Andy Lyons - Getty Images
When Pitt squares off against Louisville on Saturday morning, they'll look to knock off their second-ranked team this year. The Panthers defeated Virginia Tech earlier this season, giving fans a glimpse of the team's capabilities. Unfortunately, after a blowout win against Gardner-Webb the following weekend, Pitt came out sluggish and lost to Syracuse on Friday night last week, again raising questions about this team.
That begs the question - which Pitt team will show up? The Panthers that soundly defeated the ranked Hokies or the ones that couldn't get much going offensively against Syracuse, Cincinnati, or Youngstown State?
If you're looking for a reason for optimism, it's the fact that the Panthers play fairly well in these types of games. Pitt generally has strong showings against good teams at home when not much is expected of them and even pulls out wins from time to time. Over the last four years, Pitt is 3-3 against ranked teams at home and have only lost by more than a touchdown once in the debacle against Miami in 2010. Pitt is often competitive in these types of games at home and for that reason, I expect the Panthers to keep things close at the very least.
Another reason to like Pitt's chances is that Louisville simply hasn't been very dominant lately. The Cardinals are undefeated, but have also been flat out unimpressive at times. In their last game, they struggled mightily to defeat 0-5 Southern Miss, trailing heading into the fourth quarter before pulling out a 21-17 win. In the previous game against a 1-4 Florida International squad, the Cardinals won by only seven.
The Panthers, though, will still need to find a way to score points. They had only 13 against Syracuse and Louisville's defense is notoriously stingy - the Cardinals are ranked 28th in the nation, giving up only 18 points per contest. Pitt's defense can keep the team in games as was witnessed in the Syracuse game last weekend. But that only goes so far and at some point, the offense will need to chip in.
All of that said, Louisville has the look of a team that can be beaten with a good effort. The question, however, is if Pitt will provide that on Saturday.