PITTSBURGH (CBSMiami) – After months of hype, Florida State Seminoles fans will learn Monday night if prized quarterback Jameis Winston can deliver when FSU battles the Pitt Panthers in Pittsburgh.
The matchup will be Pittsburgh’s welcome to the Atlantic Coast Conference as the school just joined the league this year. The Panthers’ are coming off a disappointing 6-7 campaign last year, the school’s final year in the Big East Conference.
All Pittsburgh has to do is shut down Winston and try to overcome a Seminoles defense that plugged in players just as talented as the ones who left last year. FSU also has the element of surprise with their defense this season.
FSU will be playing under a new defensive coordinator after Mark Stoops left to take over as head coach at the University of Kentucky. FSU’s defensive coordinator is Jeremy Pruitt who has previously coached defensive backs for Nick Saban at the University of Alabama.
One thing that isn’t set in stone is what FSU’s base defense will be, though it’s likely to remain the 4-3. Pruitt has coached with Saban who prefers a 3-4 base defense, but Pruitt is likely to keep elements of the 3-4 and mix-and-match the defenses based on what the offense is throwing at him each game.
Seminoles fans though will be keeping their eyes focused on Winston. He put on a dazzling display during the spring game drawing praise from coaches and veteran players after going 12-15 and hitting two touchdown passes.
Winston is a former five-star recruit who has a cannon attached to his shoulder. He was a top quarterback prospect who spurned Alabama for Florida State and will face a Pittsburgh defense that ranked 31st in the country last year against the run.
The Panthers ranked 23rd in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 21.1 points per game and ranked 20th in the country in passing defense.
So while expectations may be high for Winston, he’ll face a stiff challenge right out of the gate. Plus, Winston will have to overcome a hostile crowd in Pittburgh looking to make life difficult on the Seminoles.
FSU will have a distinct advantage in run defense, if the line can come together quickly. While Pitt has a massive offensive line, averaging 315 pounds, the Panthers still managed just 133.1 yards rushing per game last season, 94th in the nation.
The Noles and Panthers will kick off Monday night at 8 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN.