On Tuesday, Pitt released its football schedules for 2015 and 2016. Like most of you, I had several observations upon seeing it.
First, while we've made a big deal of the 2015 schedule being more difficult than this year (and it is), it's not a completely unmanageable slate. If Iowa isn't much better next year (which of course, is a significant 'if'), the non-conference schedule isn't brutal. Notre Dame is a tough game, of course, but at least that's a home game. Pitt should have a shot at getting to 3-1 in the non-conference and that would be a better record than this year.
In addition, regarding 2015, Pitt also will miss Florida State and Clemson again. The ACC schedule is hardly going to be a pushover, but avoiding the two best programs in the conference for a second consecutive year is a big plus for a program still trying to rebuild.
2016, however, is a different story. In a nutshell, the Panthers really should hope that the program has progressed by then because if they haven't, it could spell trouble. Pitt plays on the road at both Penn State and Oklahoma State. In addition, they also will get Clemson on the road. With the way Penn State is recruiting, there's a chance that all three o those teams could be in the top 15. Throw in games against Virginia Tech and Miami, plus others in the ACC that may be decent, and that's a really difficult schedule.
Speaking of 2016, one interesting non-conference opponent is Marshall. Pitt will play a home and home with the Thundering Herd. While I get that Pitt wouldn't want to play West Virginia in a year that's already stacked with quality non-conference opponents, the games against Oklahoma State and a team like Marshall prove that the Panthers still aren't interested in renewing a series with the Mountaineers.
I won't go into a long diatribe about playing West Virginia again - been there, done that. And I get the strategic thinking of keeping the Mountaineers out of the recruit-heavy West Virginia. That said, I've still got a hard time thinking games against teams like Oklahoma State and Marshall in the non-conference will be as intriguing against a true rival.
And Pitt playing at Marshall, which they'll do in 2020, just seems confusing. Playing a home and home with a school like South Florida where there's some history between the opponents and in a strong recruiting area just makes more sense. Other than playing a team that's nearby and where Pitt fans can travel to, I'm just not sure I see the benefit there.
Also, Pitt should have a much easier time selling tickets in each year than they did this year when there was little to sell. The home schedule is decent next year, highlighted by Notre Dame, Louisville, and Miami. It's not great in 2016, but the game against Penn State should mean they sell a good number of season tickets.
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