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This Just In: Pitt's Season Not Yet Over

No, seriously, it's really not. Contrary to what talk show callers and fans on message boards might say, there's still plenty of season left.

Pitt is off to a less than desirable start to be sure. The team has been unable to win either of its major tests at this point and looked downright awful in its second attempt. Still, there's no reason to think that the season is lost at this point.

The Panthers' stated goal this offseason was to win the Big East championship and get to a BCS game. Pitt has yet to play a conference game at this point and still has a few more weeks before it will do so. The team is expected to get back on track against Florida International before facing what should be a tough test at Notre Dame.

While non-conference games aren't meaningless by any stretch, for a team like Pitt who isn't a national championship contender or in a conference strong enough to receive more than one invitation to a BCS bowl, those games mean very little when compared to in-conference matchups. As silly as it might sound, in terms of strictly getting to a BCS bowl, Pitt's game against a team such as Rutgers or Syracuse is infinitely more important than beating Notre Dame, Utah, or even Miami.

Don't misunderstand what I'm saying - Pitt needs to win those types of games for a variety of reasons. The school needs to win on the national stage to help secure big-time recruits, improve the perception of its conference, and obviously improve its own record. That leads to more attendance and more money. Pitt getting to ten wins was a big deal last season and the school needs to pile up wins to improve its own reputation.

But in the strictest terms of winning the conference, there's a lot of season left. Pitt could win the conference with only a 9-3 or even an 8-4 record as it proved back in 2004.

So if non-conference games don't mean as much to someone like Pitt, then fans should still have the same optimism they held at the beginning of the season. Right?

Well, not exactly.

The team seemingly has an unending line of issues heading into its fourth game. The secondary has been bad, there are questions about how effective QB Tino Sunseri has been, and the offensive line looks, at times, like it is playing against the Steelers front four of the 1970s. Playmakers Dion Lewis and Jon Baldwin have been able to do very little so far and the team is playing without starting DE Greg Romeus and now starting MLB Dan Mason, who was injured in the Miami game. Based on how the team played against Miami at home, there's little reason to believe that the team would beat West Virginia at this point.

The good news is that there's a lot of season to be played and Pitt has time to get better.