The last time Georgia Tech traveled to Pittsburgh, "Pop" Warner's Panthers defeated Bill Alexander's Yellow Jackets in a 10-3 barn-burner. It would be the only loss of the 1920 season for Tech (who finished 8-1-0), and for either team for that matter -- the Panthers finished 6-0-2. In 93 seasons since, these two teams have played each other a total of 5 times, with Georgia Tech holding a 3-2 edge. Two of those wins actually occurred in the same year -- 1956 -- when the Jackets won over Pitt in the Sugar Bowl on January 2, and then in the Gator Bowl on December 29. Then, in 1974 and 1976, Johnny Majors and Pitt came to Atlanta and would defeat Pepper Rodgers and Georgia Tech both years.
As it stands, though, all of that is ancient history. Last year, Georgia Tech hosted Pittsburgh for the first time as a conference opponent, and would beat them 21-10 in the Homecoming game. This year, the Jackets travel to Pitt to kick off the second half of their ACC schedule. The Panthers are a young but talented team, and this could be a game that ends up surprising a lot of Yellow Jackets fans. The good news for Georgia Tech is that Pitt has to replace their quarterback Tom Savage, now taking snaps in Houston for Bill O'Brien's Texans, as well as their top receiver Devin Street and 41 career starts from three of their top offensive linemen from last year as well. That being said, as mentioned, they still have an awful lot of talent on the field. Offensively last year, they were a bit inconsistent and finished 79th in scoring offense. Georgia Tech held them to only 10, their second-lowest total of the year (9 @ Virginia Poly). They finished strong though, scoring 27 in four of their last five games, including a 30-27 bowl game win over Bowling Green. It will be interesting to see how the new pieces fit together, and specifically in reference to their quarterback situation (there's a severe lack of depth here) and their running back stable (where the three leading candidates should be a senior (4.7 ypc), a sophomore (5.5 ypc), and a four-star incoming freshman).
Defensively, the Panthers look to replace their top two guys up front in DTs Aaron Donald and Tyrone Ezell, their middle linebacker, and two of their top guys in the back in SS Jason Hendricks and CB K'Waun Williams. Again, they suffer from a lack of depth and experience defensively, especially in the secondary (two upper-classmen, lots of freshmen and sophomores who were low-rated recruits). Up front, Donald's production will be sorely missed -- he had nearly three times as many tackles as anyone else returning on the DL, and not to mention more tackles for a loss and sacks than the entire rest of the unit combined. This will play a crucial element in a game where winning up front is even more important than usual, given the nature of Georgia Tech's offense. While Pitt's linebackers look solid and their defensive ends are able to hold their own, they will have a lot to prove defensively when it comes to demonstrating that they can stop Georgia Tech's offense.
One of the factors that may play a heavy role in this game is when and where it's played. This game is each team's 8th game and will be played at the end of October in an outdoor stadium in Pittsburgh. I think this is particularly important for a team with a lack of (proven) depth like Pittsburgh, as injuries could be mounting by this point in the season and any crack in the armor could give way a lot faster than other teams. That said, they do have the home field advantage. The other interesting thing is that Pittsburgh typically falls in the 50s temperature-wise during late October, but with potential to be a lot colder depending on weather patterns. As we know, a colder game typically tends towards more success with running versus throwing. That could play into Georgia Tech's favor, particularly if Pitt has not established a solid rushing attack to that point in the season.
As mentioned earlier, this game could surprise a lot of Tech fans. Pitt is young and unproven in a lot of ways, but has an awful lot of talent at its disposal too, meaning they can be pretty inconsistent at times. I don't like the idea of the team going to a place as far as Pittsburgh to play a game on the road, either. That said, I think Georgia Tech can still win in a close game here. However, that could change as each team develops in earlier parts of the season.
Does Pittsburgh scare you, Tech fans? How will this game compare to last year's game?