Pitt's win in the Little Caesars Bowl game seems to have, at the very least, gotten some to start thinking about the Panthers' chances in 2014. I'm on record for suggesting that I think Pitt's best chance to break through will come in 2015, but the Bowling Green game showcased some of Pitt's young talent and a few people are taking notice.
One of those is college football guru for CBS Sports, Bruce Feldman. Answering a question in his mailbag, Feldman thinks the Panthers' future is a bright one:
From @wilk3321: does pitt start 2014 in your top 25??
It's too soon to tell which underclassmen are going to leave and which stay at programs around the country, but from what I saw Thursday night, the future for the Panthers looks promising. Freshmen James Conner and Tyler Boyd were fantastic in the win over Bowling Green. The 6-2, 230-pound Conner battered BG for 229 rushing yards and even played some defense as a late-game pass-rushing specialist while Boyd caught eight passes for 173 yards and also scored on a punt return.
Pitt will have to replace senior QB Tom Savage, but the Panthers had to do a trial run in the second half of the bowl after the big quarterback was injured and former blue-chip recruit Chad Voytik was impressive in his absence. The redshirt freshman went 5-of-9 for 108 yards along with two carries for 24 yards and a TD. Pitt also will have back three starters from its O-line. Plus gifted freshman OT Adam Bisnowaty also started most of the 2013 season but missed the bowl due to a back injury.
The player Pitt really will miss next year is all-everything DT Aaron Donald, but keep in mind sophomore LB Nicholas Grigsby and junior safety Ray Vinopal, two of the Panthers best players in the bowl, will be back. And the Panthers also did start three true freshmen on D in the bowl with DE Shakir Soto and safety Terrish Webb making their first starts and CB Titus Howard making his second start.
Like Feldman, I'm not sure Pitt will garner much steam when it comes to the preseason college football rankings. To me, it's just too hard to give a .500 regular season team breaking in a new quarterback and losing the most dominant defensive player in college football that much credit.
That said, Pitt will get a chance to impress some folks next season and the bowl game definitely put some of their young talent on display.