Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pitt-Virginia Tech preview

No. 13 Virginia Tech (2-0) at Pitt (0-2), 12 p.m. (ESPNU)

Line: Virginia Tech by 10 1/2.

Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 7-4

WHAT’S AT STAKE: Consider this Pitt’s preview of what life will be like in the ACC. The Panthers need something to build on following a pair of anemic performances to start the Paul Chryst era. The Hokies have been impressive if not dominant during a pair of season-opening victories. A win over Pitt on the road would help Virginia Tech continue to build momentum and send a message of what awaits the Panthers when they join the ACC’s Coastal Division in 2013.

KEY MATCHUP: Pitt’s defensive line vs. Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas. Thomas has yet to have a breakout performance, particularly with his legs. Still, the Panthers haven’t stopped anybody, giving up an average of 422.5 yards per game through the season’s first two weeks. Pitt’s secondary is its strength, but the defensive line has produced little pressure and the Panthers are still looking for their first turnover.


Virginia Tech: LB Jack Tyler. The junior linebacker has been a missile on defense. His 25 tackles include 1.5 tackles for a loss and he’ll likely be the one charged with trying to track down Pitt running back Ray Graham, who appears fully recovered from knee surgery to repair a torn ACL.

Pitt: RB Rushel Shell. The most prolific running back in Pennsylvania high school history had a so-so collegiate debut, rushing for 31 yards on eight carries in a loss to Cincinnati last week. There are still some maturity issues to iron out — he was suspended from the season opener for a violation of team rules — but his presence takes some of the pressure off Graham. And with Pitt’s passing game unable to generate much downfield, Shell and Graham are the offense’s two best — and sometimes only — options.

FACTS & FIGURES: This is the first meeting between the programs since a 31-28 Pitt win over then fifth-ranked Virginia Tech in 2003 ... Pitt hasn’t started a season 0-3 since 2005 ... The Hokies have won 13 straight true road games, the longest current road winning streak in the country ... Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is the winningest active coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision ... Pitt and Virginia Tech played each other annually while both were members of the Big East from 1993-2003 ... The Hokies haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 1999 ... Pitt is 63-67-2 all-time against current members of the ACC.