Pitt hosts Georgia Tech this Saturday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. and is looking to start off their ACC schedule with a win.
Georgia Tech is currently in one of the worst runs in recent program history. They are 1-3 this year, which includes big losses to then ranked No. 4 Clemson, then ranked No. 20 Ole Miss and UCF by a combined 100 points. The only win came against FCS opponent Western Carolina in Week 2.
The poor form saw the school fire head coach Geoff Collins earlier this week and replace him with assistant head coach Brent Key. Now, the program looks to salvage something from this season, and they hope it doesn’t spiral from here.
The Panthers have dominated the Yellow Jackets in recent years, winning the last four matchups in convincing fashion. Coming into this Saturday’s matchup, the Panthers are coming off of two wins over Western Michigan in Week 3 and FCS opponent Rhode Island in Week 4.
Take Advantage of the Situation
The current situation is not good at all for the Yellow Jackets coming off the firing of Collins as head coach. Key should prepare these players far better than Collins did, but that really isn’t saying much at all. After all, Collins is the same man who instructed his team to lift weights on Clemson’s home field prior to their 52-14 loss in his first game as head coach in 2019.
The loss of Collins will weigh somewhat on the players’ minds the rest of the season, but most definitely in their first game without him in charge against Pitt.
Pitt now has the opportunity to make the opposing players’ lives worse with a massive beat down in prime time. Many of these players already know what it’s like to play Georgia Tech, which is now an annual drubbing since 2019. In the past three matchups, Pitt has outscored Georgia Tech 106-52 and all those games were in Atlanta.
In the loss to UCF last Saturday, Georgia Tech showed their sloppiness throughout the game, and it cost them dearly. They amassed more yards on offense, 452-333, but failed to score on five red-zone opportunities. GT also committed a numerous amount of defensive penalties that led to their demise against Central Florida.
The Panthers should absolutely take advantage of the Yellow Jackets’ dysfunction in the locker room and on the field. They should not hold anything back in this matchup and dominate this team from the kickoff to the final whistle.
One way to terrorize the Georgia Tech defense is to utilize one of your best offensive weapons, junior running back Israel Abanikanda.
Abanikanda currently leads the ACC in rushing with 479 yards in four games. It is even more impressive, considering he only rushed eight times for 15 yards against WVU in the season opener. In his past three games, he is averaging around 155 yards a game on six yards per carry.
He already earned ACC Running Back of the Week honors twice this season. First against Tennessee in Week 2 and then Rhode Island last time out. In the 45-24 win over the Rams, he rushed 19 times for 177 yards and four touchdowns.
Georgia Tech currently ranks as the second worst run defense in the ACC, as their opponents are rushing 209.5 yards per game against them.
The game plan against Georgia Tech should be simple. Give Abanikanda the ball and let him run this defense off the field.
Play Special on Special Teams
Among many things that the Yellow Jackets are awful at this season, their special team’s unit might take the top spot for complete ineptitude from the Collins era.
To put it quite simply, Georgia Tech has one of the worst special team’s units in the country. They have allowed four blocked punts in the first four games of the season, the most in the FBS. The next teams with the most allowed block punts in the country are four teams that allowed two.
Redshirt first-year place kicker Jude Kelley is also the worst kicker in the conference so far converting just two of his six field goals in 2022 and he missed two field goals in the loss to UCF.
The Panthers blocked a punt against Tennessee this season that helped them comeback to force the game into overtime. Also, redshirt junior defensive back M.J. Devonshire just returned a punt for a touchdown in his last game out.
This should be a great opportunity for Pitt to wreck havoc on special teams. A blocked punt or field goal and a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown would go a long way in Pitt helping themselves to a win.
Keep it Simple and Distribute the Offense
To the chagrin of many Pitt fans who wish to see a more explosive and dynamic offense, Pitt’s played more conservatively on that side of the ball in recent weeks.
While it does not make for the greatest spectacle, it does allow for the team to play a far smarter and more efficient brand of football than when they started the year. This is especially true against weaker opposition, like WMU and URI the past two weeks.
While Georgia Tech is an ACC school and deserves that respect, they have not shown the ability to stop the run at all. Still, they rank at No. 5 in the ACC in pass defense, allowing 202.5 yards per game, which is less than Pitt so far.
This means that Pitt should focus on the rushing attack. Using Abanikanda as the main running back, the offensive touches need distribution against Georgia Tech.
Senior running back Vincent Davis saw great success against the Yellow Jackets in 2020, as he ran 25 times for 247 yards and a touchdown in the 34-20 win.
Davis ran 18 times for 134 yards and a touchdown, combined, against Western Michigan and Rhode Island. With sophomore running back Rodney Hammond Jr. likely still out with injury, Davis should continue to see touches against Georgia Tech.
Two other running backs in redshirt junior Daniel Carter and redshirt senior C’Bo Flemister will also likely see increased touches in the game against the Yellow Jackets.
The Panthers also should use the run game to build the passing game when needed. Senior quarterback Kedon Slovis returned from injury and started against URI, completing 20 of his 27 passes for 189 yards.
While he didn’t light up his FCS foe, he did lead Pitt to a 35 total minutes of possession that allowed for good rhythm offensively and rest for the defense.
Slovis should use run pass options and screen plays to throw the defense off balance. Also, the use of play action should open up avenues for wide receivers’ redshirt sophomore Bub Means and sophomore Konata Mumpfield to make some big plays if the running attack stalls.
A simple game plan for the Panthers against the Yellow Jackets is an effective one. It’ll get them the victory and keep injuries to a minimum.
Don’t Underestimate Georgia Tech
While it is likely Pitt wins this game, there is much on the line for Georgia Tech as a whole.
The matchup allows the players and staff to start anew, giving them the opportunity to remake their careers in a more positive outlook.
What better way to do that than beating a ranked opponent in No. 24 Pitt on their home turf and restarting your season for the better?
The Yellow Jackets players might not want to play for the school anymore with the firing of Collins. Surely, they will want to impress other coaches across the country for next season when they enter the transfer portal.
The Panthers just need to make sure they focus defeating the Yellow Jackets and to not allow thoughts of an easy win get to their mind. If they can execute properly and keep the mistakes to a minimum, the Panthers should win this game and move on to focus on the rest of their ACC schedule.