UALBANY Football Week 1 Preview: UAlbany @ Pittsburgh

by Corey Mansfield

The University at Albany football team kicks off their season when they head to the Steel City to face ACC power Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.

Can Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks return and lead the Great Danes to an upset over the Panthers? (photo credit: Jon Monaghan)
While many feel like this is a throw-away game for Pitt (who faces cross state rival and #10 ranked Penn State the following week), it's a big time game for the Great Danes who, like any FCS team, could pull off a major upset to start the season. Is it likely? We'll have to wait and see.

The Panthers are coming off a disappointing 5-7 season and didn't make a bowl game for the first time in nine years. The highlight was an upset over then ranked #2 Miami, which ultimately knocked the Hurricanes out of the College Football Playoff. 

Traditionally, Pitt has had a solid running game and tried to run over teams. Last season they averaged 149 rushing yards per game. Junior Darrin Hall will get a majority of the carries in the Panther offense this season. Last year, Hall carried the ball 128 times for 660 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 4.9 rushing yards per attempt. Qadree Ollison is a bigger more, physical back to could also see a good amount of carries. UAlbany will need to slow them down and make the Pitt offense rely on sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett to make big plays. Pickett split time as the quarterback for the Panthers last season and was most notably the starter in the Miami upset game. Many scouts feel Pickett is an upgrade for Pitt at the quarterback position of the prior year. The Great Danes' secondary will need to be on high alert as this may be Pickett's coming out party. 

On the other side of the ball, UAlbany will need to use the tandem of redshirt junior Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks and sophomore Karl Mofor to establish their running game against a Pitt defense which is returning nine starters including all four defensive lineman. In 2016, Ibitokun-Hanks rushed for 1,401 yards and 16 TD's, however missed almost the entire 2017 season due to injury. Mofor returns after a successful freshman campaign, leading the team with 602 yards and six touchdowns. If UAlbany can establish running game then it will allow Vincent Testaverde to utilize play action to take shots down field. UAlbany needs to run the football and run they must if they hope to win the game.

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