Slovis.
Both teams should look very different on offense so I’m not sure exactly how relevant this will be, but let’s dig a little deeper into some trends from 2021.
West Virginia struggled on the road, going just 2-4 with those wins coming against TCU and Kansas.
However, their defense was quite solid, allowing just under 24 points per game. That’s nothing to sneeze at in the high-flying Big 12. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they weren’t putting up too many points themselves with just over 25 per game.
Despite the positive point differential, WVU’s opponents actually had a higher yards per play average with 5.5 compared to 5.3 for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia did find success in the Red Zone when it got there, turning 90% of trips inside the 20 into points.
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On the other side, Pittsburgh is coming off a an 11-3 season…with first round pick and current Steeler Kenny Pickett.
The Panthers had a bad loss to Western Michigan in their third game of the season, but then marched through the ACC only slipping up against Miami.
Pittsburgh defeated Wake Forest 45-21 in the ACC Championship Game before a 10 point loss to Michigan State in the Peach Bowl. Led by Pickett, the Panthers had an exceptional offense and scored over 41 points per game while allowing just under 24.
The Panthers dominated in the middle stages of games, outscoring opponents 357-139 in the second and third quarters. This tells me that the players, but more importantly coaching staff, knows how to make in-game adjustments and pull away from teams before and after halftime.
I see the same thing happening on September 1. West Virginia’s defense won’t break early, but Daniels and the Panthers will hold a two-score lead for the majority of the second half and cover the spread.