A Trump in Suit Bowl: NW v PITT
A Trump in Suit Bowl: Northwestern vs Pittsburgh
When NW has the ball: NW didn't excel at any one thing on offense this year, but by dint of being average overall it was a huge improvement over last year's offensive ineptitude. Their passing game consists of throws to the fantastic Mr. Carr, while their running game provided just enough consistency to give necessary balance. There are no real strong trends or correlation involved with NW's offense, but it should be noted that by being a Big 10 member they faced a pretty schedule of defenses, much tougher than Pitt did on average. Pitt has a pretty solid run defense (24th) but it came against a below average schedule of run offenses faced. If you watched any Pitt games earlier in the year you saw some pretty terrible pass defense on display at times. Pitt did face a murderer's row of pass offenses this year, though (3rd hardest schedule of pass offenses faced), and they actually did improve in the final month, posting 3 of their best pass defense scores in those 4 games.
When Pitt has the ball: There was really no stopping Pitt's offense in the final 5 games of the season. Pitt faced 3 good defenses in that stretch (VT, MIA and CLEM) and averaged almost 36 points against them. Last year Pitt's pass offense couldn't take full advantage of teams cheating against the run, but this year senior QB Peterman has shown a huge improvement, throwing for just over 9 yards per pass, helping Pitt to a pass offense ranking of #7 by my numbers. That's even better than their #19 run offense ranking. Speaking or running, Pitt has that covered in spades. Most of you are familiar with the great comeback from injury and cancer story of RB James Connor, the Pitt workhorse. He averaged just over 5 yards per carry -- but look out when Quadree Henderson gets the ball. He only had 54 carries this season but averaged an astonishing 10.3 ypc. NW has a pretty solid defense, and they've played well against some good offenses this year, but they haven't faced an opponent with an offense as highly rated and balanced as Pitt's. The closest comparison would be against Western Michigan in week #1, a game which NW narrowly lost.
In sum: With this being James Connor's final game for Pitt, I'd expect a full effort from the Panthers in an effort to usher him out with a win. Pitt's offense is balanced enough to win even against a good overall NW defense. Pitt's pass defense has improved enough down the stretch to have a decent chance at limiting NW's chances with the passing game. The weather is cool, but above freezing with just light winds.
Final Score Projection: NW 27 -- PITT 37