Various media outlets have been putting together preseason countdowns in anticipation of the 2011 college football season. Both the Orlando Sentinel and Rivals have the Panthers coming in at 35th overall. I normally don't care much for preseason rankings, but they're nice to have in the dull offseason months.
Here's a recap from Rivals:
After a tumultuous December, which included the botched hiring and firing of former Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood, Pittsburgh ended up with a good Plan B. Graham has coached four bowl teams in five seasons at "non-traditional" programs Rice and Tulsa. Pitt hopes he can have the same impact and more in the Big East. The overhaul of the offensive and defensive schemes could mean an inconsistent season. Still, if Pittsburgh avoids any major pitfalls, the Panthers have enough experience and talent to challenge for one of the Big East's better bowl bids.
Rivals also lists a depth chart in their preview. Both Rivals and the Sentinel ask one main question for Pitt: How quickly will this team adjust? Adjustment is going to be the key factor in Pitt's season. The team has to be ready by Week 4 against Notre Dame if they want to come out with a W. Iowa is rebuilding somewhat so the Panthers may be able to escape with a win despite not being fully ready. But Pitthas to be ready by the time the Irish come to Heinz Field. The Irish are a talented bunch and have the coach now that can use those talents successfully. If Pitt can come out with a win or at least keep it close throughout, it will help build confidence among the team going into the Big East opener against USF.
Overall, I think 35th is a little high for this group just because of all the questions lingering about how the team is going to handle the transition. Yes, the Spring game was nice in that Tino showed he was capable of accumulating big yardage and the first team defense was stout, as always. But a real game is obviously different and we won't know how the team actually is until September 3rd. I would place the team at around 40-45 to start, but if they can adjust quickly, watch out. Dave Wannstedt left Todd Graham with enough talent and the eight home games are a huge boost. If Pitt is ready, I could easily see them roll through this schedule and get to 9-10 wins in the regular season and, with a little luck, into a BCS bowl.