So, Pitt's 2014 ACC football schedule dropped yesterday. In case you didn't see it yet, here you go:
Saturday, August 30: Delaware
Friday, September 5: at Boston College
Saturday, September 13: at Florida International
Saturday, September 20: Iowa
Saturday, September 27: Akron
Saturday, October 4: at Virginia
Thursday, October 16: Virginia Tech
Saturday, October 25: Georgia Tech
Saturday, November 1: Duke
Saturday, November 15: at North Carolina
Saturday, November 22: Syracuse
Saturday, November 29: at Miami
Lots to like about that schedule if you're into wins. If you'd rather see big opponents come to Heinz Field, not so much. The home schedule is a bit of a dud, highlighted by Virginia Tech, and teams with a potential to be decent like Iowa and Duke. Not exactly Florida State, Notre Dame, and Miami. The Thursday night game against the Hokies will be fun, but overall, it's a pretty light slate.
A few observations.
The schedule is pretty backloaded. If Pitt gets off to a reasonable start, I've got a good feeling that we'll all be sitting around six games in asking how good this team is. Just not many tests up front.
Because of that, Paul Chryst will be under a lot of pressure to get rolling early. I'm not saying this team will be a great one, but there's a legitimate chance to get to 6-0 there. Iowa or a road game at Boston College look like the stiffest tests and both of those should be very winnable. Iowa could be a preseason Top 25 team, but at home, that's not even a game that's out of the question.
Bottom line, Pitt will have a very good chance at 5-1 and 4-2 would be a bit of a disappointment.
The second half of the schedule features tougher teams, but four of the six games are at home. Three wins is highly attainable there.
Lastly, look over the schedule and tell me what game is utterly unwinnable. The road test at Miami will be extremely difficult, but while I'd pick against Pitt there, I'm not sure I'd say it were completely impossible to win. Even taking that game out of the equation and there's really a chance for a breakout season.
When you talk about the toughest stretch, it's likely either Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke or at UNC, Syracuse, at Miami. If you argue it's the first three, all of those games are at home. Personally, I think the final three games are the toughest, but even there, you get Syracuse at home and a team like North Carolina isn't an impossible team to beat. In other words, the most difficult stretch for Pitt on the whole schedule could result in a 2-1 record.
Next year is Year 3 of the Paul Chryst experiment. Pitt needs to finally take some strides on the field and with a light schedule, there's no reason it shouldn't happen. Yes, the Panthers are breaking in a new quarterback. Yes, they lose Devin Street and Aaron Donald. But with all of the running backs returning, more experience on the offensive line, and Tyler Boyd, this team shouldn't be incapable of competing with this schedule.
It's early, but to me, eight wins is the bare minimum target here and nine should be very possible. The ultimate optimist could probably even push it to ten, but, well, I know better.