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Looking Ahead to 2010

With the 2009 season behind us, it's not too early to look to it? Of course it actually is, but the recaps of 2009 have been plentiful. Time to look ahead, even if it's only briefly.

The 2010 schedule will include home games against New Hampshire, Miami (FL), Florida International, Louisville, Rutgers, and West Virginia.

Road games will include Notre Dame, Utah, Cincinnati, UCONN, South Florida, and Syracuse.

Pitt loses key players Bill Stull, Dorin Dickerson, Adam Gunn, Aaron Berry, Joe Thomas, Robb Houser, Nate Byham, and Mick Williams to graduation. The team may also lose Greg Romeus to early entry into the NFL Draft.

But look at what returns:

Impact players Dion Lewis, Jonathan Baldwin, and Jabaal Sheard. Guys who should play much bigger roles like Mike Shanahan, Dan Mason, Jarred Holley, and Henry Hynoski, plus a host of others. And not to mention the freshmen class with guys like Aaron Donald of Penn Hills who may get some playing time right away.

The kicking game should again be solid with Dan Hutchins and the weakest link in 2009, the secondary, can only get better.

Dion Lewis should have another good year, but could be in for a bit of a dropoff. First off, 1,800 yards is no easy feat. Second, the passing game may struggle a bit and that should lead to more men in the box to protect against the run. Lastly, the offensive line is losing a few players and could be in for a minor transition. On the flipside, he'll be a year wiser and should be even stronger. So it could be a wash.

And, yes, there's a big hole at QB to fill. But Tino Sunseri saw some very limited action this year and will have two camps under his belt. And Pat Bostick (in my opinion, he is the slight favorite heading into 2010) has now had three years in the system. The QB play might not match what Bill Stull did this year, but if one of those two can be somewhat of a game manager and keep the turnover bug away, the team should be solid. With a run-first approach, that should make the QB's job an easier one.

Schedule-wise, it's not all that bad. Yes, there are the Utah and Cincy games on the road, which could be tough. But neither appears to be utterly unwinnable. Notre Dame should be manageable as they're losing some big-time players to the draft and West Virginia and Miami are at home. Looking at the schedule, along with looking at what Pitt has coming back, and it's hard not to envision them as a Big East contender. I fully expect them to again be in every game once again.

I'll take a split of home games Miami and WVU as well as a split of road games Cincy and Utah. I'll throw in another loss of maybe ND or South Florida and go with an early prediction of 9-3. Hopefully if those losses happen, they'll come against the non-conference foes.