Believe it or not, but football season isn't quite over yet in Pittsburgh. The Panthers have three more games left and with the Big East title a long shot, the primary goal of Pitt is getting to a bowl game. And at 4-5, a bowl game is far from a given. The team needs to find a way to win two out of three games against Louisville, Syracuse, and West Virginia.
It all starts this Saturday and Pitt would be wise to come out swinging to secure a victory. It won't be easy, but a noon game against Louisville is a bit less threatening than going into a potential night game against West Virginia with in a must-win situation.
Pitt enters the game having played fairly well in their past two contests. They defeated UConn 35-20 a few weeks back and held a ten-point lead against Cincinnati, the top team in the Big East, before losing. Pitt is capable of winning this game against Louisville, who comes in only one game better than Pitt in the standings and having played a far weaker non-conference schedule. But the Cardinals are on a roll, having won their last three games including beating Rutgers (a team that beat Pitt), Syracuse, and preseason favorite West Virginia.
Like many of the teams the Panthers have faced, Louisville doesn't have a great offense. But the Cardinals do boast a 15th ranked defense and have held four teams to 14 points or less this season.
Freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater leads the Louisville offense and he provides an opportunity for Pitt's defense to force some turnovers. Bridgewater has thrown at least one interception in five of his past six games and is clearly mistake-prone. He will get much better as his career goes along, but for now, he's still a first-year quarterback.
Pitt quarterback, Tino Sunseri, meanwhile, has been playing better since being named the starter for the rest of the season. Over the past two games, he's thrown for 637 yards, three touchdowns, and has only one interception against two good defenses. There's no guarantee that will continue as he faces another strong D and he's certainly shown flashes of the old Tino, but he has looked more comfortable of late and has generally played better.
This is bound to be a close game, and at home, I'm tempted to go with Louisville. But I'm still not sold on the Cardinals and after Pitt gave Cincinnati all they could handle last weekend, I think they come out and get a narrow win.
For more on the game and Pitt football, check out SB Nation Pitt blog Cardiac Hill.