Plant The Spear: Pitt Panthers
Plant The Spear is a weekly column previewing the upcoming matchup for the Florida State Seminoles. As a newly anointed father, I decided that it would be best to talk about the things that really matter to fans - tailgating, food, out-of-town watering holes, weather, betting lines and of course, cheerleaders - never forget the cheerleaders. If you're looking for your typically stuffy and recycled game preview that practically every other sports website has, don't read this. Go somewhere else
*Author's Note* As always, this is a No Homer Zone. Regardless of my membership with the Seminole Boosters,?or my being a Seminole fan since I was 10 (I'm 32 now), or?the fact that my wife is an FSU grad. I'm a college football fan above all else, and you-the fans, deserve a voice of the people.?With all ?that being said.....Go Noles!
FSU opens the 2013 season by traveling to Pitt on Labor Day night and welcoming the Panthers to the ACC.? Pitt jumps over to the ACC from the old Big East conference, joining the ACC's Coastal division with old conference foes Miami and Virginia Tech. This prime-time 8 pm ESPN showdown between the Noles and Panthers will mark the much-anticipated debut of Jameis Winston, FSU's highly touted redshirt freshman quarterback. Winston was the top QB prospect coming out of high school in 2012, and after only one year of learning FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher's system is ready to take the reins for the Noles. FSU must also replace the senior leadership of departed QB EJ Manuel, who was one of 11 Noles selected in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Panthers have the ability to be a tough out for FSU, as the Panthers opened last season at home with a pounding of another ACC opponent, Virginia Tech. Pitt also had Notre Dame on the ropes about 30 times in their game in South Bend last season, but just couldn't pull off the upset. Heinz Field should be just about (if not) at capacity for the season/conference opener, and with nearly an entire weekend to tailgate, the fans should be just a tad rowdy.
What Pitt's Working With:
Why FSU Will Win:
Yes, FSU lost 11 players to the NFL draft. Yes, redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is starting his first ever game at QB for the Noles on the road. Blah, blah, blah. Without running the risk of seeming overconfident or a homer, the Noles just have too much talent on both sides of the ball to let this one slip away. If the FSU offensive line can stay healthy, the unit will prove to be one of the best in the nation. Add to that the weapons like running backs James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and wide receivers Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin and you start to feel pretty good about a redshirt freshman starting behind center. Jimbo Fisher will establish the running game early, taking the pressure off Winston and imposing their will upon the Pitt defense.
On defense, the Noles simply reload. FSU is actually more experienced this season than last, and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (from the Nick Saban coaching tree) will make the most out of the loaded cupboard of talent that he has. (Lamarcus Joyner in the secondary, Christian Jones causing nightmares from the linebacker position, and Timmy Jernigan clogging up the middle - like when you eat blocks and blocks of cheddar, that clogged up) Pruitt's new scheme will look to blitz more, cause more chaos in the backfield, and ultimately create more turnovers and potential points for the Noles. Pitt ranked #92 in rushing last season, and I'm afraid it won't get any better against the Seminoles. Also look for journeyman (from Rutgers to Arizon to Pitt) QB Tom Savage to have a long night as well, although I wouldn't be surprised to see a TD pass due to a first game miscommunication or breakdown in the secondary.
What Worries Me:
What worries me is that the Noles think like I do. Pitt is still a decent D1 team playing at home in front of an energized crowd and prime-time TV audience. Pitt took Notre Dame down to the wire last season, and a good chunk of that defense returns this season. Pitt will no doubt look to put the pressure on Jameis Winston early and often to try and rattle the freshman in his first ever collegiate game, loading the box against the talented FSU backs and forcing Winston to beat the Panthers with his arm. If the Panthers are successful in rattling the young signal caller, it could be a long and frustrating night for the Noles. The longer Pitt hangs around, the more they will start to believe, and then anything can happen at that point. Look at what McNeese St. did to USF (Bad example, McNeese destroyed USF the entire game). Regardless, Jimbo and the Noles need to crush the spirit of the Panthers early on and bring the pain for 60 minutes. If there is at least a small glimmer of hope on the Pitt sideline, FSU needs to rip out the skull and spine just like our buddy, The Predator, would.
Weather: 73* at kickoff / Isolated Showers / 30% Chance of Rain
Vegas: Florida State -11 / Over-Under: 49
Prediction: Season openers are typically filled with sloppiness, miscues and jitters - I expect tonight to be no exception. The Noles are better than Pitt in virtually every category, but as we all know, these games aren't played on paper (apologies for the lame sports metaphor, but it is true). Being at home under the lights will have Pitt hyped at the jump, but eventually the FSU running game and defense should wear them out as the game goes on.
FSU 34 - Pitt 16
Tailgate Food of the Week (Courtesy of Epic Meal Time):