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Opponent Breakdown: Pitt Panthers Defense

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Western Michigan Kimberly Moss-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what happens in college football, one thing remains a constant. Pitt will have a good defense and they will be very good up front. Pat Narduzzi knows exactly what type of identity he wants for his team. It starts with a strong running game and it ends with a defense that creates havoc up front and forces your receivers to beat them in the back end. This specific team feels like a Narduzzi team and that can be an issue on offense at times but this defense does what it needs to do.

Pitt’s defensive line is excellent at just about everything they’re asked to do. They can get after the quarterback but they also do a very good job of playing the run. They’re led by Calijah Kancey who is one of the best defensive linemen in the country. Kancey is a bit undersized but he uses great quickness and pure effort to cause mayhem in the backfield. He is also consistent as he puts up negative plays in nearly every game he plays. Louisville has to be able to run the ball this weekend and that only happens if they can keep Kancey out of the backfield.

The rest of the line is also very talented and effective. What jumps out when you watch them is that it’s a collective effort from the group. UofL loves running outside zone, but I think this group will make that hard on them. The question is can they have the success they had running the ball like they did last week?

Pitt leads the nation in great names and Sirvocea Dennis is among the best of them. He also really gets after it on the field. Dennis plays about as fast as any linebacker Louisville will see this season and Pitt’s defensive system allows him to play downhill against the run and the pass. Bangally Kamara teams with Dennis to make a lot of plays behind this excellent defensive line and they really make it hard to stay on schedule because even if they don’t make a play behind the line, they can get a stop for no gain or just a couple of yards.

The secondary for Pitt is always the area that gets the most interest from me because they run such a simplified coverage that it’s easy to get a feel for them. Pitt will play man coverage outside with their corners with cover four as their overall coverage. Essentially, the four defensive backs are responsible for a quarter of the field. It allows for the front seven to pressure and stop the run but it can obviously leave the back end vulnerable.

At corner, Pitt has experience in Marquise Williams and M.J. Devonshire. Both have experience playing the Cards as Williams is one of the many players for Pitt that played in the game in 2020. Devonshire is a Kentucky transfer who can flat-out fly. He had a pick-six in their opener to seal the win against West Virginia. He is also a very good punt returner. Both of these guys will have a field day if UofL’s receivers can’t create separation.

The safeties are playing at a very high level this year with Erick Hallett being one of the highest-graded players in the country, per PFF. He has three interceptions on the season and Louisville might have to stay away from him if Ahmari Huggins-Bruce is out this weekend. UofL doesn’t have the speed at receiver that they’ve had in the past so they will have to find a way to take advantage of Hallett and Brandon Hill who are both very good players.