Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE
This week, ESPN took a shot at ranking the non-conference schedules of each ACC team. Pitt came in fourth in the 14-team conference.
The Panthers' non-con schedule has kind of been put off to the side while we've hit on all the excitement of the ACC schedule. But taking a look at it, Pitt has some fairly challenging games ahead. Notre Dame will be extremely difficult, obviously. There's also Navy, who goes out and beats someone every now and then. New Mexico was only 4-9, but they lost five of those games by a touchdown or less. And even the FCS team, Old Dominion, was an 11-win team. If Pitt had trouble with a mediocre Youngstown State squad a year ago, I'm not sure how you could overlook ODU.
The thing that jumps out about this year's schedule is that Pitt doesn't have at least two headliners like they have in previous years:
2012 - Notre Dame/Virginia Tech
2011 - Notre Dame/Utah/Iowa
2010 - Notre Dame/Miami/Utah
2009 - Notre Dame/North Carolina State
2008 - Notre Dame/Iowa
Pitt has really gone out of its way to schedule at least a couple of marquee non-conference games each year. That didn't happen this season, but the Panthers have plenty of big games in the ACC. Plus, I'd look for that to change in the future with the Penn State game and the chance (however unlikely) that the Backyard Brawl gets restarted.
The other thing worth mentioning is that in the Big East, it was pretty important that Pitt try to get a second marquee game for fans. But in the ACC, it's a much smaller issue. Pitt has tougher games and it's fine to take a bit of a break in the non-conference.