Is the ACC Coastal there for Pitt's taking in 2014?

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

I hate doing stuff like this - I really do. Pitt was 6-6 last year, nearly lost to Old Dominion, and really didn't have the type of year that would make you think they're a team that can contend for a division in any league. So with that disclaimer ...

The Panthers' schedule for next year was released a few days ago and the home slate, as I pointed out, was a bit disappointing. That said, with a lighter slate comes opportunity. It's early, but Pitt could even have an outside shot at competing for the ACC Coastal Division title.

Pitt's schedule, in a few words, is incredibly favorable. The Panthers avoid heavyweights Florida State and Clemson, as well as newbie Louisville. They have Miami and North Carolina on the road, but have a less daunting schedule than most of the other teams in the division.

Pitt loses Aaron Donald, Devin Street, and starting quarterback Tom Savage, but just as importantly is that the rest of the conference has issues as well.

Virginia is ... Virginia. They will almost definitely be better this year, but only because they have to be. It's hard to be much worse than 2-10 and I don't think they factor in here.

Georgia Tech was only a middle of the pack team last year and, even though that's what Pitt does, they get bitten by a more difficult schedule. The Yellow Jackets have to face Clemson and while they get Miami at home, they have to travel to Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Pitt.

Virginia Tech was expected to do more in 2013, but was fairly mediocre with a modest 8-5 record. The Hokies lose starting quarterback Logan Thomas and last year, while they had a great defense, didn't have a true playmaker on offense. They get Miami at home, but have to travel to Pitt, North Carolina, and Duke.

North Carolina has a challenging conference schedule. Pitt has to travel there, but the Tar Heels have to face Clemson and also play Miami and Duke on the road. North Carolina also loses tight end, Eric Ebron to the NFL Draft, who was one of the best tight ends in the nation last year. As if that weren't enough, the team breaks in a new quarterback - though it should be pointed out that the new guy, Marquise Williams, got a lot of experience last season after Bryn Renner went down with injuries.

Miami could be the favorite to win the division, but they have considerable flaws, too. They lose quarterback Stephen Morris and have a tough conference schedule playing Louisville on the road (a Louisville team that crushed them, 36-9, in their bowl game this year), Florida State at home, and Georgia Tech also on the road.

Lastly, there's Duke, last year's division winner. The Blue Devils return a lot of their key offensive players and have a favorable schedule as well, though they travel to Miami as Pitt does. Still, don't forget that Pitt beat Duke last year and they get them at home this time around.

I'm not going to sit here and make the statement that Pitt should be considered the favorite to win the division next year. But when you look around the rest of the teams, it could be up for grabs.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and manager/editor of Cardiac Hill @AnsonWhaley

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