Tino Sunseri had nineteen touchdowns to just two interceptions this season. What accounts for that? Is he a fantastic quarterback or simply one who takes what he's given? His stats appear to be quite good. Talk about his play style as well as the scheme.
Much of it has largely been that he's a lot more comfortable with the offense. He had a decent season for a first-year quarterback in 2010 under Dave Wannstedt's pro set offense, but last year took a big step back under Todd Graham. The offense just wasn't a good fit for him and he made a lot of mistakes. But under Chryst's pro set offense, he's been far more stable and the game has really slowed down for him. Some of it's being a senior, too. He's more mature and really has limited his mistakes, which can only be gained from playing experience. On the interception front, a good bit of it is that Sunseri won't make risky throws. Pitt doesn't take a lot of chances downfield and that also plays into his completion percentage, which is pretty high. Look for a lot of 8-12 yard routes and for him to take what he can get, as your question suggests. He's not a fantastic quarterback by any stretch but he's capable and gives the team a chance to win every time out. Many illogical Pitt fans will tell you they can't wait for him to leave despite his success this year - yeah, that's the kind of fanbase we are.
This is your third consecutive trip to Birmingham. What are fans thoughts on that?
In a couple of words, not good. No one wants to be there and Ray Graham, the team's running back, pretty much summed up the feelings before the selection. I think it's a 'we're sick of you, you're sick of us' type of thing and if you're a Birmingham resident with the chance to watch a football game roll through town every year, I'm sure seeing Pitt back again would be frustrating. The majority of us aren't going to Birmingham either because all of our vacation time is spent up or because we've already been there. The weather isn't even supposed to be all that great, so that kills what little enthusiasm some might have had for potentially making the trip. The good news is that it's at least a bowl game against a quality opponent, but other than that, we've moved on to basketball season. There will be some Pitt fans there, obviously, that just enjoy going to bowls or may have a reason to go, but don't look for us to show up in droves.
Talk about an offensive player who isn't talked about as much by the media. Defensive?
I really like what tight end J.P. Holtz brings. He's a true freshman and with starter Hubie Graham battling through some injury stuff, he's really stepped in well. Over the past five games, he's had ten catches for about 140 yards and three touchdowns and has come up with some nice plays. On defense it's Lafayette Pitts, a cornerback and another true freshman. Even though he only has one interception, he defends a ton of passes and returns kicks as well. I've liked him ever since I saw him in camp this summer and he just makes plays.
How thrilled are you to be leaving the Big East? Seems like your program is moving in the right direction. Talk about the move.
Pretty ecstatic, obviously. No one will mistake the ACC for the SEC in football any time soon, but it is a step up from the Big East and with that league on the brink of possible extinction, in hindsight, that just makes the decision to jump ship that much better. There is some quality football and with the addition of Pitt, Syracuse, and Louisville, there's no question it's the best basketball conference. One of the few reservations some fans had was leaving Big East baskeball behind, but with the likes of North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, and Louisville, that will change pretty quickly. The financial payout is considerably higher as well and the good thing is with Syracuse, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College, Pitt has some rivalries already in place.
After a rough start to the season, Pitt finished strong to earn bowl eligibility. Talk about the job coach Chryst has done in year one and how Pitt fans view his tenure thus far.
All in all, Chryst has done a modest job. I think I graded him at a C+ and called him slightly above average in my assessment of him after the first season. He's not had the team ready to play in games against Youngstown State, Cincinnati, and Connecticut this year, but he did for the most part in the team's other games. when Pitt needed two wins to reach a bowl game, he got them to finish strong. He's also done a good job with recruiting by holding on to prized recruits Rushel Shell and Chad Voytik last season. He recently lost out on one of the nation's top wide receivers for 2013, Robert Foster, but picked up big time offensive lineman Dorian Johnson and has a few other quality recruits in his sights. For a first year, I think he's done a good job. Fans are, as you can imagine, a bit divided over him. But if I had to guess, I'd say many are probably in my camp that he's done okay so far.
Give a prediction on the final score. How does it get there?
Pitt is perfectly capable of winning this game, but if I'm forced to make a pick, I'd go with Ole Miss - something like 31-24. The two teams are pretty even from my vantage point with Ole Miss perhaps getting a bit of a nod. And when you factor in the home field advantage the Rebels will have, it makes it really hard to go with Pitt. The other thing at play is that I think Ole Miss will really be excited to play in this game. I'm not saying that Pitt will be apathetic, but I definitely expect the Rebels to come out with a bit more fire. We saw that a bit in the loss last year against SMU, though the Todd Graham fiasco certainly had something to do with that. Pitt has a lot of guys with talent, though, and if they can force some turnovers, a win wouldn't be a surprise at all.