Pat Narduzzi and his Pitt Panthers will try to pull off the upset this Saturday and avoid going 1-3 against our Nittany Lions. While they took the first matchup in 2016 in a thriller 42-39, they rode that high a little too hard as they followed that up by being outscored by Penn State 84-20 in the following two matchups. If they are to avoid the three-game losing streak and possibly another blowout, they'll have to turn to their most talented group on the roster, their secondary.
Pitt has one of the better overall secondaries in the ACC, with arguably the best pairing at safety. Damar Hamlin and Paris Ford both have All-ACC potential, with Ford especially having superstarstar potential. Both were four-stars and heavily recruited out of high school. At corner back, they have two very solid starters in Dane Jackson and Jason Pinnock.
Their biggest problem for their defense is their string of injuries along the defensive line to two starters, Rashad Weaver and Keyshon Camp. With those two down, it will be difficult to generate any kind of consistent pass-rush. That will put their talented secondary on islands all season long which could make the most talented of secondaries look pedestrian. If Pitt can't find their way into Penn State's backfield, their biggest strength will be null and void.
That lack of pass rush will certainly hurt them as that means the four stars in the secondary will have to cover the likes of KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, Justin Shorter, and Pat Freiermuth for several seconds at a time. Hamler and Dotson will be especially difficult to cover for more than a couple seconds as the two star receivers are some of the most gifted route runners in the Big Ten.
If Pitt has any hopes of walking out of Beaver Stadium with the W, they'll have to rely heavily on their secondary's ability to keep Penn State's drives short and maybe even create some turnovers.