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Despite tough competition, Florida State opener best for Pitt

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Justin K. Aller

When the ppossibility of a Florida State opener was broached, most fans were all for it. After all, what better way to open up shop in the ACC than taking on perhaps its best team?

The excitement spilled over all summer and Pitt's athletics department (rightfully) took full advantage to hype up the contest. In fact, it quickly became billed as more of an event than merely a football game and with everything going on that day, that's really what it is.

Season tickets were sold. Quickly. Thousands went when Pitt's full schedule was known and while other home games against Notre Dame and Miami were big reasons so many were sold, the Florida State opener is the anchor of the schedule. Despite the program being fresh off of the worst two seasons since 2007, Pitt has sold more tickets than they have in many years.

The question I've kicked around in my head, though, is if taking on such a tough team in the opener truly beneficial?

To a program on the rise and one that's been more competitive, I'd have no doubt that it would be. But Pitt, still in a rebuilding process, is more of a program licking its wounds than one that is getting ready to challenge for a conference ... or even a division. On the surface, Pitt would appear nowhere ready for a game of this magnitude right off the bat.

We've been over it all, but Pitt has an innumerable list of questions. New quarterback. New running back. Plenty of freshmen on the two deep. True freshman kicker. Questions on the offensive line. If the goal is to win games, I'd feel much more comfortable about playing a team like Florida State later in the season.

The flip side, of course, is that if Pitt is to beat FSU, the best time to do it might be early when freshman Jameis Winston is still figuring things out and while a defense is adjusting to a new scheme. The Panthers are going to have a hard time beating Florida State no matter when the game is played, but getting the team early might be their best bet.

The one thing, though, that an early opener against a top team has given the program is a boost of excitement - and that's really something that can't be taken for granted. Pitt has had enough bad publicity over the past two years and despite that, the fact that they have sold so many tickets is really a testament to the excitement that the incredible home schedule has created. I was initially not in favor of the game, but seeing the amount of interest it's generated, it's difficult to continue that same rigid stance. The Panthers have more people in their corner than they have in a while and, frankly, it doesn't matter how they got there. If a big-time schedule is what's done that, so be it.

Any other time, I always prefer an easier team for the opener (and yes, I'm fully aware of how that worked out last season). However, with the extraordinary amount of enthusiasm created by the game, it's hard to deny that opening against Florida State is at the very least, exciting - and that's something we haven't had around these parts in a while. In the end, the buzz generated around the program is much more valuable than a 1-0 start against a bad team.

Even if it results in a loss.

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