The Florida State Seminoles head into November on an absolute roll. They finished the month of October without allowing a single passing touchdown. Perhaps even more impressive, the program extends its steak of games scoring 30+ points to a nation-leading 14. They are now 8-0 after a dominating performance at Wake Forestdominating performance at Wake Forest last Saturday. A once-trendy upset pick, the Noles left no room for doubt, cruising to a 34-7 first-half lead before closing out a 41-16 victory. The Seminoles, slotted in the fourth spot earlier this week in the first Playoff rankings of the season, now look for a perfect 9-0 mark as they continue their road trip. This week’s contest is at Pittsburgh, as FSU gets set to take on the struggling 2-6 Pitt Panthers.
The Pittsburgh Panthers are in a difficult state of flux currently. They’re recovering from a 58–7 drubbing they received from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend last weekend. It was a performance that saw Pitt commit a season-high five turnovers, including four interceptions thrown. Afterward, head coach Pat Narduzzi called out his team, which led to confusion from players and skepticism on social media. Things have been messy for the program as of late, and the situation certainly isn’t promising with the upcoming FSU showdown.
Series History & Statistical Breakdown
Statistically, 2023 has been a rough year on both sides of the ball for the Panthers. They rank dead last in the ACC in total offense, putting up an average of 312.6 yards per game. The passing game has proven to be more effective than their ground attack, but both are below average. Defensively, Pitt is a middle-of-the-pack 8th in the conference in total defense, allowing 349.5 yards per game, which is also 95th nationally. The rush defense has been the strong suit, ranking 5th in the ACC allowing 131.1 per game on the ground.
The good news for the Panthers heading into the contest is that they return home after playing three of their last four on the road. Last time they hosted, they had one of the upsets of the season with a shocking 38-21 win over a top-15 Louisville squad. Momentum has also been on their side recently in this series. FSU has lost four of the last five to Pitt, including their last matchup in 2020, where the Panthers came out with a 41-17 triumph. The two programs have seemingly traveled in opposite directions since then, however. The revenge factor has to be on Mike Norvell’s mind, as he can acquire his first victory over yet another ACC foe on Saturday.
Storylines & Players to Watch:
Pitt QB Controversy
Sophomore Christian Veilleux emerged as the starter after senior journeyman Phil Jurkovec was benched following the Virginia Tech loss. He had a solid start to his campaign with the Panthers. Everything came crashing down during last Saturday’s brutal blowout loss to Notre Dame, however. Veilleux threw a career-high four interceptions and couldn’t seem to get the offense going at all. Sophomore third-stringer Nate Yarnell appeared in garbage time and played well, completing two of his three passes for 75 yards and a touchdown in his lone drive.
Jurkovec has been rumored to be switching positions to tight end. However, with such a big matchup looming and his vast experience as a signal-caller, will he make a comeback? Or will the Panthers’ offensive staff continue to rely on Veilleux even after a disappointing outing? Will they throw a curveball and give Yarnell more playing time? There are many unknowns and key issues for this staff to figure out.
Pitt DB M.J. Devonshire
The senior cornerback has been a playmaking spark plug for the Panthers’ defense the past two seasons. So far in 2023, he leads the team with eight passes defended, is tied for the team lead with two interceptions, and returned one of those 86 yards for a touchdown. He’s a solid cover corner and vocal leader that the Noles will have to keep an eye on every time they draw up a pass play.
FSU RB Trey Benson
Benson had one of his best all-around performances in a Florida State uniform in the win over Wake Forest. He was the team’s leading rusher and receiver, scoring both on the ground and through the air. Even more impressive, Benson posted a career-high 100 receiving yards on only four catches. It was the kind of performance that reminded many of why he was considered a potential first-rounder prior to 2023. Johnny Wilson is still sidelined, and Keon Coleman will potentially be matched up with the talented Devonshire. Benson can make another statement as an X-factor in a second straight game.
Florida State has looked incredible since their early-season scare at Boston College. Ever since the Seminoles have put criticisms over road performances and trap games to bed. This team appears hungry and motivated to reach the College Football Playoffs for the first time since 2015. That spells trouble for the Panthers, especially since they don’t have the personnel or depth to keep up. Combine that with the identity crisis they’re currently facing, and Pittsburgh could be in for a long afternoon.
FSU 45, Pitt Panthers 17