Pitt's Victory Over Georgia Tech Puts Pickett in the Conversation for Best Pitt QB of All-Time

Mike Stewart/Associated Press

Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett showed this Saturday why, regardless of question marks on the offensive line, a shaky secondary, and drops by receivers, a great college quarterback can fix all.  In a record-breaking effort, Pickett threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns, setting the new Pitt record for passing touchdowns in a three-game span (15).  Three of Pickett's four touchdowns on Saturday, and 328 of the total yards, came in the first half.  It all led to an absolute pummeling of Georgia Tech, with a final score of 52-21.

Near Perfect Game Plan

In addition to Pickett’s effort, I must give kudos to Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi.  If I am to place blame, I must also give credit where credit is due.  Narduzzi showed he can still game plan against a difficult offense and enter a game with his team the most prepared.  On the back of that game plan, the Panthers could not have scripted a better first half.

After the Panthers punted on their opening drive, they immediately got the ball back on an interception by Cam Bright, and never looked back.  They would finish the first quarter up 21-7 and led by 28 at the half.  They also held very mobile quarterback Jeff Sims, to just 38 yards on the ground.  The start and finish of this game for Pitt really showcased the game plan put together by the Pitt coaches.

The struggles were still present in the Panther secondary, as Sims accounted for 342 passing yards and two touchdowns.  However, Pitt did force two interceptions and a chunk of those yards came in garbage time for Georgia Tech.  

Overall, if the game plan was to shut down Sims from a running standpoint and force him to pass effectively, then they successfully carried out the game plan.  Also, a win is a win. but it’s important to note that the game was not flawless by the defense.  The failures in the secondary still exist and a tightening of those flaws will be needed for continued success this season.

Record Breaking Quarterback - Kenny Pickett

The only flawless player on the field on Saturday, in my opinion, was Kenny Pickett.  Pickett is now statistically the best quarterback in Pitt history in a three-game stretch (WMU, New Hampshire, and Georgia Tech) with 15 passing touchdowns.  The previous record was Dan Marino with 13.  This gives Pickett 19 passing touchdowns on the season and  58 for Pickett's career.

Also, with 7+ games remaining, including potential conference championship and bowl games, Pickett is in reach of Marino’s career passing touchdown record of 79, and is on pace to break Marino’s single season touchdown record of 37.  Pickett needs 18 passing touchdowns to tie the season record and 21 touchdowns to tie the career record.  While Pickett may not develop into a Hall of Fame NFL quarterback like Dan Marino, he certainly belongs in the conversation for the best Pitt quarterbacks of all-time.  

Also, while Pickett may break most of Marino's records in just 3 or more career games played, Pickett also has 26 interceptions in 44 career games to Marino's 69 INTs in 48 career games.

Now, it can be broken down how different college offenses are now, and a lot of Marino’s teams were not pass-first offenses, blah blah blah.  I know all of this, and that is why these types of arguments never amount to any objective answers.  

People hate crowning a true best-ever of anything.  Some even still question Tom Brady and he has almost as many touchdowns in his 40’s as he did in his 20’s.  But Pickett is definitely in the conversation, and, at my age, he is the best Pitt quarterback I have ever had the chance to watch play.

National Attention Growing

Do you see now why I was so high on this Pitt football team in the preseason?  Why I had the grand expectations of Pitt’s first 10-win season in over 10 years?  It takes very rare, and world-altering, circumstances to get a quarterback with this amount of experience with the same program.  And it is paying off in droves.

I am not going to try and understand ESPN's Football Power Index rankings and percentages.  However, I will use them to boost my energy about this football team.

After Saturday’s game, Pitt is now ranked 2nd in the ACC in ESPN’s Football Power Index behind only Clemson.  However, due to the Coastal being seen as the weaker division, Pitt is projected with the highest chances to win both their division and the ACC conference at 71.7% and 43.4% respectively.  That is the highest conference percentage by over 20 percentage points, with Clemson in 2nd at 23.3%. 

The Panthers are also one of only three ACC teams to be given any chance by ESPN to make the National Championship, albeit at just under 3%.  Also, they are ranked just ahead of Penn State at 10th in the nation's Football Power Index.  

The Road Ahead

Momentum could not be higher for this Pitt Panther football team.  Narduzzi showed an ability to put together an effective game plan and Kenny Pickett is showing why he should be in the Heisman conversation.  With hopes of a conference championship becoming realistic for once, the Panthers are truly 1-0 for most intents and purposes.

With Pitt’s weak schedule this season, aside from Clemson at home on October 23rd, everything is trending upward for the Panthers.  Unfortunately, that is when Pitt typically tears our hearts out and brings us back down to Earth.  Luckily, we have at least two weeks if that were to happen as the Panthers enjoy a bye week this Saturday.  Their next game is a huge matchup against Virginia Tech on October 16th in Blacksburg.