Saturday’s game against Western Michigan has left a lot of fans and maybe even some coaches on the South Side with an uneasy feeling in their stomachs.
Considering what happened last year, the fact that it’s a road game and that it will be played in the evening are reasons why that nervousness is justified.
Put those reasons aside and the biggest factor in the Pitt-Western Michigan contest is who will be taking snaps for the Pitt offense.
Starting quarterback Kedon Slovis was knocked out of the Tennessee game with a reported concussion and backup Nick Patti suffered a high ankle sprain. Although he gutted it out and was able to finish, he was nowhere near 100 percent healthy. In fact, his availability might be more of a question mark than Slovis.
If neither is able to suit up, Pat Narduzzi and Frank Cignetti Jr. will have to decide between Dartmouth transfer Derek Kyler or redshirt freshman Nate Yarnell.
As you would imagine, ZERO information is going out concerning this issue, as reporters aren’t permitted to report on anything they witnessed at Tuesday’s practice, nor are they allowed to ask any questions to players about the quarterback position.
I’d say things are more than a bit tense in Panther Land.
Because it’s the type of guy I am, and I know that Coach Narduzzi values my opinion on team issues, I’m going to give him some help on his apparent quarterback dilemma.
Kyler has to be the starting quarterback Saturday evening in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and in reality, it’s not that hard of a decision.
First of all, prior to last Saturday, Slovis had already suffered two concussions while at USC. For that reason alone, give him this week and next week off. Secondly, a huge part of Patti’s game is his mobility. Narduzzi has talked about Pitt’s toughness a couple of times in the last few days and there’s no doubt Patti showed guts and toughness by being able to finish the Tennessee game. However, there’s no chance his ankle is completely healthy and even healed up enough for him to be a threat running the ball. If that’s the case, the only thing that he can do is injure his ankle even further.
The decision should be based solely on the ultimate goal of this season and that’s to win the ACC championship. If both Slovis and Patti are unable to play once conference games begin, Pitt has zero chance of accomplishing that goal.
For that reason alone, Kyler has to be your guy against Western Michigan.
Experience is the reason he gets the nod over Yarnell. Last season as a senior, Kyler was 169-of-239 for 1,972 yards, 17 touchdowns and just one interception, leading Dartmouth to a 9-1 record.
Knowing that Slovis, Patti and Yarnell were on the roster, Narduzzi made the decision to bring in Kyler as a transfer, likely in large part due to his experience and the results he showed on the field.
This game will no doubt be a big game for Western Michigan and their fans who would no doubt love to knock off the Panthers for a second season in a row. Considering that and the atmosphere that they’ll be facing, Pitt needs to go with a guy that’s done it before.
While there’s some apprehension heading into Saturday, in reality, there really shouldn’t be. Pitt is favored to win by 10 points and Vegas is giving those points knowing the uncertainty around Pitt’s quarterback situation. Pitt is more talented at every position than Western Michigan, which gives them the decided edge.
I realize the outcome last year, but Western Michigan doesn’t have the same personnel and aren’t the same team, which means Pitt should and will win this game comfortably.
Both Slovis and Patti should rest the next two weeks and get ready for the game on Oct. 1 against Georgia Tech when their real season begins.