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Athlon ranks Pitt fifth in Coastal for 2014 ... but also calls the team a sleeper

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Pitt loses some key players for next year and most sites I've checked out aren't real high on the Panthers. You can also add Athlon to that group as they rank Pitt to finish fifth of the seven teams in the ACC's Coastal Division.

That said, the site did seem to be pretty optimistic on the Panthers at the same time:

Looking for an early sleeper in the Coastal Division? Keep an eye on the Panthers next year. Quarterback Tom Savage must be replaced, but coach Paul Chryst has to feel positive about Chad Voytik’s future under center. And Pittsburgh has an emerging star at receiver (Tyler Boyd), along with a potential 1,000-yard back in James Conner. The offensive line has struggled over the last two years, but most of the core returns in 2014, and the stability should pay off in terms of improvement. There’s no question defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be missed on defense. However, the schedule is favorable. Pittsburgh won’t play Florida State, Clemson and Louisville in crossover play, and Duke, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Virginia Tech visit the Steel City.

Looking for an early sleeper in the Coastal Division? Keep an eye on the Panthers next year. Quarterback Tom Savage must be replaced, but coach Paul Chryst has to feel positive about Chad Voytik’s future under center. And Pittsburgh has an emerging star at receiver (Tyler Boyd), along with a potential 1,000-yard back in James Conner. - See more at: http://athlonsports.com/college-football/early-acc-football-predictions-2014#sthash.z7jyxg7W.dpuf
Looking for an early sleeper in the Coastal Division? Keep an eye on the Panthers next year. Quarterback Tom Savage must be replaced, but coach Paul Chryst has to feel positive about Chad Voytik’s future under center. And Pittsburgh has an emerging star at receiver (Tyler Boyd), along with a potential 1,000-yard back in James Conner. The offensive line has struggled over the last two years, but most of the core returns in 2014, and the stability should pay off in terms of improvement. There’s no question defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be missed on defense. However, the schedule is favorable. Pittsburgh won’t play Florida State, Clemson and Louisville in crossover play, and Duke, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Virginia Tech visit the Steel City. - See more at: http://athlonsports.com/college-football/early-acc-football-predictions-2014#sthash.z7jyxg7W.dpuf
Looking for an early sleeper in the Coastal Division? Keep an eye on the Panthers next year. Quarterback Tom Savage must be replaced, but coach Paul Chryst has to feel positive about Chad Voytik’s future under center. And Pittsburgh has an emerging star at receiver (Tyler Boyd), along with a potential 1,000-yard back in James Conner. The offensive line has struggled over the last two years, but most of the core returns in 2014, and the stability should pay off in terms of improvement. There’s no question defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be missed on defense. However, the schedule is favorable. Pittsburgh won’t play Florida State, Clemson and Louisville in crossover play, and Duke, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Virginia Tech visit the Steel City. - See more at: http://athlonsports.com/college-football/early-acc-football-predictions-2014#sthash.z7jyxg7W.dpuf

Like I said last week, I think can make a decent case that the Panthers will have a shot at winning the Coastal. I wouldn't pick them to do it right now just missing so many key players, but as I outlined before, there are certainly reasons why you could like them to compete.

I can understand the projections from Athlon and when you look at a team that loses so many key players, it's easy not to be real high on them. But Pitt's favorable schedule will give the team a chance to do better than that projection of fifth place.

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