The Pittsburgh Panthers kick off their 2013 campaign Monday at Heinz Field when they host the Florida State Seminoles. Television coverage will start at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
This will be Pitt's first contest in the ACC after 22 years in the Big East, where the Panthers won two conference titles. It is also former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's second year as the Panthers' head coach after a 6-7 campaign last year that ended in a blowout loss to Ole Miss in the Compass Bowl.
Pitt certainly had its ups and downs last year -- namely, losing its opener to FCS program Youngstown State by two touchdowns only to come back two weeks later to easily defeat Virginia Tech -- and the potential is there for Chryst to build on. While the defense looks to be strong again this year, the offense lost some significant pieces, and the Panther faithful will have to see if the old Wisconsin mastermind can make something out of this.
Florida State has been an outright or co-ACC Atlantic Division champion in two of its first three years under head coach Jimbo Fisher, culminating in a 12-2 season in 2012 that included a conference title and Orange Bowl trouncing of Northern Illinois. Star quarterback E.J. Manuel is gone and six coaches left for other opportunities (including both coordinators), but the Seminoles have as much talent on both sides of the ball as anyone in the country.
Rankings and records: Florida State is ranked 11th in the AP Poll and 12th in the Coaches Poll. Pitt is not ranked in either poll, but leads the all-time series, 5-3. The two schools have not met in 30 years.
Vegas: Florida State is a 10.5-point favorite. The over/under is 47 points. OddsShark has details and more.
Weather: Expected to be mostly sunny with a high of 83 degrees and a 10 percent chance of rain.
Three names to know
All-world recruit Jameis Winston is the quarterback taking Manuel's place, and the redshirt freshman is expected to take the nation by storm this year. He will be helped by the return of two of Florida State's top three rushers, juniors Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Freeman ran 111 times for 660 yards and eight touchdowns last year, with Wilder getting 110 carries for 635 yards and 11 scores. Behind them are freshmen, but the Seminoles return two all-conference linemen, which will go a long way towards the continued excellence of the Florida State run game.
The Seminoles' recent success has been fueled by their defense, and last year's unit was no exception. The 'Noles ranked first nationally in pass defense and pass efficiency defense, second in total defense, third in rushing defense and sixth in scoring defense. With Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and a host of others gone from the defensive line, depth could be an issue there as well, but tackles Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister are both strong building blocks on the inside. Christian Jones and Telvin Smith are both back at linebacker (16.5 combined tackles for a loss last season), and the Seminoles have a seemingly endless supply of defensive backs to throw out there, as well.
Former Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage will start the year under center for Pittsburgh, and he will be helped by star wideout Devin Street, one of the few remaining skill players with significant on-field experience still on the Panthers' roster. Street caught 73 passes for 975 yards last season.
Two things at stake
Florida State is a legitimate title contender that needs a strong boost at the start of the season for its young quarterback.
Pittsburgh has had coaching troubles, transfer troubles and just general troubles for a long while. This win would help bring life back into the program.
How to witness
TV: ESPN. Rece Davis will be doing the play-by-play with Jesse Palmer and David Pollack as analysts.
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Bud Elliott does a tremendous job at Tomahawk Nation, so be sure to check them out for all your Florida State needs. For previews, analysis, and more from the Pittsburgh side of things, be sure to go to Cardiac Hill.