SU Record: 6-5
ATS Record: 4-6-1
|Sep-18||vs Western Michigan|
|Sep-25||vs New Hampshire|
|Nov-11||vs North Carolina|
Pittsburgh Panthers Returning Stats Leaders
|Patrick Jones II||24||20||44||9||3||0|
OVERALL RETURNING PRODUCTION FOR 2021/22
Pittsburgh Panthers Football Team
Pittsburgh Football Team News
The Panthers are coming off an up and down 6 – 5 season and bring back 13 starters from last year’s team. Prospects seem good for another solid season under seventh-year head coach Pat Narduzzi, but with the exception of a trip to the ACC Championship game in 2018, Pittsburgh has not been able to break through to the top of the conference.
Pittsburgh began the season with three consecutive wins, then lost four straight games before winning three of their last four to salvage the season. They beat the teams they were supposed to defeat and lost to everyone they played that finished the season with more than five wins.
They weren’t competitive against Notre Dame and Clemson, losing 45-3 and 52-17 respectively to the top two teams in the conference. The Panthers drilled Florida State and Virginia Tech, scoring more than 40 points in both games, but that accomplishment didn’t have the same value as in prior years.
Defensively, Pittsburgh was solid, finishing second in the ACC and 20th nationally in total yards allowed per game. They led the conference were third in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 93.5 yards per contest, but were inconsistent on offense.
Fifth-year quarterback Kenny Pickett provides solid if unspectacular leadership to an offense that was up and down in 2020. He completed a respectable 61.1% of his passes for 13 touchdowns, but his interception total of nine was high for a player with his experience.
Damari Mathis returns to the secondary after missing the 2020 season with a shoulder injury and will play a key role in replacing statistical leaders at cornerback. If the Panthers are going to contend in the ACC Coastal, their pass defense will need to improve from eighth-best in the conference.
Linebackers Phil Campbell III and Cam Bright combined for nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 2020, teaming up as the potential strength of the defense. The Panthers lost a lot of talent on the defensive line, so the pair will be relied on to add stability to the unit.
The running game was weak in 2020, averaging just 3.4 yards a carry and less than 120 yards a game, which placed it 111th in the nation. Returning tailback A.J. Davis Jr. will need to build on a big finish to the season when he ran for 247 yards on 25 touches against Georgia Tech.
The Panthers didn’t add a lot of talent that will contribute right away, and Narduzzi’s staff wasn’t active in the transfer portal, but left guard Marcus Minor is a transfer from Maryland who is expected to provide depth and experience to an offensive line that was largely ineffective in the running game in 2020.
Defensive end Patrick Jones II led the team with nine sacks and also contributed 12.5 tackles for loss. The All-America selection was a third-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings.
The Panthers also lost the defender on the other end of the line, another All-American who tied for the team lead with 14 tackles for loss and pitched in with 7.5 sacks. He went in the fourth round of the NFL draft to the Tennessee Titans.
Center Jim Morrissey was one of few bright spots on the offensive line for Pittsburgh, and he’ll be difficult to replace. He’ll be playing for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021 after selecting him in the seventh draft round.
After a Covid-19 inspired decision by the ACC to do away with divisions for the 2020 season, which also included Notre Dame in the mix, the conference is back to normal for 2021. The ACC Coastal has a history of balance, with every member of the division-winning title once from 2013 to 2019.
That is again the case in 2021, with at least two teams and as many as five possibly having a shot at representing the division in the ACC Championship game, most likely against Clemson for the seventh year in a row. North Carolina and Miami are the top contenders, both of whom are ranked in the top 15 in preseason polls.
Neither of them won their bowl games following the 2020 season but are still expected to have strong performances in 2021. Virginia Tech is looking to rebound from a tough season, possibly to save head coach Justin Fuentes’ job, and could definitely contend, benefiting from a favorable schedule.
Pittsburgh will need to be more consistent and has an outside shot at the division crown along with Virginia. Georgia Tech and Duke are in rebuild mode and could only factor in the race as spoilers.
Pittsburgh will have problems generating enough offense to consistently put pressure on opposing defenses without improvement on the offensive line. The running game was anemic in 2020, and even though Pickett is a seasoned quarterback, they lack proven talent at the receiver position. However, sophomore Jordan Addison gives them at least one reliable target.
Pittsburgh feasted on the weaker teams in the conference and struggled against the better squads. This season they again have Clemson on the schedule and will face North Carolina, who they avoided playing last year, posing real challenges for an offense that will need to catch some breaks to be more effective against superior defenses.
The top priority is to replace the end rushers who led the Pittsburgh defense to a top 20 national ranking in 2020. The unit was one of the leaders in the country in sacks and tackles for loss, but the players largely responsible for those numbers are now playing for teams in the NFL.
It appears unlikely that they’ll be able to make enough moves for Pittsburgh to make the leap into contention for the division along with North Carolina and Miami, especially without a running game that can keep the defense off the field for extended periods of time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Nine, most recently in 1976.
Two, both in the Big East.
Jack Sutherland won 111 games from 1924 to 1938.