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Pittsburgh football vs. Albany: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score

Panthers host Great Danes in season opener

Brad Stewart of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets pulls in the pass against Dane Jackson #11 and Jordan Whitehead #9 of the Pittsburgh Panthers in the second half on October 8, 2016 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH – Despite a defense that returns nine starters from a squad that showed tremendous improvement in the second half of last season and a quarterback with a full offseason under his belt, Pittsburgh can't afford to look past visiting FCS foe Albany in the season opener on Saturday.

In the Panthers’ last six meetings against FCS schools, they have three wins by eight points or fewer and one loss - 31-17 to Youngstown State in 2012.

TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3. LINE: None

A promising Pittsburgh defense returns its top six linemen, top five linebackers and six of eight defensive backs. That unit yielded 6.7 yards per play, a 60 percent completion rate and a 151 passer rating over the first seven games, but 4.9 yards per play, a 50 percent completion rate and a 119.5 passer rating over the last five.

“We've got some guys. But then you've got to go out and show it on game day,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi told reporters Monday. “You can have all the "P" you want as far as "Potential," but, we've got to go out and play like we're a good defense, and that's - you can tell at the end of the year - it's hard.”

The Panthers struggled last season trying to replace 2016 starter Nathan Peterman, finally settling on true freshman Kenny Pickett, who led Pitt to a 24-14 upset in the season finale against Miami.

ABOUT ALBANY (2017: 4-7)

The Great Danes will be guided by Vince Testaverde, the son of the former Heisman Trophy winner and a 21-year veteran of the NFL. The redshirt senior hasn’t played in a game since 2014 and has thrown just 26 passes in his stops at Texas Tech and Miami (Fla.) before spending last season as Albany’s scout team quarterback.

Running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who ran for a Colonial Athletic Association-leading 1,401 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in 2016, returns after playing just one game last season due to a knee injury. 

ABOUT PITTSBURGH (2017: 5-7)

Pickett (39-of-66, 509 yards, one TD and one interception in 2017) threw for 193 yards and a touchdown against no interceptions versus the Hurricanes in his first start after almost rallying the Panthers to a victory against Virginia Tech the previous week.

Senior running back Darrin Hall came on strong last season, rushing for 486 of his team-high 628 yards in three late-season contests. He's scheduled to split carries with fellow senior Qadree Ollison, who ran for 1,121 yards in 2015 as a freshman but just a combined 525 the last two years.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Pittsburgh had a streak of nine straight bowl appearances snapped in 2017.

2. The Panthers averaged 23.9 points and 366 total yards last season after averaging a school-record 40.9 points and 447 yards in 2016. 

3. The 6-1, 211-pound Testaverde went 11-of-18 with two touchdowns in the spring game, beating out Will Brunson, who started all 11 games last season and threw for 1,889 yards and nine TDs.

PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 36, Albany 12

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