Posted: 12:00 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2, 2013
All week, we've been discussing what Pitt needs to do to win Monday's big game against Florida State. I've narrowed the list down and put together my top five keys for the Panthers if they want to come out on top. We've covered quarterback play so much and we all know that's a factor, so my list focuses on some other things besides the play of newbie Tom Savage.
5. Coach 'em up: Last year Paul Chryst wasn't a great game coach. He had his moments, but not getting the team ready for Youngstown State or Cincinnati, and end-of-half gaffes against Notre Dame and Louisville proved he was a rookie at this whole head coaching thing. Pitt can't afford any such mistakes from Chryst in a game against what may be the conference's best team. Not only can Chryst not afford mistakes, but he needs his coordinators to be creative on offense and defense to keep Florida State on their toes.
4. Keep the big play away: Nothing deflates a rowdy crowd more than a big play and that's what the Panthers need to prevent. The offense can't give up a defensive touchdown, special teams has to keep return men in check, and the defense can't give up 50-yard scores. Simply put, Pitt has to keep the Seminoles from grabbing easy points.
3. Run the ball effectively: We'll get to time of possession here a bit and this plays into that, but the Panthers need an effective running game. That's not merely to control time of possession but also to help new starter Tom Savage. If Pitt's running backs can earn some respect, it will open the passing game up a bit for Savage.
2. Force Jameis Winston into turnovers: Playing any freshman quarterback, defenses need to be active and cause utter havoc. That's no exception here as the Panthers will be facing one of the most talented first-year players they'll come across. Pitt needs to force Winston into a turnover or two and just as important, keep him guessing by presenting a number of schemes.
1. Eat clock: There can be some debate here about if this is the most important thing, but here's what we know - Florida State can score and Pitt's offense is in question. To me, that immediately means the Panthers need to keep the Seminoles' offense off the field as much as possible and to do that, they'll need to control the clock. Winning the time of possession battle is often misleading and doesn't always guarantee victory. However, if the Panthers are going to win, they're likely going to hold the ball more.