Pitt week officially begins
It’s Penn State vs. Pitt week, so let the fun begin. Just don’t count on Pitt having much fun Saturday afternoon. Because there’s a good chance Penn State will pummel the Panthers.
The opening line released Sunday has the Nittany Lions favored by 18¢ points, a massive total for a rivalry, yet a pretty realistic one in this case.
In case you haven’t heard, Penn State’s offense is terrific.
About the only thing that can stop the Lions will be turnovers, or if the opposing defense has so many elite athletes that they can match up with PSU’s plethora of playmakers.
Pitt doesn’t have many great defenders, so as long as the Lions take care of the ball, they are going to score a bunch of points. It might not be 52, like in Saturday’s shutout victory over Akron, but PSU will score.
Pitt played Youngstown State on Saturday and gave up 418 yards of offense, including 311 passing, in a 28-21 overtime win. Let that sink in: Pitt needed overtime to beat an FCS team and also gave up 400-plus yards.
Good luck slowing down Penn State.
I’ll give a score prediction later in the week, but I can tell you now I’m picking the Lions to cover the spread.
Penn State has the huge revenge factor after last year’s 42-39 loss at Heinz Field, which ultimately kept it out of the College Football Playoff.
If the Lions get a chance to roll up the score, bank on them doing so.
With regards to the point spread, PSU’s offense got so good so fast last season that Vegas couldn’t keep up. The Lions have gone 12-3 against the spread since the start of last year, so don’t be surprised if Vegas starts to overcorrect and begins raising PSU’s spreads to even higher-than-expected figures.
Opponent quiet this week
For the second straight season against PSU, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi will not allow his players to speak to the media this week. It worked last year as the Panthers stormed out to a 28-7 lead and wound up holding on for the win.
Look, most sports fans probably don’t care about whether players talk to the media or not before games. That’s fine.
But understand that, during a week like this, all of us in the media are trying to tell the best stories about this rivalry from both perspectives, because Saturday’s game means a great deal to so many people from both fan bases.
So for Narduzzi to pull this nonsense once again is just silly. And if you think I’m trying to bash Pitt, let me add that it also was silly when Joe Paterno did the same thing on rare occasions by not letting his players talk before or after a game.
Despite what you may have heard from a particular someone, the media is not the enemy of this country. We exist to tell stories, and we can’t tell the best ones in college football when a coach decides to silence his players.
SUBHD: Heisman hype
Penn State already has begun the Saquon Barkley Heisman Trophy campaign, albeit subtly and without much fanfare.
If you go to Barkley’s biography page on the official Penn State website, it automatically redirects to a page that includes an impressive variety of highlight videos, stats, quotes and achievements by the standout junior running back.
At the top left of the page is the hashtag #HappyValleyHeisman.
Barkley gained 246 all-purpose yards in Saturday’s win over Akron, including 174 on the ground and 54 through the air. He also scored two touchdowns and broke off an 80-yard run.
Sports Illustrated has Barkley listed as the No. 1 Heisman candidate after week one.
SUBHD: Miller update
Penn State defensive end Shareef Miller missed almost all of Saturday’s game after hobbling off the field early with what appeared to be a leg injury.
The injury isn’t too bad, based on what Miller tweeted Sunday.
“I want to thank everyone that concern about me I’m Fine and will be back for Pitt next week,” Miller wrote.
Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM.