September 26, 2013

Game Preview: Virginia at Pitt

Following a well-timed bye week, UVa shut out VMI last Saturday 49-0 and now turns its attention to conference play. The first opponent for the Hoos on the ACC schedule is Pittsburgh, who hosts the Cavaliers for their homecoming game this Saturday (12:30 p.m., RSN).

The Panthers (2-1, 1-1) are already two games into their inaugural ACC schedule, falling 41-13 to Florida State on Labor Day before getting their first ever league win last week in a 58-55 shootout over Duke in Durham. Sandwiched in between those two conference games was a 49-27 win over a struggling New Mexico program.

Although this will be the first meeting between the Cavaliers and the Panthers as conference rivals, the two programs are somewhat familiar with each other. UVa (2-1) has played Pittsburgh three times in the past decade, winning two of those matchups including the 2003 Continental Tire Bowl.

Virginia's last trip to the Steel City is one to forget, however. Cavalier quarterback Christian Olsen had an interception returned for a touchdown by then Panther Darrelle Revis in the third quarter as Pitt rolled to a 38-13 victory in the 2006 season opener. The Hoos got revenge a year later, blowing out the Panthers in Charlottesville.

But it's been a long time and number of coaches since then. The Panthers seem to have stabilized now in their second season under Paul Chryst, who was previously the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin under Bret Bielema. Chryst was brought in to replace Todd Graham, who bolted for Arizona State after just one year at Pitt. Graham was preceded by Mike Haywood, who was fired just two weeks after being tapped to replace Dave Wannstedt, following some legal trouble.

In his first year at Pitt and his first as a head coach anywhere, Chryst got Pittsburgh to the postseason, falling to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl last year.

Saturday's game is intriguing in that it should be a good measuring stick for both programs. Both teams come in with a blowout loss to a top-10 team early in the season. UVa's defense has been great in their other two games, but the offense under new coordinator Steve Fairchild has struggled to keep drives going throughout the season. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has had no such trouble offensively but hasn't really faced a great defense thus far. At the same time, on D the Panthers have allowed 41 points per game through three contests. Needless to say, it should be interesting to see if this is the week where UVa can finally move the ball and light up the scoreboard against a team not named VMI.

As we get you ready for this one on Saturday afternoon between UVa and Pitt, we'll break down the Panthers and give you our view of the way things play out.

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