Week 1 - Florida State vs. Pitt

Posted Aug 30, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Predictions - Florida State vs. Pitt

Florida State (0-0) at Pittsburgh (0-0) Sept. 2, 8:00, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Florida State and Pitt are jumping right into conference play. Yup, realignment has generated some funky in-league bedfellows.

The Panthers will leap right into ACC play with a Labor Day visit from one of the conference's traditional powers. The opener marks the start of head coach Paul Chryst's second season, as well as an opportunity to make a statement in front of a national audience. Now that Pitt finally has some stability on the sidelines, it wants to begin expanding its talent pool so that it can be competitive in its new league.

The slow burn that has been Florida State under Jimbo Fisher reached a boiling point with last season's 12 wins, conference championship and Orange Bowl disposal of Northern Illinois. Still, the ‘Noles are hardly content, looking to remain on top of the ACC, while inching closer to national title contention. The program is obviously flush with talent, but how quickly will the next generation be ready to sprint with the baton? Eleven FSU players were drafted in April, including three in the opening round.
Why Florida State Might Win: Yeah, the roster is getting a facelift, but the running game has a chance to be downright dominant. Pitt DT Aaron Donald is terrific, but there's not enough talent surrounding him to combat the Seminoles' O-line. Tre' Jackson, Josue Matias and Bryan Stork are road graders on the inside, creating space for the backfield trio of James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and Mario Pender. Florida State's ability to control the line and pick up chunk yards on first down will simplify the debut of redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston.
Why Pittsburgh Might Win: The Panthers are catching the Seminoles at a most opportune time. Florida State must go on the road with an inexperienced quarterback and a two-deep speckled with young faces. Pitt is capable of keeping this opener close if the line doesn't get consistently blown off the ball. The secondary will hold its own with a corps of FSU receivers that's been depleted by injuries. S Jason Hendricks and corners Lafayette Pitts and K'Waun Williams are capable of frustrating Winston to make the ‘Noles one-dimensional.
Who To Watch Out For: The uncommonly poised Winston has a tremendous future ahead. But opening weekend in a hostile environment is really going to test his mettle.

- Pitt's biggest problem will be containing the Florida State D-line. Yes, the ‘Noles were gutted by graduations, but don't shed a tear for new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. A new year means new stars, such as NG Timmy Jernigan and DE Mario Edwards Jr.

- Panther Devin Street is a fine wide receiver. Big plays, though, will come at a premium as he tries to shake loose from an air-tight secondary that's led by CB Lamarcus Joyner.

- The Panthers are pinning their hopes this season on a quarterback who hasn't thrown a pass in almost three years. The Tom Savage saga has had many chapters, but Pitt hopes the best one has yet to be written.

What Will Happen: In theory, this sets up as a potential bear trap game for Florida State. In reality, the ‘Noles have too much speed, physicality and talent for an average Pitt squad. Since FSU will be starting a new era behind center, it'll get back to basics in order to cop a win at Heinz Field. It'll ground-and-pound with its bevy of backs on offense, while harassing Savage on D. The Panthers have a long way to go before toppling an opponent of this caliber.
Prediction: Florida State 33 … Pittsburgh 16
Line: Florida State -10.5 o/u: 49
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 3