So Pitt's first ACC football schedule officially dropped yesterday. Despite the increased degree of difficulty, it's hard not to be excited for some of these games. Here were my first thoughts.
There's just lots of marquee games here. Playing Florida State on Labor Day is the one that's gotten everyone's attention, but man. Home against Notre Dame. Friday night nationally televised game against Miami Thanksgiving weekend. Road games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Just action packed from start to finish.
That Miami Thanksgiving weekend game is pretty cool. One of the things that I've missed about the Brawl is that it was a nice distraction from Thanksgiving stuff. Pitt-Miami isn't the same rivalry as the Brawl, but it's a big game for sure. The fact that it will be over the holiday weekend makes it even bigger.
Okay, beyond that, how do I see things shaping out? That's nearly impossible to predict, but I could see Pitt getting off to a pretty good start. The Panthers could start out 5-2 fairly easily. Tentatively, I see the Florida State and Virginia Tech games being losses, but grabbing one of those wouldn't surprise me too much. But Pitt could also drop a game like Virginia. So 5-2 just sounds about right.
November is obviously a big month with five games, including Miami, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Syracuse. Without Nassib, I like Pitt's chances against Syracuse, but after that ... well, there's Notre Dame, who nearly won a national championship this past season. North Carolina is at home, but they won eight games last season. Georgia Tech is on the road. And while Miami's at home, we saw what happened the last time they rolled into town. That could be a long, long month.
Another thing to keep in the backs of your mind is that, as Greg pointed out in the comments section of our initial post yesterday, the schedule-makers did Pitt a bit of a favor. The Panthers will face off against option teams Navy and Georgia Tech in consecutive games. That really bodes well as it's difficult to drop everything you're doing as a team to prepare or a program that runs the option. But the good thing for Pitt is that they'll be able to play both of those teams in a row.
If we're talking predictions on the whole season, I think eight wins is probably the ceiling and I'd call for seven. But here's the thing - Pitt has its big games at home. Would knocking off Florida State, Notre Dame, or Miami at Heinz Field really be that far fetched? The road games are manageable. The biggest problem I see for Pitt is that I just don't think they're going to be a great team next year. Give me this schedule two years from now and I could see nine wins. But it's just hard to start predicting Pitt to win that many games after two down seasons.