Pitt Football: Are the Panthers the ACC's surprise team for 2014?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With Pitt's somewhat weak schedule for next season, there's been quite a bit of talk already about the Panthers pulling off a surprise year. Pitt should certainly reach a bowl game and eight, or even nine, wins shouldn't be completely out of the question.

There's even been some mention of the Panthers being able to compete for the Coastal Division title. ESPN states the case for Pitt to be the surprise team of the conference:

The Panthers were one of just two teams to beat Duke in last season's regular season, narrowly escaping in a 58-55 shootout. A solid offensive line should be a strength for this season's Pitt squad -- as it was for Duke a year ago -- and Pitt has perhaps the ACC’s best offensive playmaker in Tyler Boyd. Pitt also enjoys a manageable schedule with nonconference games against Delaware, Akron and FIU while avoiding FSU, Clemson and Louisville in conference. Pitt needs to find replacements for Tom Savage and Aaron Donald, but there’s a clear path for the Panthers to a Coastal title.

I'm doing my best to temper expectations for the most part. While I agree that there may be no clear cut dominant force in the Coastal, I'm just not sure that the Panthers are the best of the bunch. The replacements of Savage and Donald, in particular, are big questions.

There's some returning talent on offense but the team has a new quarterback and little depth in terms of experience behind him. The defense should, by all accounts, be a bit down. Pitt has a chance to do something, but there are too many questions surrounding the team to make me pick them right now.

All of that said, the Panthers do probably have enough pieces in place to be a surprise team if quarterback Chad Voytik is healthy and effective.

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 founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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