Head Coach: Paul Chryst- 1st Season
2011 Record: 6-7 overall, 4-3 Big East
Previous Meetings: Pittsburgh holds the all-time win advantage at 8 wins against 3 losses. However, Cincinnati has won 2 of the past 3 meetings, including last year's game, a 26-23 UC victory.
Pittsburgh's Key Games
Sept. 1st at Cincinnati
Sept. 15th vs. Virginia Tech
Oct. 13th vs. Louisville
Nov. 3rd at Notre Dame
Nov. 24th at Rutgers
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
OFFENSE: Pitt returns third year starter Tino Sunseri on offense to lead a Panther attack that finished the season 6-7. Sunseri completed over 60% of his passes last season, while throwing for 10 touchdowns. Susneri will look to senior running back Ray Graham, who after 8 games last season was leading the nation in rushing yards per game (134.1), to help carry some of the offensive load. Pitt also returns its top two receivers in Devin Street and Mike Shanahan. The offensive line is in a bit of a rebuilding mode after losing three starters to graduation. All in all, the offense will look to be one of the bright spots for this Panther squad.
DEFENSE: The defense is lead by 2011 2nd team All Big-East performer Aaron Donald, who finished the season with 11 sacks. The linebacking core will be breaking in two new starters after losing Max Gruder and Tristan Roberts to graduation. Sophomore‘s Eric Williams and Nick Grisby look to takeover those spots. Michigan transfer Ray Vinopal looked good at the free safety position in the spring while senior Jarred Holley was forced to sit out with an injury. Working next to him in the secondary will be either senior Andrew Taglianetti or junior Jason Hendricks.
Coach Chryst, the former Wisconsin offensive coordinator, will more than likely take advantage of his talented senior running Ray Grahama and look to bring a little Wisconsin flavor to the Big East. Look for a more run-oriented offense that will use some play action to open up the passing game for Sunseri and this talented offense.
However, this Panther squad is looking at a rough schedule, including non-conference games against Virginia Tech and at Notre Dame. Big East road games against Cincinnati, UCONN and Syracuse figure to give the first year head coach a few sleepless nights of preparation. All in all, look for Chryst to instill his toughness into this Pittsburgh squad.