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Pitt Panthers Preview: Youngstown State Penguins

A primer on this weekend's matchup.
Pitt fans with P-I-T-T painted on their chests.

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 05: Pittsburgh Panthers fans cheer on their team during introductions prior to the game against the Youngstown State Penguins at Heinz Field on September 5, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

This Saturday, unranked Pitt faces off against the Youngstown State Penguins. Do Panthers fans have anything to worry about?

History: These teams don’t have a long history playing each other, but what history they do have might help predict the outcome of this game. The last time Pitt played YSU in 2009, the Panthers beat up on the Penguins in a 38-3 victory. Before that, they played in 2005, when Pitt annihilated the Penguins 41-0.

Pittsburgh Offense vs. Youngstown Defense:

The majority of the worries for Pitt this year are on the offensive side of the ball. How will Tino Sunseri fair in the scheme devised by new head coach Paul Chryst? Luckily, Youngstown State ranked 49thin the FCS last year in total defense, giving up an average 5.66 yards per play. The Penguins only recorded seven interceptions all season. Tino should be fearless against a weak secondary.

Pittsburgh Defense vs. Youngstown Offense:

There are some minor issues for Pitt on defense. In his press conference yesterday, Paul Chryst said starting cornerback K’Waun Williams is still day-to-day recovering from his torn ACL. Even though Pitt’s secondary struggled last year, if Williams can start, they’ll be good to go. The good news is that defensive lineman Aaron Donald had arguably the best fall camp of any player, and Chryst made it known that he was impressed. Pitt had a surprisingly good defense last year, ranking 35th in total defense and allowing only 4.99 yards per play. The Panthers ranked 3rd overall in sacks, averaging well over three per game.

Even though Youngstown State QB Kurt Hess is coming off a banner year, and despite the fact that the last time the Penguins didn’t score a TD was in 2009, the improved Pitt defense should handle its FCS opponents. The Penguins lost one of their best wide receivers in Jelani Berassa to an ACL tear, so Hess has one less offensive weapon to use. Chryst doesn’t want to underestimate the Penguins offense though, as they do have 10 starters returning.

Verdict:

Pitt should win this game handily. Youngstown State has lost its last five season openers, and this one shouldn't be any different. The Panthers are looking for redemption after a tumultuous 2011 season, and a loss or even an underwhelming win would not bode well. Expect Pitt to make a statement.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 42, Youngstown State 7