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Pitt vs. Rutgers: Panthers hope to keep bowl hopes alive on Senior Day

Jared Wickerham

With Pitt's season winding down, the Panthers face a critical game on Saturday against Rutgers. Not only is it Senior Day and the last time many players will suit up at home, but it's also a game Pitt must win to keep the team's bowl game hopes alive.

The task won't be an easy one as 9-1 Rutgers comes into Heinz Field with hopes of reaching the BCS. The Scarlet Knights boast one of the top defenses in the nation. Rutgers ranks fourth in the country in points allowed, giving up a meager 12.6 per game. In five of their ten games, the team has held teams to ten points or less, and three times, the team has given up no more than a field goal.

When the Panthers are on defense, they'll be facing quarterback Gary Nova, a one-time Pitt recruit. You can bet that some Panthers will be gunning for him, but they can't focus solely on the signal caller. In the backfield is one of the Big East's best rushers in Jawan Jamison. Jamison has only rushed for four touchdowns, but his 990 yards rank second in the conference.

For Pitt fans, it will be the last time they see Tino Sunseri suit as a Panther in Heinz Field. Many will be happy to see him move on, but there's no denying that he has had an excellent season. His quarterback rating of 159.1 ranks second in the Big East, and he also ranks second in completion percentage and third in passing yards. More importantly, Sunseri's two interceptions are the fewest of any starter in the conference and he simply hasn't cost Pitt games this year.

The Panthers have their work cut out for them on Saturday, but Rutgers has been vulnerable at times. They rarely blow anyone out and have won by at least two touchdowns only three times this season - and in one of those games, they trailed 10-0 at halftime to Temple. At home, Pitt should be able to keep the game close.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.