Pittsburgh at Iowa - Saturday, September 17, 2011 - Noon - ESPN2/ESPN3.com
Kinnick Stadium - Iowa City, IA
Point Spread: Iowa -3
Pitt leads the all-time series against Iowa 3-1. The Pittsburgh Panthers haven't traveled to Iowa City since 1951. They lost that contest 34-17. Pittsburgh is 2-0 on the season while Iowa is 1-1. The Panthers defeated Buffalo and Maine at Heinz Field. Iowa defeated Tennessee Tech at home and lost to rival Iowa State at Ames in three overtimes.
Pittsburgh 2-0 (0-0)
Iowa 1-1 (0-0)
On offense, the Panthers have Ray Graham to carry them. So far, he's the leading rusher in the country at 161 yards per game. He also has six rushing touchdowns this season. Tino Sunseri has not done well in the "high octane" offense Pitt has introduced this season. I think he will able to move the ball against Iowa, but he'll need to avoid turnovers to get the Panthers a win. The Panthers defense hasn't been able to stop the opposition's quarterback from putting up big yards but have been able to stop running backs.
Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg should be able to have a big day against Pitt. The Hawkeyes leaned on running back Marcus Coker too much last game and he might struggle against Pitt's defensive front without someone to spell him. On the defensive side of the ball, Iowa should have more success getting to Sunseri than they did to Steele Jantz of Iowa State. Sunseri was sacked SEVEN times against Maine last week. Look out for linebacker Christian Kirksey to wreak havoc. He's already got 23 tackles, a pass breakup, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery this season. Linebacker James Morris also has more tackles than anyone on Pittsburgh with 17 to go with an interception.
I think the Hawkeyes are going to win this one. Pittsburgh has been playing with fire by allowing lesser opponents to pass all over them. Ray Graham is a very good running back but he's been used a lot already this season and didn't have a carry longer than 16 yards against Maine. I see Sunseri struggling on the road and Iowa winning a lower scoring game than most people expect.
Prediction: Iowa 23, Pittsburgh 17