Obviously, the biggest news of the day broke this morning when Notre Dame announced that it would join the ACC in all sports except football and hockey. In football, the Irish will play five ACC teams every year. So, how does this affect Pitt football?
Oddly enough, it looks like Notre Dame joining Pitt's new conference will actually end the annual series between the two schools (at least on a yearly basis). The new agreement requires Notre Dame to play each of the ACC's 14 teams once at least every three years. I was told there'd be no math, but that means 15 games for 14 teams. Notre Dame will have to rotate through its ACC opponents pretty regularly, and it'll only get to schedule one team twice in a three-year span.
Steve Pederson will be on hand at Pitt football interviews tonight, so he'll be able to fill in some details on exactly how this affects Pitt.
Now, on to some other notes from last night's interview session...
- Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph spoke last night, and said that he liked the progression the younger offensive linemen were making. Notably, freshmen Adam Bisnowaty and Gabe Roberts were on the travel roster for the game in Cincinnati last week. Offensive line is one of those positions where it probably makes more sense to avoid playing freshmen, if possible, but given Pitt's lack of depth at the position, one or two injuries could make it unavoidable.
"I think you reach this point as a freshman and it’s kind of, we’re still putting it on those guys to be prepared," Rudolph said. "They realize it, they realize our situation. We don’t want to just put them out there to put them out there in mop-up duty, but there may be a point at any moment when they’ve got to go, and they’ve got to be able to step in and do that."
- Rudolph said that through two games, the coaching staff was still adjusting to what it saw from players and how they reacted to game situations.
"When you start seeing competition, seeing how these guys react in games, what their carry-over is, what their level of detail is," Rudolph said. "I think those things do kind of define some things for you and at the same time we’ve got to keep pushing the envelope to make sure we’re running what we need to."
This is one area where I think the coaching unrest has certainly hurt Pitt over the last few years. No matter how much practice time a coaching staff can get with a team, there's no subsitute for game situations. Some players are better game players than practice and vice versa. There's nothing a coaching staff can do but build familiarity with a roster through game experience, and that just can't happen in spring and fall practices. I think as the season progresses, you'll see the staff get more familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of its players in game situations.
- Despite the early deficit Thursday, Rudolph said he didn't feel hamstrung in terms of playcalling against Cincinnati.
"I don’t think that came into it," he said. "I never got anything where you felt like you couldn’t call certain things, but I think when you are down early on a couple big plays, I did like that the kids kind of stayed locked in and stayed focused and continued to work."
I do think the Panthers had to throw a little bit more than they would have liked, especially in the third quarter when the game was still, at least theoretically, in reach. But it will be interesting to see what the playcall balance looks like Saturday. Clearly, Pitt's running game is its offensive strength, but it's hard to rely on and be patient with the ground game if you're down 14-0 in the first five minutes.
That's all for now. Like I said, Pederson will be on hand tonight to discuss Notre Dame's move to the ACC, and I'll have more from Pitt football as well.