The Pittsburgh Panthers are really glad that they will not have to face Mason Rudolph ever again. In two games against the Panthers, the Oklahoma State quarterback has thrown for 1,037 yards and seven touchdowns. In reality, it could have been worse seeing that Rudolph was pulled halfway through the third quarter of Saturday’s 59-21 rout.
This week’s game at Georgia Tech presents a different challenge. The 1-2 Panthers will have to deal with Paul Johnson’s option attack. The Yellow Jackets are 1-1 and should be fully rested after last week’s game at UCF was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma.
Pittsburgh has won the last two meetings between the ACC Coastal Division teams and holds a 7-4 series edge.
Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech
When: Saturday, Sept. 23 at 12:20 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: Georgia Tech -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Pittsburgh quarterback controversy
Graduate transfer Max Browne was the Panthers' clear-cut starting quarterback entering the season. That’s not the case anymore. Browne has gotten off to a slow start and when he failed to generate much offense against Oklahoma State, head coach Pat Narduzzi went to sophomore Ben DiNucci. The most recent Pittsburgh depth chart lists Browne and DiNucci as co-starters. Look for both to play and for Narduzzi to ride the hot hand.
2. Georgia Tech fumbles
The Yellow Jackets have put the ball on the ground six times in two games. They’ve only lost two of those fumbles, but they were big turnovers. One in the fourth quarter of the season opener, deep in Tennessee territory, not only stopped a potential game clinching score, it also was followed by a 93-yard Volunteers touchdown drive that sent the game to overtime. Georgia Tech has been fortunate to recover so many of its own fumbles, but the Yellow Jackets need to hold onto the football going forward.
3. Defending TaQuon Marshall
Pittsburgh has already faced two of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Rudolph and Penn State’s Trace McSorley. As great as those two are, they are vastly different from Marshall and Pitt’s defensive focus will have to change. The Georgia Tech quarterback leads the team with 274 rushing yards and has scored six times. While he has not been asked to throw that many times, he has competed 10 of his 16 attempts with three touchdowns and no picks.
It’s not overly surprising that Pittsburgh is 1-2 having played two of the nation’s top six teams in the AP poll. But the way in which the Panthers have competed to open the season is concerning. Pitt struggled to get by FCS opponent Youngstown State, was beaten soundly at Penn State, and mauled at home by Oklahoma State. Now, the Panthers have to go back on the road and face Georgia Tech and the option. On the other sideline, Georgia Tech probably still can’t get the Tennessee heartbreak out of its minds. With FCS member Jacksonville State the following week and then the open date due to the hurricane, the Jackets have had plenty of time to reflect on what could have been. Georgia Tech will open conference play with a win and send Pitt into a 1-3 hole.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 31, Pittsburgh 21
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.