2007 Pitt Panthers

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 Pitt Panthers Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 Pitt Panthers

Recap: If not for a spate of injuries, the past fall might have become the breakthrough season that Dave Wannstedt has been craving since returning to his alma mater.  Despite finishing out of the bowl picture for the third consecutive year, Pittsburgh will remember 2007 as the year it broke the seal on franchise RB LeSean McCoy, and ruined rival West Virginia's season in a one-for-the-ages Backyard Brawl.  The defense, ranked No. 7 nationally, kept the Panthers in plenty of games, but could have used a lot more help from an offense that sputtered too often in the red zone.           

Offensive Player of the Year: RB LeSean McCoy

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Scott McKillop

Biggest Surprise: Stunning No. 2 West Virginia, 13-9, in the regular season capper as a four-touchdown underdog.  Even in a zany season that was marked by upsets, no one could have seen this bombshell coming.  The Panthers got enough from the defense and the running game to throw the BCS into its familiar state of chaos as the year came to a close. 

Biggest Disappointment: Some poor officiating got in the way of Pitt's upset bid at Rutgers on Nov. 17.  On the brink of evening its record at 5-5, Panther WR Oderick Turner got flagged for a questionable pass interference after catching the apparent game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds remaining.  The loss dropped Pitt to 4-6, crushing any hopes for a bowl game.

Looking Ahead: Okay, we've heard this before, but this really could be the year Pittsburgh challenges for the Big East championship.  All signs point to a promising 2008 for the program if it can find a playmaker at quarterback out of injured veteran Bill Stull and sporadic rookie Pat Bostick.

- 2007 Pitt Preview
2006 Pitt Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 5-7

Sept. 1 Eastern Mich W 27-3
Sept. 8 Grambling W 34-10
Sept. 13 at Michigan St L 17-13
Sept. 22 Connecticut L 34-14
Sept. 29 at Virginia L 44-14
Oct. 10 Navy L 48-45 2OT
Oct. 20 Cincinnati W 24-17
Oct. 27 at Louisville L 24-17
Nov. 3
Syracuse W 20-17
Nov. 17 at Rutgers L 20-16
Nov. 24
South Florida L 48-37
Dec. 1 at West Virginia W 13-9

Dec. 1
Pitt 13 ... West Virginia 9
In an all-time stunner that ruined West Virginia's national title dream, Pitt got two Conor Lee field goals and a one-yard Pat Bostick touchdown run for all the points it would need. The defense held the high powered Mountaineer attack to 183 yards and just 104 on the ground. Pat White suffered a dislocated thumb, was in street clothes for a little while, and then came back into the game late. The Mountaineers had their chances, but two missed field goals early, and a throw out of the end zone on a desperation fourth down on their final play, helped the Panthers pull it off. Pitt held on to the ball for 36:19.
Player of the game: Pitt RB LeSean McCoy ran 38 times for 148 yards
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Pat White, 5-10, 50 yds
Rushing: Pat White, 14-41. Receiving: Darius Reynaud, 3-46
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 10-19, 67 yds, 2 INT
LeSean McCoy, 38-148. Receiving: Oderick Turner, 3-29
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense turned the intensity up a few notches against West Virginia with the type of game that'll set the tone for 2008, but will also leaves everyone wondering where this defense was all season long. The Mountaineers might have been painfully tight, but the Panthers also made things happen by not missing any tackles and making almost every right read. The offense was hardly special, but it also got hosed on two bad holding calls that would've led to big plays. LeSean McCoy is a superstar to build a team around; he'll be the league's hot new playmaker going into next year.

Nov. 24
South Florida 48 ... Pitt 37
South Florida got an 80-yard touchdown run from Matt Grothe and two interception returns four touchdowns as part of a 34 points second half to pull away from the Panthers. Pitt got three scoring runs from LeSean McCoy and two Pat Bostick touchdown passes, but they weren't nearly enough to overcome a 37-yard Nate Allen pick six in the third and a 21-yard Trae Williams interception for a touchdown in the fourth. USF's Tyrone McKenzie and Pitt's Scott McKillop each made 18 tackles.
Player of the game: South Florida QB Matt Grothe completed 17 of 23 passes for 159 yards and ran 12 times for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 17-23, 159 yds
Rushing: Matt Grothe, 12-67, 1 TD. Receiving: Carlton Mitchell, 5-32
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 24-37, 298 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
LeSean McCoy, 18-55, 3 TD. Receiving: T.J. Porter, 7-74
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offense has to stop turning the ball over in key situations. Pat Bostick has struggled with interceptions at the worst possible moments over the past few weeks while the defense didn't do enough this week to get South Florida off the field. The team still lacks the know-how to make plays to win. It's been in positions to come up with one or two plays to turn games around, and it can't seem to do it. Now comes the biggest challenge against West Virginia with a chance to ruin a national title dream. To have any prayer, the linebacking corps has to do a better job of being in the right position while the offense has to be mistake-free.

Nov. 17
Rutgers 20 ... Pitt 16
Rutgers got a 30-yard Jeremy Ito field goal, his second of the game, midway through the fourth quarter, and it turned out to make all the different as Pitt had a chance late, but Pat Bostick was picked off by Devin McCourty in the end zone. Mike Teel connected with Kenny Britt for a 53-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and Ray Rice ran for a 28-yard score in the second for 17-10 Rutgers lead with Pitt only managing two of Conor Lee's three field goals in the second half. The two teams combined for eight sacks.
Player of the game: In the loss, Pitt LB Scott McKillop made 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2. 5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, an interception and two broken up passes.
Stat Leaders: Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 3-9, 98 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Ray Rice, 26-112, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenny Britt, 3-82, 1 TD
Pitt - Passing: Kevan Smith, 7-11, 81 yds
LeSean McCoy, 22-60. Receiving:
T.J. Porter, 4-44
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Pitt offensive line couldn't keep the quarterbacks from getting popped by Rutgers all game long. LeSean McCoy was all but erased from the gameplan, Pitt didn't do enough to crank out touchdowns instead of field goals, and now all bowl dreams are realistically gone even with two games remaining. On the plus side, the defense was terrific with an all-timer of a game from LB Scott McKillop. Outside of about three key plays, Pitt shut the Scarlet Knights down.

Nov. 3
Pitt 20 ... Syracuse 17
Pitt broke open a 10-10 tie with a one-yard LeSean McCoy touchdown run and a 32-yard Conor Lee field goal in the fourth, and then had to hang on, as Mike Williams caught a three-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 to play. After stopping McCoy on a fourth and one, SU got the ball to midfield in the final minute, but a fourth down pass was incomplete. The two teams combined for just 559 yards and converted just six of 30 third down conversion chances.
Player of the game: Pitt RB LeSean McCoy ran 31 times for 140 yards and a touchdown, and caught five passes for 12 yards
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Cameron Dantley, 15-27, 189 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Max Suter, 6-27. Receiving: Mike Williams, 8-81, 1 TD
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 21-30, 153 yds, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy, 31-140, 1 TD. Receiving: Oderick Turner, 5-54, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It might not have been pretty, but Pitt needed the win over Syracuse no matter how it looked. The defense did a terrific job against the run, led by big days from Scott McKillop and Joe Clermond, but Pat Bostick struggled with his passes on third downs and the offense wasn't consistent. There's still time to pull out a bowl eligible season, needing to win two of the final three games. However, to beat Rutgers, South Florida and/or West Virginia, there needs to be far more pop to the attack outside of LeSean McCoy.

Oct. 27
Louisville 24 ... Pitt 17
Louisville got two first half Brian Brohm touchdown passes, but needed a one-yard Brock Bolen scoring run in the final two minutes, and a goal line stand, to hang on. Pitt hung around with a 27-yard LeSean McCoy scoring play in the first half, and a seven-yard touchdown run in the second. Despite his huge game, McCoy fumbled on first and goal from the one in the final minute with the Panthers down seven, and the Cardinal hung on. The two teams combined to convert six of 24 third down chances.
Player of the game: Louisville QB Brian Brohm completed 21 of 30 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
Stat Leaders: Louisville - Passing: Brian Brohm, 21-30, 236 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brock Bolen, 11-52, 1 TD. Receiving: Harry Douglas, 6-63, 1 TD
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 10-20, 136 yds
LeSean McCoy, 26-120, 1 TD. Receiving: LeSean McCoy, 3-60, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... LeSean McCoy has become Pitt's offense. Pat Bostick isn't getting to open it up at all, while it's all about getting the ball to the franchise back and letting him work. The defense did a solid job against Louisville, but not good enough early on. Now comes the desperately-needed easy game against Syracuse before a tough finishing kick, and now there's little margin for error if the Panthers have any hope for a bowl bid. To get it, Bostick needs to do more.

Oct. 20
Pitt 24 ... Cincinnati 17
Pitt ran for 260 yards, with LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens each going over 100 yards, with Stephens running for a one-yard touchdown with just over five minutes to play to take the lead for good. Conor Lee added field goals from 41, 25 and 27 yards out. Cincy appeared on the way to an easy win early on with a quick 10-0 lead helped by a Ben Mauk one-yard touchdown run and a field goal off a missed fourth and one call deep in Pitt territory. But the Panthers would bounce back, tying it up with a four-yard Darrell Strong touchdown catch, and dominating in the second half. Scott McKillop made 16 tackles for the Panthers.
Player of the game: Pitt RBs LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens combined for 237 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 21-32, 237 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Ben Mauk, 10-94, 1 TD. Receiving: Marshawn Gilyard, 5-45
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 18-29, 167 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
LeSean McCoy, 25-137. Receiving: T.J. Porter, 7-85
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Just when you think you know Pitt, it comes out and runs all over a good team like Cincinnati. Considering how down the team was after the loss to Navy, give the coaching staff credit for bouncing back and stuffing the Bearcat offense cold in the second half, while getting a good, efficient games from all the parts of the offense. There were too many field goals off promising drives, but at this point, it was a good win to break the four-game losing streak nd get back in the hunt for a bowl game.

Oct. 10
Navy 48 ... Pitt 45 2OT
Down three in the second overtime on the Navy two, Pitt chose to go for it on fourth down, and missed, as Pat Bostick's throw on a fade pattern got broken up. In a wild game, Navy had a chance to win in regulation, but Joey Bullen's 49-yard kick fell way short as time expired. Bostick ran for a one-yard score to put Pitt up in the first overtime, and Navy responded on its first play with a Reggie Campbell 25-yard touchdown catch. Bullen nailed a 29-yard field goal in the second overtime. LeSean McCoy ran for three touchdowns for the Panthers, while Navy got three Campbell scores, along with short touchdown runs from Adam Ballard, Shun White and
Kaipo Noa Kaheaku-Enhada in the see-saw battle. The two teams combined for 558 rushing yards.
Player of the game: Navy QB Kaipo Noa Kaheaku-Enhada ran 25 times for 122 yards and a touchdown, and completed nine of 12 passes for 166 yards and two scores
Stat Leaders: Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 20-28, 191 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: LeSean McCoy, 32-165, 3 TD. Receiving: Oderick Turner, 6-74, 1 TD
Navy - Passing: Kaipo Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, 9-12, 166 yds, 2 TD
Kaipo Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, 25-122, 1 TD. Receiving: Tyree Barnes, 3-58

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Against Navy, Pitt had the ball third and goal from two in the second overtime. LeSean McCoy had been running wild all night, and the Navy defensive line had been beaten down by the far bigger Panther O line. Instead of pounding it with McCoy twice, Dave Wannstedt and his staff called a pass, it missed, and then instead of kicking the field goal for a third overtime, and instead of running it, threw a risky fade pattern that was easily broken up. That sums up the Panthers. They weren't physical enough on defense, never adjusted in time, and couldn't handle Navy's passing game. This is supposed to be a defensive-minded coaching staff, and it didn't have any answers.

Sept. 29
Virginia 44 ... Pitt 14
Virginia scored the first 30 points of the game, all in the first half, as Jameel Sewell connected with Jonathan Stupar, Tom Santi, and Rashawn Jackson for touchdowns, and Cedric Peerman got the first of his two touchdown runs. Pitt pushed its way into the game with a LeSean McCoy one-yard touchdown run and a two-yard Oderick Turner two-yard scoring grab, but Peerman scored from 13 yards out and Vic Hall put it well out of reach with a four-yard scoring dash.
Player of the game: Virginia RB Cedric Peerman ran 24 times for 87 yards and two scores and caught four passes for 44 yards
Stat Leaders: Virginia
- Passing: Jameel Sewell, 16-31-169 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Cedric Peerman, 24-87, 2 TD. Receiving: Cedric Peerman, 4-44
- Passing: Pat Bostick, 18-31, 181 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: LeSean McCoy, 19-86, 1 TD. Receiving: T.J. Porter, 5-55
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The wheels have completely come off defensively. It's not like the D is giving up a ton of yards, but it's not coming up with a clutch stop, and it's not doing anything to change games. Connecticut and Virginia aren't offensive juggernauts, but they had little problem scoring points on the Panthers to put their respective games away. The running game isn't working, with no one respecting the passing game, and there haven't been any home runs or long drives. If the O isn't getting good field position, there's a problem. With 11 penalties for 139 yards, there are focus issues.

Sept. 22
Connecticut 34 ... Pitt 14
Connecticut's offense wasn't sharp, but it didn't have to be, with the defense forcing six turnovers highlighted by a 51-yard Lawrence Wilson interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.  Danny Lansanah came up with an interception on the third play of the game, and Lou Allen cashed it in with a one-yard touchdown run as part of a 10-0 first quarter lead. Pitt's main highlight came on a 19-yard LeSean McCoy touchdown run early in the second quarter, but the UConn offense went on its two best drives of the day, with Allen and Donald Brown running for short scores, with Allen's one-yard dash coming with 32 seconds to play. A sack forced a fumble, and UConn converted with a 39-yard Tony Ciaravino field goal with no time left on the clock. In the second half, Pitt only managed a 21-yard Oderick Turner touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Connecticut LB Lawrence Wilson made 11 tackles, a tackle for loss, and picked off a pass for a 51-yard touchdown
Stat Leaders: Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 12-25, 174 yds
Donald Brown, 18-53, 1 TD. Receiving: D.J. Hernandez, 3-50
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 27-41, 230 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
LeSean McCoy, 11-70, 1 TD. Receiving: Darrell Strong, 6-73

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Pitt needs to be able to hang its hat on something offensively. Six turnovers and an inability to keep things moving on third downs allowed Connecticut to get poor play from the offense, but win with ease. Pat Bostick came up with some good throws, but the three interceptions proved costly, and Kevan Smith didn't move the team. Right now, the attack has to be centered around the running game. That's easier said than done if the Panthers get down early, but LeSean McCoy is the one to get the ball to until the passing attack comes around.

Sept. 15
Michigan State 17 ... Pitt 13
Pitt had one last gasp, but a bomb into the end zone fell incomplete to allow Michigan State a chance to finally exhale. The Spartans got a two-yard Jehuu Caulcrick touchdown run and a 31-yard interception return for a score in the second quarter, but could only manage a 23-yard Brett Swenson field goal the rest of the way. Pitt got a 64-yard LeSean McCoy touchdown dash in the second quarter, but could only manage to Conor Lee field goals the rest of the way.
Player of the game: Michigan State DE Jonal Saint-Dic had five tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.
Stat Leaders: Pittsburgh - Passing: Kevan Smith, 9-18, 85 yds, 2 INTs
Rushing: LeSean McCoy, 25-172, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcel Pestano, 3-30
Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 14-28, 183 yds
Javon Ringer, 20-92. Receiving: Devin Thomas, 3-53
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Considering all the injury issues, and a new starting quarterback, Pitt did an impressive job of staying with Michigan State until the end. The Panthers always seem to have good young running backs, but LeSean McCoy appears to be special. He's a sorely needed playmaker to revolve the offense around until Kevan Smith figures out what he's doing. The passing attack was abysmal, and the offense was 0-for-12 on third downs.

Sept. 8
Pitt 34 ... Grambling State 10
Pitt rolled past Grambling State thanks to three first quarter touchdown runs from LeSean McCoy and an efficient day from new starting quarterback Kevan Smith. GSU crept back into it with a 29-yard Clyde Edwards touchdown catch and a 35-yard field goal, but Pitt scored the final 13 points of the game on two Conor Lee field goals and a 50-yard Nate Byham scoring grab.
Player of the game ... Pitt RB LeSean McCoy ran 19 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Grambling State - Passing: Brandon Landers, 19-40, 155 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Cornelius Walker, 12-54 Receiving: Clyde Edwards, 5-59, 1 TD
Pittsburgh - Passing: Kevan Smith, 15-22, 202 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
LeSean McCoy, 19-107, 3 TD  Receiving: Oderick Turner, 4-74
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It was only a blowout win over Grambling State, but Pitt needed a good game out of QB Kevan Smith, in place of the injured Bill Stull, and got it. The running game was the story early on, as GSU penalties were the major problem over the course of the game, but Pitt did what it was supposed to do considering there were some big concerns. Now, the running game has to be better for a full sixty minutes, and the run defense has to stiffen with a trop to Michigan State coming up. Smith will have to be even more efficient.

Sept. 1
Pitt 27 ... Eastern Michigan 3
Pitt had few problems with Eastern Michigan, but it took a quarter. The Eagles struck first on a 27-yard Sean Dutcher field goal, and then Pitt reeled off 27 unanswered points as Shane Brooks ran for two one-yard scores, Bill Stull hit Oderick Turner on a 21-yard touchdown pass, and Conor Lee nailed two fourth quarter field goals. The defense held EMU to just eight first downs and 145 yards of total offense, while the Panther attack held on to the ball for close to 22 minutes of the second half.
Player of the game ... Pitt QB Bill Stull went 14-of-20 for 177 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game injured.
Stat Leaders: Eastern Michigan Passing: Andy Schmitt, 16-27, 106 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Pierre Walker, 11-30  Receiving: Travis Lewis, 5-52
Pittsburgh - Passing: Bill Stull, 14-20, 177 yds, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy, 10-68  Receiving: Marcel Pestano, 3-72
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Pitt might have beaten Eastern Michigan, but it suffered a big blow with QB Bill Stull suffering a thumb injury that'll require surgery. That's not a big deal for next week with Grambling coming up, but the rest of the team will have to step up their play if he's not back against Michigan State and Connecticut. Against the Eagles, the defense stifling and Dave Brytus had a huge day punting the ball. He bailed the Panthers out of a few jams. The combination of LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling was solid with 135 yards on just 26 carries.

Sept. 1 - Eastern Michigan
Offense: EMU's defense hasn't been productive in years, but if there's not a major improvement this year with ten starters returning along with a slew of experienced depth, it might never happen. Junior Daniel Holtzclaw is a superstar middle linebacker who'll be the one the rest of the defense revolves around. Tackles Jason Jones and Josh Hunt can't stop the run, but they're regulars in opposing backfields. As long as the corners and ends start to produce, and the experience and quickness at all spots makes up for a general lack of size, things should be better after finishing 116th in the nation against run and 98th in total defense.
Defense: New offensive coordinator Scott Ispohording has his work cut out for him despite getting seven starters back along with a ton of experienced depth. The supposed wide-open offense was awful with no ground game from the running backs and even less of a passing attack with quarterbacks Andy Schmitt and Tyler Jones basically running, running and running some more. The line should be better with three returning starters and a decent interior, but the offense won't go anywhere unless Pierre Walker, or possible Jones, turns into a reliable tailback. The loss of top receiver Eric Deslauriers means the passing game will be spread out among several options with the hope for former quarterback Dontayo Gage to turn into a true number one.

Sept. 8 - Grambling

Sept. 13 – at Michigan State
Offense: In keeping with the overall belief system of the new coaching staff, the offense will try to become more physical and should play to the strength, which will be running the ball. The line is big, and now has to start hitting to open things up for the speedy duo of Javon Ringer and A.J. Jimmerson and the pounding Jehuu Caulcrick. All eyes will be on Brian Hoyer, who might not be Drew Stanton talent-wise, but should be a more consistent quarterback as long as the receiving corps, which loses the top three targets, becomes productive right away.
Defense: The aggressive, attacking approach didn't work under the old regime, and now the new coaching staff will want to play it a bit closer to the vest to start, and then will start to make big plays as everyone figures out their roles. There won't be too many bells and whistles in the basic 4-3, but some chances will need to be taken, and head coach Mark Dantonio is great at adjusting and forcing teams out of their gameplans, after not doing much to generate any pressure in the backfield last year. A pass rusher has to emerge, but the overall potential is there to be better with Otis Wiley and Nehemiah Warrick good safeties to build around, while the linebackers should be one of the team's biggest strengths. The line is the key after a few awful years of doing a lot of nothing.

Sept. 22 - Connecticut
Offense: For two years running, the Husky offense has been painfully inept, particularly in the passing game.  Tyler Lorenzen was recruited from the ranks of the junior colleges to specifically address that vertical shortcoming.  His arrival pushed D.J. Hernandez to slot receiver and set up a heated competition with sophomore Dennis Brown that'll resume in August.  While quarterback is a question mark, running back is not.  Sophomore Donald Brown exploded on to the scene in 2006 with almost 700 yards and five scores in a torrid five-game stretch to finish the season.  With a bunch of linemen back, he's poised for a monster season in an offense that still uses the run to set up the pass.
Defense: The bend-but-don't-break Huskies snapped like a toothpick in 2006.  The main culprit was a run defense that couldn't slow down anyone not named Rhode Island.  Things don't get any easier this year, as the unit will be looking for ways to replace both of last year's starting tackles.  Uh-oh.  Led by senior linebacker Danny Lansanah and junior corner Darius Butler, the back seven will be picking up a lot of the slack on Saturdays.  Expect the pass rush that produced only 11 sacks in the final eight games to get a spark from the returns of junior Cody Brown and sophomore Lindsey Witten, disruptive ends that'll be on the line together for the first time in September.

Sept. 29 – at Virginia
Offense: Until the receivers prove they can play, it'll be run, run and run some more with mobile quarterback Jameel Sewell and decent backs Cedric Peerman and Keith Payne working behind a much improved, veteran line. The tight ends are excellent, but the receiving corps suffered a nasty blow when it lost leading receiver Kevin Ogletree with a knee injury. Now it'll be up to Sewell, a rising star but an inconsistent passer, to make everyone around him better. Don't expect anything flashy for a while.
Defense: Somewhat quietly, the Virginia defense had a terrific year finishing 17th in the nation in total D and 22nd in scoring D. It should be even better with ten starters returning, including top linemen Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald to anchor the front three. All four starting linebackers are back to form a solid group that doesn't make a whole bunch of mistakes. This might not be the most athletic defense, but it's aggressive and is always around the ball.

Oct. 10 - Navy
Offense: Navy led the nation in rushing in 2005, led the nation in rushing in 2006, and will lead the nation in rushing in 2007. What's the difference? The ground game will be terrific as always, but now it'll be truly special with the best combination of backfield talent and experience head coach Paul Johnson has ever had. There won't be any passing game, but it won't matter with a ground attack that can crank out a big run from anywhere on the field. The big concern will be the line with no experience among the backups whatsoever and a shaky starting five if left tackle Josh Meek's injured knee isn't healthy.
Uh oh. Wholesale changes need to be made with only three starters and seven lettermen returning. The best defense will be a good offense needing the ground game to crank out long drives to keep this inexperienced, woefully undersized, untested group off the field. Pass rushers need to emerge with the hope for Chris Kuhar-Pitters and Casey Hebert to turn into playmakers around rising star tackle Nate Frazier. Clint Sovie and Irv Spencer will turn into reliable inside linebackers, but outside linebacker will be a question. The secondary will be a work in progress around solid corner Rashawn King.

Oct. 20 - Cincinnati
Offense: Take whatever you knew about last year's Cincy offense and delete it.  Nothing will be the same, as Brian Kelly and his staff dismantle Mark Dantonio's plodding run game in favor of a fancy spread attack.  There'll be growing pains, to be sure, but by mid-season, there should also be improvement if a consistent quarterback, such as Wake Forest transfer Ben Mauk, develops and the line adjusts to a zone blocking scheme.  A receiving corps that's led by juniors Derrick Stewart, Dominick Goodman and Connor Barwin has a chance to blow up in the new system.
Defense: That Bearcat defense, which was so stingy a year ago, returns almost virtually intact.  The unit is small, but very quick from sideline to sideline, and prone to swarming anyone with the ball in his hands.  It all starts up front with a line that welcomes back four players with starting experience, including its figurehead, junior tackle Terrill Byrd.  Junior cornerback Mike Mickens is one of the best unknown cornerbacks in the country and the kind of defender that can shut down the opposition's No. 1 receiver.  While the offense takes time to adjust to a new system, the defense is going to keep Cincy in plenty of games.

Oct. 27 – at Louisville
Offense: The coaching staff is new, but the results won't differ much from last season when Louisville rung up 37 points and 475 yards a game.  The Cardinals will spread the field and ask future first round draft choice Brian Brohm to distribute the ball to his plethora of playmakers.  Brohm's embarrassment of riches at receiver includes senior Harry Douglas, junior Mario Urrutia and senior Gary Barnidge, who combined for 159 receptions and 16 touchdowns in 2006.  Head coach Steve Kragthorpe and offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs love leaning on the tight end, so Barnidge could be particularly busy this fall.  Even without Michael Bush the running game is in good shape with the returns of Anthony Allen and George Stripling, a thunder and lightning combo that had 20 touchdowns a year ago.  If Kragthorpe was able to supercharge the Tulsa offense, just imagine what he'll do with all the resources they have in Louisville.
Defense: Not unlike the offense, the Cardinal D is aggressive, unpredictable and built on speed.  They'll attack regularly which often means sacks, turnovers and the occasional busted play that goes for 65 yards.  The latter could happen a little more frequently in 2007, as the secondary adjusts to three new starters and uncertainty at cornerback.  Even without All-American tackle Amobi Okoye, the defensive line figures to be among the best in the Big East.  Sophomore end Peanut Whitehead and junior tackle Earl Heyman aren't household names today, but both have the explosiveness to change that by November.  Senior linebacker Malik Jackson is a disruptive force with enough range to wreak havoc all over the field.

Nov. 3 - Syracuse
Offense: The pieces are there among the skill players for a night-and-day improvement from last year's putrid attack that cranked out a mere 264 yards and 17.4 points per game. The receiving cops, helped by the return of Taj Smith from injury, should be one of the best in the Big East, while Curtis Brinkley is a good back to work around. Sophomore QB Andrew Robinson is a star in the making, but he'll have a hard time with his consistency behind an offensive line that needs work even with three starters returning in the interior.
Defense: It might take a little while, but the D will improve as the season goes on, it struggled in every area but getting into the backfield, and with a strong defensive line returning, led be end Jameel McClain, generating pressure won't be much of a problem. The linebacking corps will be a work in progress with three news starters, but the excellent safety tandem of Dowayne Davis and Joe Fields should clean up plenty of messes.

Nov. 17 – at Rutgers
Offense: Although Rutgers is more than content to pound the ball between the tackles 30 times a game with All-America running back Ray Rice, it wouldn't mind a little more offensive balance this year.  Whether that happens depends on the development of junior quarterback Mike Teel who struggled badly last year, but did play his best ball at the end of the year and has a speedy group of receivers needed to author a rebound.  While question marks exist on the interior of the offensive line, the tackle tandem of seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah is one of the best in the country.
Defense: For Greg Schiano and his Rutgers defense, it's all about creating pressure and turnovers with a variety of different looks to confuse opposing offenses.  Everything came together last year for a unit that had 31 takeaways and allowed just 252 yards and 14 points a game, but five starters need to be replaced.  Senior defensive tackle Eric Foster is a ticking time bomb that exploded on quarterbacks in 2006, en route to All-America recognition.  He's the physical and spiritual leader of a front seven that's noticeably less experienced than last year.  Provided sophomore Devin McCourty can handle the corner spot opposite twin brother Jason, the secondary will rock with the return of all-league safeties, Courtney Greene and Ron Girault.

Nov. 24 - South Florida
Offense: This is Matt Grothe's offense, but unlike last season, he shouldn't have to do everything short of crafting the weekly gameplan in order to make the unit hum.  Although he led the offense in passing, rushing and scoring, the program realizes it needs to protect its most important commodity and give him more support.  Can freshman Mike Ford live up to the hype?  Plenty is expected from a back that should ignite a rushing attack that did little in 2006 when Grothe wasn't slithering through opposing defenses.  Originally headed to Tuscaloosa, he's the highest-profile recruit to ever sign with USF.  The Bull receivers are a dynamic bunch that's loaded with size, speed and underachievers that need to get their act together.
Defense: Like all teams from Florida, the USF defense pursues well and is built on speed.  Wally Burnham's unit is well-coached, prevents the big play and is vastly underappreciated and unnoticed on a national level.  That could change if the Bulls crack the top 10 in total defense in 2007, a distinct possibility.  Next level corners Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins allow the defense to sell out on occasion, and the front four, led by sophomore rush end George Selvie, returns seven linemen that started games in 2006.  Importing defensive line coach Dan McCarney and linebacker Tyrone McKenzie from Iowa State were coups that'll pay immediate dividends.

Dec. 1 – at West Virginia
Offense: Unlike most schools that run the spread offense, West Virginia aims to open lanes for its prolific ground game, rarely putting the ball in the air more than 20 times a game.  The Mountaineers want the ball in the hands of its two junior Heisman candidates, quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton.  Along with receiver Darius Reynaud, they form the fastest offensive trio in America, and are threats for six with even a hint of daylight.  White is an underrated passer that rarely misses his target, but needs more help from a receiving corps that's suspect after Reynaud.  Few schools rebuild on the offensive line better than West Virginia, but how will the unit react without its long-time quarterback Dan Mozes and long-time coach Rick Trickett?
Defense: Lost in all the yards the Mountaineer offense gained in 2006 was all the yards the defense allowed.  West Virginia allowed 35 or more points three times last fall and was torched through the air repeatedly over the second half of the year.  Worse, this once relentless defense had trouble getting to the quarterback and looked a step slow.  Rich Rodriguez is banking on a few tweaks to the back eight and an influx of faster players as the solutions in the team's 3-3-5 stack formation.  Led by playmaking senior safety Eric Wicks, the secondary has a glut of really talented athletes that need to gel into a cohesive unit.



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