New Mexico vs. Pitt: Get to know the Panthers

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Get to know more about Pitt as we speak to Cardiac Hill.

New Mexico travels to the East coast to take on Pitt with an early 12:30 p.m. ET kick, so to get to know Pittsburgh better we reached out to the folks at Cardiac Hill which is SB Nation's Pitt community.

Now sit back and learn some Pittsburgh football.

1. Paul Chryst mentioned specifically that Pitt needs to be able to tackle well against New Mexico, is that because there is an issue on the Pitt defense or are they that concerned with the ground attack of New Mexico?

The tackling was really abysmal in that Florida State game. Most Pitt fans knew the defense would be overmatched with the speed of the Seminoles, but nothing could prepare most of us for all of the blown tackles. I knew it was a bad night when even All-American candidate Aaron Donald flubbed one. Way too many arm tackles going on and I don't think I can even count on two hands the number of badly missed tackles. I really can't underestimate just how bad it was and while some of it was due to the athleticism of Florida State, some of it was just flat out not wrapping guys up. Chryst alluded to the missed tackling 5-6 times in the press conference, so that tells you all you need to know.

That said, I don't expect it to be that bad the rest of the way. Pitt returned a lot of starters on defense and things should be better against teams that aren't in the top ten. Hopefully, we can chalk it up to just a bad opening game.

2. Does Pitt have a defense that can stop a rushing attack as potent as New Mexico's, or more specifically running back Kasey Carrier?

Historically, Pitt's defense has generally been pretty good. Recently, that's held true as well. They were 32nd last season and in the top 25 (actually the top 21) in each of the previous three years. This is a different year, though, so we'll have to see how they can hold up. But if the question is if Pitt has shown they can contain good running backs, I think the answer is yes. With Carrier's immense talent, there's obviously reason for concern. And if Pitt continues the tackling issues, that will be the type of thing that can lead to an upset. However, for him to dominate the way he did last week, my guess is that the Lobos will need a solid passing game to keep Pitt honest.

3. With Pitt losing pretty bad to Florida State to open the season and then having a bye, what has the team been working on to get better.

That was actually the first question Chryst got in his press conference and he didn't reveal very much. That's typical of him, though, as he's not the type to really open up to things the team is doing. The two main things he talked about were working on the little things as well as playing faster and not worrying so much about schemes. My guess is he's just trying to get the guys to worry about just playing football and not so much about the rigid feel of plays, schemes, etc. The players need to know where to be and what to do, but they also need to be relaxed and just go out and make plays, too.

4. How seriously is the Pitt community taking New Mexico?

Depends on who you ask. The most optimistic of Pitt fans have penciled this game in as a win for a while, but most of us know not to do that. Anytime you lose to an FCS team like Pitt did last year in falling to Youngstown State, there's no such thing as a guaranteed win. That game (rightfully so) really put a lot of fear into Pitt fans about playing some weaker teams and despite the Panthers being favored, it's hard to take them lightly. It's not just Youngstown State, either, and the Panthers have been known to play down to the competition. Pitt lost to a bad UConn team last year after nearly beating Notre Dame and the year before, got all they could handle from Maine.

5. New Mexico's defense is not all that great, so what Pitt players could have a big game?

Keep an eye on true freshman wide receiver Tyler Boyd. He was a four-star recruit, came in and was expected to play right away. But he's not only playing but starting opposite wide receiver Devin Street. Those two had the biggest games on offense in the big Florida State loss last week. Street had six catches for about 140 yards, will soon break the school record for receptions, and should be selected in the NFL Draft. Boyd had a big all-purpose game with 151 total yards receiving, rushing, and returning a couple of kicks. Chryst said after the game that he wanted to get Boyd more touches and that could happen this week.

6. What are you final thoughts and prediction in this game?

I expect Pitt to win, but won't be surprised if New Mexico keeps it close. The Panthers are breaking in a lot of new players on offense. There's new quarterback in transfer Tom Savage, a new starting running back, Boyd is a true freshman, and one of the tight ends heavily used is a transfer. The offensive line is completely retooled, too. New center, one offensive tackle is a redshirt freshman and the other is a converted defensive lineman. The guards both played last year, but were the two tackles. I think the defense will play better, but the offense still has lots of questions. My guess is that Pitt wins it by a couple of touchdowns but wouldn't be surprised if it were closer.


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