The Panthers and Seminoles have sparred eight times in their history, each of which took place during the 1970s and early 1980s. Pitt has had the upper hand in the matchup, winning five of those eight contests.
The Last Time
The two schools last met in 1983 at Pitt Stadium. The Panthers won that matchup by the smallest of margins, edging the Seminoles 17-16. Pitt overcame a 13-0 second quarter deficit to win the game, scoring the eventual game winning touchdown on a pass from John Congemi to Chuck Scales early in the fourth quarter.
2012-13 FSU Season Review
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (3rd season), 31-10 Overall at FSU
2012-13 Record: 12-2 (7-1 ACC)
Orange Bowl Champions
Finished year ranked 10th in AP Poll/8th in USA Today
Notable Team Stats:
No. 2 in the nation in total defense, allowed only 254 yds./game
No. 1 in the nation in pass defense
Reload, Reload, Reload
Florida State was tops amongst all colleges represented in the 2013 NFL Draft with 11 players selected. All together, the Seminoles must replace 13 starters this season and they must do it with six new assistant coaches. Here's a look at some key departures:
1. E.J. Manuel, Quarterback - two-year starter, 25-6 career record, drafted 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills
2. Chris Thompson, Running Back - amassed 687 yards in eight starts last year before his season ended due to injury, drafted in the fifth round by the Washington Redskins
3. Menelik Watson, Offensive Tackle - Started 12 games at right tackle for the Seminoles, drafted in the second round by the Oakland Raiders
1. Bjoern Werner, Defensive End - Unanimous All-America last season, drafted 24th overall by the Indianapolis Colts
2. Cornellius Carradine, Defensive End - First Team All-ACC player who registered 11 sacks last season, drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers
3. Xavier Rhodes, Corner - First Team All-ACC player who had three interceptions last season, starting all 14 games. Drafted 25th overall by the Minnesota Vikings
The biggest hit was taken by the Seminoles' defense, as they must replace seven starters and reload a defense which finished second in the Nation overall.
1. Dustin Hopkins, Placekicker - Selected first team All-America by various publications and organizations, drafted in the sixth round by the Buffalo Bills
OFFENSIVE OUTLOOK - More focus on the run game in 2013
Despite having a new starting quarterback, Florida State returns three running backs - each of whom played in at least 13 games last season - and four of their five starting offensive lineman from last season. Based on those facts, my guess is this will be a team that will rely more heavily on the run game, especially early in the year. The Seminoles will still have to throw the football if they plan on defending their ACC Crown, but the pressure will be thrust squarely on a brand new starting quarterback to distribute the rock to a stable of experienced wideouts and tight ends.
Players to Watch:
1. With junior Clint Trickett opting to transfer, it seems the quarterback position will be filled by redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. He will get competition from sophomore Jacob Coker.
2. The `Noles have two backs returning who each logged significant time after Chris Thompson went down with an injury last season. Look for James Wilder, Jr. (635 yards in 2012) and Devonta Freeman (660 yards in 2012) to split time, with competition form Mario Pender.
3. Junior Rashad Greene returns to lead FSU's receiving corps. He led the Seminoles in that category last season, reeling in 57 passes for 741 yards and 6 TDs. He also excels as a punt return man, ranking third nationally last season with a 15.4 yard average per return.
DEFENSIVE OUTLOOK - Experienced secondary will lead new look defense
The nation's second-ranked defense in 2012 will have a new look and plenty of new faces in 2013. Jeremy Pruitt, former defensive backs coach at Alabama, takes over as defensive coordinator in his first year in Tallahassee. He'll have to replace seven starters from a defense that led the ACC in nearly every statistical category last season. The biggest holes will be up front, where the `Noles will have four new starters. Gone are Bjoern Werner, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and a slew of other defensive playmakers. Pruitt is also charged with replacing two-thirds of his linebacking corps. Despite having to reload, he does have experience returning in the secondary. Three-fourths of his secondary is back, meaning a unit that ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass defense will remain the strength of FSU's defense in 2013.
Players to Watch:
1. Senior Lamarcus Joyner is the unquestioned leader of the Seminoles' secondary. Starting 27 consecutive games, he is expected to see more time at corner this year and is a dangerous kickoff returner.
2. Sophomore Defensive End Mario Edwards, Jr., a highly touted recruit in 2012, played in spot duty last season. The son of former FSU star Mario Edwards, he is expected to step into a starting role in 2013.
Looking ahead to Labor Day
There are really three keys that stand out as I look ahead to Labor Day, here they are.
1. Manage your emotions - Heinz Field is going to be on fire. It's going to be loud and exciting. It is vital to maintain focus and composure on the biggest of stages. There will be ups and downs, Pitt has to stay steady.
2. Run the ball and stop the run - It's pretty simple. Pitt has to get the run game going against a revamped Florida State front seven. If they do that, it will open up opportunities to take some shots through the air. On the defensive side, the Panthers must stop the run. The Seminoles will surely try to get their run game going in an effort to ease their new starting quarterback into the game, but Pitt needs to put them in situations where the young signal caller has to make some throws.
3. BIG PLAYS - Get 65,000 fans loud and on their feet. There is nothing like a home field advantage.
Check back in next week for a preview of the Panthers' week two opponent, New Mexico