Pitt Panthers Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

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Pitt Panthers Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Pitt season with what you need to know and keys to the season.

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Pitt Panthers Preview
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi, 53-37, 8th year at Pitt
2021 Preview: Overall: 11-3 Conference: 7-1
Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Pitt Top 10 Players | Pitt Schedule & Analysis

Pitt Panthers Preview 2022

Well that took a turn for the better in a big hurry.

Pitt was fine under Pat Narduzzi.

It was entertaining, it managed to get to bowl games, and it had several nice moments over the first six seasons, but it was just 42-34 with the lone bowl victory over an overmatched Eastern Michigan in way too much of a fight in your 2019 Quick Lane Bowl.

And then came the explosion, the passing game was amazing, and the program caught a break that it was Clemson’s down year.

2021 was the chance for everyone in the ACC to rise up and be the league’s star, and Pitt – not North Carolina, not Florida State, not Miami, not NC State – was able to do it.

Now Pitt can be a part of the explosive three-team club along with Clemson and Florida State that won an ACC Championship since 2010.

Even more, it’s been in two of the last four ACC title games. It’s been able to prove it belongs.

This year’s team might not be quite as wild, but it should be rock-solid with all the returning talent, the schedule works out, and there’s no Clemson to deal with …

Until the ACC Championship.

Pitt Panthers Preview 2022: Offense

Nothing stops. The Panthers might have lost Heisman finalist QB Kenny Pickett, and star WR Jordan Addison is off living his best life at USC, but new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will keep the passing fun going with former OC Mark Whipple off to bring his brand of fun to Nebraska.

The Panther offense finished last year eighth in the country overall and in passing, was third in scoring, and was able to bomb away in game after game up until the bowl loss to Michigan State when Pickett was sitting out. The stars might need to be replaced, but …

Shhhhhhhhhh, no one will say it out loud, but USC transfer QB Kedon Slovis might be a more talented player than Pickett. That’s not to say he’ll come up with the same production – Pickett grew into a fantastic decision-maker and big play passer – but it’s been lost in the narrative that last year was a massive fifth season jump.

That’s not to dog Pickett in any way – he really is/was great – but he didn’t throw more than 13 touchdown passes in any of his first four years, and then he bombed away for 42 scores.

Slovis threw 30 touchdown passes as a freshman, threw 17 touchdown passes in six games in 2020, and blow off the mess that was USC last year. The quarterback situation will be more than fine. Nick Patti is a more-than-capable backup and will push for time this fall camp.

Losing the 100 catches and 17 touchdowns of Addison stinks, but Jared Wayne is a big play target who caught 47 passes for 658 yards and six scores. On the way is Konata Mumpfield, a fantastic get from Akron who caught 63 passes with eight scores last year. Getting back pass catching TE Gavin Bartholomew is a big help, too.

The passing game will work with everyone getting time to do their thing because …

The offensive line should be outstanding. All five starters are expected back with three all-stars and a few pro prospects to work around. Carter Warren at left tackle is the best of the bunch, but the entire line should jell into now one of the team’s biggest strengths.

The depth is there at running back. The trio of Israel Abanikanda, Vincent Davis, and Rodney Hammond should combine for well over 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns again.

Pitt Panthers Preview 2022: Defense

It’s the Pitt defense. The pass rush will be dominant with a line that lives in the backfield, the secondary will give up a bazillion yards as the corners are left to sink or swim, and somehow it’ll all workout just fine. It all gets going around that pass rush and …

The defensive line is once again going to be a terror after finishing second in the nation in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss. Second Team All-ACC end Habakkuk Baldonado led the team with nine sacks, First Team All-ACC tackle Calijah Kancey was second on the team with seven sacks – those two combined for 25 tackles for loss – and everyone else up front will feed off them.

The linebackers are disruptive, too, but there’s work to be done. Leading tacklers SirVocea Dennis is an all-around playmaker, but he’s flanked by new starters and Notre Dame transfer Shayne Simon filling in the gaps.

The secondary allowed 264 yards per game, and it’ll get ripped up at times again, but the big plays will be there, too, for a defense that picked off 16 passes.

Brandon Hill was second on the team with 79 tackles. He’s back at one safety spot along with Erick Hallett, who came up with 72 tackles with three picks and nine broken up passes. Marquis Williams and AJ Woods are veteran corners.

Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Pitt Top 10 Players | Pitt Schedule & Analysis

Pitt Panthers: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT

Pitt Panthers: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats

Pitt Panthers: Key To The 2022 Offense

Keep on running.

It’s no coincidence that the three losses came on three of the team’s four worst rushing performances of last season.

The passing attack was a whole lot of fun last year, and the fun can keep going with Kedon Slovis under center.

However, it wasn’t all that long ago that Pitt did big things by ripping it up with the ground game – Quadree Ollison and Darrin Hall dominated with over 2,300 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2018.

This year’s running game won’t be that, but the veteran backs in place should be able to balance out the attack more, and at the very least they need to help the O average more than four yards per carry.

Pitt Panthers: Key To The 2022 Defense

See the big touchdown passes to a minimum.

Over the last three seasons, Pitt is 1-9 when giving up more than two touchdown passes.

Giving up lots of passing yards is just the cost of doing business for the Pitt defense. Quarterbacks are going to get fat on big plays, everyone will get off the bus with 200 passing yards, and the deep ball will be there.

But there’s a difference between struggling in pass defense and not being to control what’s happening.

How did Pitt lose to Western Michigan? Then-Bronco QB Kaleb Eleby seemingly hit every throw, and the Panther D gave up 357 yards and three touchdowns.

How did Pitt lose to Miami? It allowed over ten yards per throw and gave up 426 yards and three touchdown passes.

And then there was the bowl meltdown against Michigan State, allowing 354 yards and three touchdowns.

All three losses came when the pass D allowed over 350 yards and three scores. That only happened one other time, and it was a wild shootout win over Virginia.

Pitt Panthers: Key Player To The 2022 Season

WR Konanta Mumpfield, Soph.
Akron might have been awful last year, but the passing game occasionally worked. One of the big revelations was a 61 freshman wide receiver who averaged 12 yards per catch with 63 catches for 751 yards and eight scores.

No one is expecting Mumpfield to be another Jordan Addison, but if he can chip away at the 100 catches of lost production and be a good No. 2 receiver next to Jared Wayne, the passing game will keep on rolling.

He was a big get from the transfer portal, but not as large as …

Pitt Panthers: Key Transfer

QB Kedon Slovis, Sr.
Kenny Pickett threw 39 touchdown passes in his first four years with the Panthers. Slovis threw 58 touchdown passes in  just 27 games at USC.

Of course, Mr. Pickett turned up the production just a wee bit in his fifth year, but Slovis is more accurate, is even better on the deep throw, and has the talent be a more-than-capable replacement for the job. No, he’s not going to throw 42 touchdown passes, but he’ll make the O go.

Pitt Key Game To The 2022 Season

Tennessee, Sept. 10
Really, Pitt, how much of a player are you going to be?

There are plenty of big ACC games to deal with – the road trip to Miami to close out the regular season will probably be the team’s game of the year – but if this year’s version is any good, it has to win the home game against West Virginia to start the season, and then comes what might be the most fun non-conference game of the season.

These two combined for close to 800 yards of total offense and 75 points in the 41-34 Pitt win last year, and it set the tone for the rest of the season …

At least it did after losing to Western Michigan the following week, but I digress.

This will be the moment to see just how good Pitt is on a national scale. Win, and then it’s Game On for the season’s expectations.

Pitt Panthers: 2021 Fun Stats

– 2nd Quarter Scoring: Pitt 218 – Opponents 75
– Sacks: Pitt 54 for 406 yards – Opponents 34 for 257 yards
– 4th Down Conversions: Pitt 17-of-25 (68%) – Opponents 7-of-26 (27%)

Offense, Defense Breakdown
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Pitt Top 10 Players | Pitt Schedule & Analysis

Pitt Panthers Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT

Pitt Panthers Season Prediction, What Will Happen

Why can’t Pitt do it again?

Why can’t it be even better than the 11-3 ACC Championship version?

Everyone will be jumping off the bandwagon after the offense lost Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison, but there are a ton of returning starters from last year’s great team, the kicking game will be terrific, and the style isn’t changing.

No, it might not be bombs away like last year’s offense was, but the defense will still be great at getting into the backfield, the offensive line is experienced and strong, and getting Kedon Slovis to replace Pickett is an undervalued and underappreciated move.

Speaking of undervalued and underappreciated, that might be Pitt this year considering where the early win total lines are.

Set The Pitt Panthers Regular Season Win Total At … 8

Do you believe Pitt can own Heinz Field? If it’s great at home and can beat West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech, look out.

There’s no Clemson or NC State to deal with. Those are probably the two best teams in the league this year, there’s no Notre Dame on the slate, and missing Florida State and Wake Forest isn’t a bad thing.

The problem is the second half with four road games in the final six – Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia, and Miami are all going to be dangerous – and that’s coming off a slew of 50/50 games over the first half of the year.

But assume that Pitt wins its share of big games, comes up with a few big road performances, and will once again be deep in the ACC title hunt until the end.

Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Pitt Top 10 Players | Pitt Schedule & Analysis

2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams