Of Pitt's three quality non-conference games this year, the Iowa game gets the least amount of pub. I practically forgot about it when I saw a post from Off Tackle Empire, SB Nation's Big Ten blog.
While acknowledging the game will be a test for Iowa, in the end, they're going with the Hawkeyes:
Pittsburgh at Iowa: I put Iowa's game against Iowa State as a big non-conference game, primarily because it's a big in-state rivalry, and a loss would be disastrous for the conference. You see, Iowa State kinda sucks, but Pittsburgh is coming off an 8 win season, a bowl win, Dave Wannstadt getting fired, and new coach Mike Haywood getting fired...for a domestic violence charge. Yikes. This will still be a real test for Iowa, as Pitt's defense was 15th in the nation in points allowed last year, and Iowa has new players at several key positions on offense. But the Hawks get this game at home, and they should be favored. And they should win.
I haven't given this game (or for that matter, Pitt's other games) much thought yet - all the more reason I'm glad Greg and Mike have decided to tackle previews of the team and a look at the opponents over the Summer. But the Iowa game is the one really under the radar. Notre Dame is Notre Dame and Pitt fans (well, at least this one) are still thinking about the loss at Utah last season. Iowa? Well, they've got black and gold uniforms patterned after the Steelers...that's maybe the most compelling storyline of the game.In case you don't remember, Pitt squeaked out a 21-20 win at Heinz Field back in 2008, the last time the teams played.
I don't really know where I stand with this game. Iowa no longer has star quarterback Ricky Stanzi, but Pitt lost a ton of key players obviously. Neither team will be particularly tested (Pitt opens with Buffalo and Maine while Iowa takes on Tennessee Tech and Iowa State) and I think both are pretty evenly matched. I'd be inclined to give the Panthers a slight edge on talent, but that might be wiped out due to the fact that it's the first road game of the season and against a quality opponent.
The fact is that when it comes to Pitt, there's really a deeper issue - I don't know what to expect from the Panthers this season in general. The team has so many question marks starting with a brand new offense that makes it difficult to formulate any kind of a firm opinion. While I think Pitt can win nine games this year, I have a hard time picking out guaranteed wins on the schedule.
For now, count me as undecided on the Iowa game.