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Keys to the Pitt game

edit: posted this in a hurry this morning, just fixed a few grammar problems.

Blitz pickup. Talented Pitt freshmen Dion Lewis and Ray Graham can run. Are they experienced enough to pick up Greg Schiano's litany of blitzers when they're coming from all angles, and all over the field? Rutgers freshman tailback De'Antwan "Rocket" Williams has arguably earned more playing time on the field (although, I'd say that the OL's ineffectiveness has held Martinek and Brooks back). He can run too, but protecting the QB may be the key to actually seeing the field.

The best player on the field Friday will be Pittsburgh receiver Jonathan Baldwin. It's almost unfair that Baldwin is built like a tight end and runs like a receiver. He's a monster, and likely capable of much more than we've seen to this point. Devin McCourty is more than capable at corner, but Baldwin has a big height advantage, and they may move him around. Are younger DBs like David Rowe up to the task? He'll need to be doubled all day long.

One breakout player for the Panthers this season is H-Back Dorin Dickerson. The likes of Damaso Munoz, Joe Lefeged, and possibly others will have their hands full with Dickerson, the human matchup problem.

Even though Pitt has had more success passing this year, defensive coaches like Greg Schiano and Dave Wannstedt don't ever really change their stripes. Wannstedt would run the ball on every down if he could. The afore-mentioned duo of Lewis and Graham have played well to this point. Pitt's line has had success with run blocking this year, and tight end Nate Byham is a standout in that area too. I think this matchup is an area of strength vs. strength though, because of the strong Rutgers front seven. RU has a lot of speed on the edge with its ends, although overpursuit on misdirections and other trick plays is one concern. Vallone and LeGrand are showing a lot of promise in the middle, and the combo of Lowery and D'Imperio at linebacker is as good as any in the conference.

One critical goal has to be to take away the run, forcing Pitt to pass. That will allow the team to double Baldwin, and pressure QB Bill Stull into mistakes. Which moves into pass protection. UConn and NC State get a lot of sacks, but Rutgers represents its toughest test up to this point. End George Johnson is having a breakout season, and backups Justin Francis and Jonathan Freeny have excelled in rotational duty. On the other side of the ball, I have concerns about RU's interior linemen, but the matchup that could really cause some trouble is Kevin Haslam lining up against Jabaal Sheard, who absolutely obliterated Haslam last year at Heinz Field. Anthony Davis will earn back his kudos if he can hold up against end Greg Romeus.

If Rutgers can manage to establish a running game, it has to be with the end goal of setting up play action passes downfield to receiver Tim Brown. The Panther secondary hasn't been the same since last year's game against Rutgers, which is surprising considering the strength of their defensive line.