Justin K. Aller
The dates and times aren't yet known, but it's safe to say that when Pitt's 2013 football schedule was announced, it was an instant hit.
The home portion of that schedule is what has generated the most buzz. Instead of the likes of Gardner-Webb, Temple, and Rutgers, teams such as Florida State, Notre Dame, and Miami will come into Heinz Field. That's a significant upgrade in product and there's little doubt that it will show in attendance. Immediately after the news broke, Twitter nearly exploded with lots of talk about the schedule.
The news is good in terms of watching quality teams come in since it will be fun to watch. But if I'm playing the heel here (and let's be honest, that's a lot more fun), you can't look at this schedule and think that there's going to be some sacrifice of actual wins and losses. If you don't think playing the Big East schedule is significantly easier than this labyrinth, you're going to be in for a rude awakening.
All of that said, though, the schedule was bound to be tougher in the ACC no matter what slate of teams was on it. And that's part of what comes along with a bigger payday. It's a better football conference and the games are going to be more difficult. There's really no way around it so if you're going to play a difficult schedule, it's great to get those games at home.
The other great thing is that the road slate isn't a bear, either. Virginia Tech could bounce back and who knows what Georgia Tech will do, but with games against Navy, Duke, and Syracuse, Pitt should be able to rack up several wins away from Heinz Field and that will help balance things out.
And while you might prefer a schedule not as difficult to allow Pitt to win more games, the home slate last year was abysmal. No one (particularly the athletics department) could have been pleased with that monstrosity. Trying to sell tickets with those games on tap had to be akin to TNA trying to sell tickets to a house show while Monday Night Raw is in town. Even if you're not all that happy about Pitt playing so many tough teams, you should be glad about the amount of money that the school will generate and also about the buzz being created for the program.
It's too early to make a good prediction on how the season will shape out. Most would probably say between six to eight wins and I'd fall in that category. But if the Panthers want to finish closer to the upper end of that and compete for the division, it won't be easy. One thing's for certain, though - Heinz Field, at the very least, should be a bit more full.