Yep, this happens every year without fail. Every. Year.
ESPN's David Hale is the latest to call Pitt a darkhorse candidate to win the ACC. Pitt as a darkhorse candidate isn't a new idea. It seems that every year, someone from a major entity warns that fans should watch out for the Panthers.
Hale's reasoning makes good sense, though, and it's what a lot of us think: Potentially dangerous offense paired with a defense that should improve if only by default with so many returning players and a defensive-minded head coach. When you factor in the manageable schedule, Pitt contending a bit this year just isn't that terrible of an idea.
Keep in mind, though, that this isn't a darkhorse pick to win the division - it's to win the conference, as noted in the article.
How you define darkhorse is up to interpretation, so I'm not comfortable in saying that Hale is completely off base here. After all, if you're picking among teams that finished with a losing record last year, it's really not the worst pick.
Still, I probably wouldn't select the Panthers to take the Coastal if you forced my hand - let alone the entire ACC. There are still a lot of questions defensively and much of the offense's success will be tied to Chad Voytik - still at the very least something of a question mark. For the record, he got better as the season went along, but still didn't have a single game passing more than 250 yards. And, hey, there's always the 'we've seen this type of hype before' feeling as well.
But with the kind of offense that is expected from the Panthers, you can probably expect to see a little more of this when it comes to analysts looking for outside-the-box picks.