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South Florida Vs. Pitt: Panthers Look To Come Out Strong In First Big East Game Of Season

Pitt hasn't looked all that impressive so far this season. Sure, they've been in every game, but the team wasn't able to close the deal against Iowa or Notre Dame. Even more disturbing is the way that they've closed out both of those contests. Pitt had a 17-point fourth quarter lead at Iowa and a 12-7 lead at home against Notre Dame in the final stanza as well. But the offenses went flat and the defenses allowed some late scores.

Pitt has definitely frustrated its fans so far, but that can all change with a big win against No. 14 / No. 16 South Florida on Thursday night. It's not going to be easy, though. The Bulls come into the game with the tenth-ranked offense, averaging more than 45 points per game. South Florida has plenty of skill players including running back Darrell Scott and wide receiver Sterling Griffin. But the guy to watch is clearly quarterback B.J. Daniels.

Daniels, who's had a mediocre career entering this season, has really turned his game around and could challenge West Virginia's Geno Smith as the conference's top quarterback. Through his first four games, he's completed 66% of his passes and threw eight touchdown passes to only one interception. Pitt's pass defense has struggled mightily this season and facing Daniels will be no easy task.

As good as the Bulls are on offense, though, the defense also can't be ignored. USF's given up only 17 points per game, good for 22nd in the nation.

Then, of course, there's the one common opponent - Notre Dame. Pitt fell to the Irish 15-12 at home, but South Florida defeated Notre Dame 23-20 on the road.

The Panthers simply can't afford to be caught in a shootout. If that happens, I don't expect Pitt to be able to keep up. If Pitt is to start out 1-0 in the conference, they'll likely need a similar formula as they had against Notre Dame. The Panthers need to limit turnovers, force a few themselves, and move the ball on offense to give the defense some time to rest.

So how's this one going to shake out? After picking against Pitt in the games against Iowa and Notre Dame, I really think they have a chance to pull this one out. A loss wouldn't surprise me, but playing at home on a Thursday night game should provide at least some small advantage. This is another game that should come down to the wire and I think Pitt has a strong chance to win this one.

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