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Pitt's 6-1 start doesn't feel like fools gold

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Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

To date, the Pitt football season has gone about as well as could be expected. The giant elephant in the room, however, is that the team is still looking for a statement win. It's a question that needs to be asked - Is Pitt's 6-1 start fools gold?

Thus far, the Panthers are still in search of a big time win. Games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were supposed to provide a true measuring stick. But with both teams sporting sub .500 records, they have fallen well short of expectations. With the team's win over now 3-4 Syracuse on Saturday, Pitt still has yet to defeat an FBS program over .500.

The Panthers will soon see a big jump in competition, though. With that, they'll have more than enough chances to prove that they are legit.

First up is a 6-1 North Carolina team that will come into Heinz Field on Thursday night. After that is a clash with a ranked one-loss Notre Dame squad. Pitt then travels to Duke to face the now 6-1 Blue Devils. After that, the Panthers face 3-4 Louisville - a team better than its record due to a tough schedule would indicate. Pitt then wraps things up with another dangerous team in Miami.

The North Carolina game will be a good measuring stick for the Panthers. It's also worth pointing out, though, that they don't exactly have an impressive win, either. Unlike Pitt, the team has dominated its competition. However, their best win was arguably against a 4-3 Illinois team and they too are looking for a statement victory. Overall, it's a good, but not great, measuring stick for Pitt.

So is the Panthers' start fools gold? I don't necessarily think so.

The team's record against its weaker opponents doesn't mean that what the Panthers have accomplished isn't special. Pitt has not only defeated every team it should have this year, but games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech on the road are always nice wins. And you only need to go back to the Paul Chryst era to see that the program has underachieved when it's come to facing weaker opponents.

For another thing, while Pitt isn't beating the Alabamas and Ohio States of the world, they're not beating the Little Sisters of the Poor, either. Virginia Tech is only 3-5, but took 6-1 Duke to four overtimes this past weekend. 3-5 Georgia Tech has already faced Clemson, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Duke, Pitt, and Florida State, just beating the Seminoles on Saturday. None of those teams have more than one loss. Even 2-5 Virginia beat Syracuse earlier this year and also took Notre Dame down to the wire, losing by only seven. Those wins, particularly against the Techs, are not gimmes by any stretch of the imagination.

Also encouraging is that Pitt hung in with an Iowa team that is a perfect 7-0 and in the Top 15. It took an incredible 57-yard field goal at the end of the game at home to defeat the Panthers and considering quarterback Nathan Peterman was still getting his feet wet, the Panthers had a very good showing in that game.

That's partially the reason I don't think the 6-1 start is fools gold for Pitt fans. It's true that the Panthers haven't exactly dominated their competition. But they've also been on the road for wildly unbalanced five of their seven games and to come out of that with a nearly perfect record against anybody is noteworthy.

Also impressive is what I mentioned in the Syracuse game recap - the team has made excellent adjustments coming out of halftime. The coaching staff knows what it's doing and even when the Panthers haven't executed well in the first half at times, they are figuring out what needs to be done.

Will Pitt run the gauntlet here and finish the season 11-1? I doubt it. But I don't think they're through winning yet, either. The good news is that we will find out just what we have in this team very soon.

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