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Silver Lining In Pitt's Disappointing Season?

At 4-5, this season hasn't gone as planned. Any chance for a good year went out the window with Saturday night's loss against Cincinnati. Pitt can still salvage the season to a degree by finishing strong, but other than running the table and winning a bowl game, I'm hard pressed to call this a good season.

But if there's one thing to take away from this year, it may be that Pitt isn't all that far away. I think Paul Zeise of the PG has it right when he says this is partially a mental/confidence issue.

Pitt is 4-5 and that, by any stretch of the imagination, isn't very good. But the thing that has me partially encouraged is the fact that the Panthers have been in every game other than the Rutgers nightmare.

In case you missed it, here's how Pitt's season has shaped out thus far:

Wins against Buffalo, Maine, South Florida, and UConn

Losses against Iowa, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Utah, Cincinnati

The wins aren't the topic here, so let's take a quick look at each loss.

Iowa: Pitt had Iowa beat by anyone's estimation, up by 17 in the fourth quarter before falling apart late and losing by four points. No point in rehashing this as we all know the story. But the bottom line is that Pitt played well enough to win for three quarters and should have won that game.

Notre Dame: Pitt didn't hold the huge advantage they did against Iowa, but they again played well enough to win. They gave up a long touchdown run to backup senior Jonas Gray running back (a guy who had zero career touchdowns in his entire career) and also let the Irish score a late touchdown. Pitt led for a good chunk of the game and was right there, losing by three.

Rutgers: Pitt was blown out in this game and there's no other way to say it. They did go into halftime down only 6-3, but this one was just flat out ugly.

Utah: Pitt ended up losing by 12 to Utah, but they did so without putting up any offensive points. At first glance, it might look like Pitt wasn't all that competitive, but they went into the fourth quarter down only 16-14. Pitt was in this game for the most part before losing late.

Cincinnati: This one was the worst loss of the bunch, obviously. Three of the previous four were non-conference games and had Pitt won this one, we'd be talking about how they have a chance to win the Big East title. Instead, they blew a ten-point lead and lost by three, missing a last-second field goal.

You also can't ignore the fact that Pitt has kept these games close despite being injury-plagued much of the season. I'm not making excuses for Todd Graham and this year has clearly been a colossal disappointment (especially considering that Pitt has been competitive for the past three seasons). All of the hype he brought in certainly didn't help, either.

But in the midst of this bad season, Pitt isn't all that far away from being a 7-2 or 6-3 team.