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Best and worst case scenario: Pittsburgh

NCAA Football: Penn State at Pittsburgh
Sep 10, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner (24) carries the ball against Penn State Nittany Lions safety Malik Golden (6) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. PITT won 42-39. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last week while filling out my best and worst case scenario for Central Michigan, I made a mistake. I forgot to account for the events that transpired last Saturday. That literally was the worst case scenario. I’ll try not to let it happen again.

However, I’ve moved on and that’s the last time I’m bringing up Central Michigan. It’s time to stripe the stadium for a solid Pittsburgh team that comes in undefeated at 2-0, fresh off a win over Penn State. James Conner is the real deal on and off the field, and the Cowboys offensive line will need to be ready for a defensive line that leads the NCAA in sacks.

So without further ado, let’s try to predict the best and worst case scenario for week three.

Best Case:

I’ve seen some interesting optimistic comparisons on social media to the 2013 team, who rebounded from a disappointing loss to West Virginia early in the season, and competed for a Big 12 championship while winning 10 games. That would be nice, but the key thing that sparked the 2013 was a change in quarterback. That’s not the answer here, but in a best-case scenario, Rudolph bounces back like the quarterback we know he is. Rudolph looks a lot more comfortable and confident in the pocket, while receivers do a better job of getting open. The offensive line is going up against one of the best defensive lines in the country, so there’s plenty of reason to be worried about the run game. But if Rudolph can get the ball out quick and efficiently and set up the passing game, theoretically that should set up the run game. Right? I think that’s how it works in other offenses, but it’s been a few years since I’ve watched a good run game so my memory is a little clouded.

Defensively, James Conner is a stud. He beat cancer, and he’s more than capable of beating the Oklahoma State run defense. But if Villanova can hold him to 53 yards on 17 carries like they did in week one, Oklahoma State should be able to put up an equal, or better, performance on the Heisman candidate. Whether or not the defense can stop Conner in the rushing and passing game will be one of the key factors of this game. If they do, the Cowboys win this game. Maybe even comfortably.

Worst Case:

Oklahoma State is still hungover from last week, and Pitt jumps out early and never lets up. For the record, I don’t think Oklahoma State will come out flat, but I’m definitely not saying it won’t happen. Nobody is sure where the maturity of this team is at, but we will know by around 6 p.m. tonight. How Oklahoma State responds today will tell us all we know about this team moving forward. And if they came out like a lot of us are fearing they will, it might be a long game/season. Conner rushes for 200 yards and two scores on the ground, while also scoring another touchdown as a receiver. Last week, Penn State couldn’t contain Conner as he rushed for 117 yards and score. He also caught a touchdown pass in the Panthers 42-39 win. We could be in for a similar result if Conner gets his way.

The offense also has its fair share of question marks, starting with Mason Rudolph. Rudolph has shown more confidence on the road in Norman, than he did at home against Central Michigan. Worst case scenario is that trend carries over to today. The offensive line probably won’t give Rudolph much time anyway, resulting in three, yes three, interceptions. Five sacks isn’t even a stretch at this point, which would pretty much guarantee a loss.

I personally think Oklahoma State is going to win this game. I am also partial towards Oklahoma State. Regardless, we’re going to know a lot about where this team stands, heading into Big 12 play.