2022 Pittsburgh Panthers Preview

by Matt Fargo

Pittsburgh Panthers

2021-22 Season Record 11-3 (7-1 ACC Coastal) - 10-4-0 ATS - 8-6-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 9
Defense - 7

Overview

Last year was supposed to be a special season for Pittsburgh and in some regards in was as the Panthers had their most wins since 1981, recorded their most victories ever in the ACC and won the ACC Championship. But with Heisman hopeful Kenny Pickett at quarterback, it was supposed to something really special as it was oh so close to being that as losses against Western Michigan and Miami Fla., both as big favorites, were by a combined seven points and Pittsburgh never got ranked higher than No. 13 in the AP Poll which was where it finished. Head coach Pat Narduzzi is in his eighth season and has compiled a 53-37 record with only one losing season so he is building something long term here with a highly anticipated 2022 season and while it should come in ranked in the preseason for the first time since 2010, but it will not, and that will provide some added motivation.

Offense

The offense did what it had to do with Pickett leading the way as the Panthers finished No. 5 in total offense, including No. 6 in passing, and No. 3 in scoring offense. Their worst offensive game was against Michigan St. in the Peach Bowl where Pickett elected to sit out and as far as the quarterback situation goes, Pittsburgh should be just fine. Kedon Slovis transferred in from USC and he has game as he was the Pac 12 Freshman of the Year in 2019 and was First Team All Pac 12 in 2020 and while he struggled last season, a new surrounding will help. The Panthers lost top receiver Jordan Addison but they will be fine with Jared Wayne who had 658 yards and Akron transfer Konata Mumpfield who had 751 yards on an awful team. The offensive line brings back all five starters so pass protection will be outstanding and the top three running backs which combined for 1,749 all return.

Defense

Because the offense was so prolific, the defense did not get the praise it deserved as the Panthers were No. 39 overall and No. 43 in points allowed. The disparity between the passing and rushing defense is skewed based on teams needing to pass more in playing catch up. The defensive front was a wall that allowed 100 rushing yards or fewer nine times and was all over the opposing backfield as it finished with 54 sacks which was No. 3 in the country and most of those sacks are back. This unit level will be the strength once again. The linebacking corps suffered the most with two starters lost but returning is SirVocea Dennis who led the team with 87 tackles but there could be some growing pains around him. The secondary is loaded with safeties Brandon Hill and Erick Hallett combining for 151 tackles to go along with senior corners Marquis Williams and A.J. Woods who had 61 tackles combined.

2022 Season Outlook

Some will expect a drop off from last season and it is hard not to predict that coming off 11 wins but this team is absolutely stacked all over the place. The returning production is greater than last season and Slovis is not a downgrade from Pickett based on what he has already accomplished which is something Pickett never achieved. The only thing standing in the way is the schedule. Early on, there should be little trouble as five of the first six games are at home with Tennessee being a possible roadblock and the one road game is at Western Michigan in a revenge game. Then it gets tough. Four ACC road games feature teams all projected to win 6.5 or more games but the overall good news is that there is no Clemson or Wake Forest on the slate. The O/U win total is set at 8.5 and foreseeing a 7-0 home record and a win against the Broncos, all it takes is one win in those four ACC road games.  

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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