Earlier, I referenced a CBS Sports article that cited Pitt's hire of Pat Narduzzi as one of the best in 2015. Right behind him was former Panthers coach, Paul Chryst, who debuted with a 10-3 season at Wisconsin.
While Chryst had a solid first-year after leaving Pitt, however, his sophomore one could be a bumpy one.
For starters, we don't yet know what to make of Chryst's first season. He won ten games, but against a weak schedule. Incredibly, nine of the teams the Badgers faced were below .500 and they benefited from avoiding Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State in their Big Ten part of the season. To put that into perspective, Pitt faced as many (nine) teams that were over .500. Wisconsin did finish the season by defeating a decent USC team, but other than that, the Badgers mostly roughed up weaker teams.
That will change in 2016 as Wisconsin will face a decidedly stronger schedule that includes LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa, among others. Those last three games will all be on the road, as will a game against Northwestern, which was ranked this past season. Only five of the Badgers' teams in 2016 had losing records this past year and three of those won six games.
Another challenge for Chryst is that he had to replace defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Aranda is an excellent coordinator that decided to go to LSU after this past season. The Badgers had the No. 1 scoring defense in the country and while his replacement, Justin Wilcox, could work out fine, there's no doubt that Wisconsin lost a great coordinator.
My sense is that most Pitt fans don't wish ill for Chryst. It was frustrating to see him dodge questions about sticking around when the Wisconsin job came up after his first year. It was clear to me then that had he been offered the job, he would have quickly accepted. But overall, he also provided the program with some stability and represented the program well. At the end of the day, it's very difficult to fault him for leaving for his dream job.
And, by the way, Pitt will face their own challenges this season as well with road games against Clemson, Oklahoma State, Miami, and North Carolina, while dealing with the loss of arguably their best player in wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Both he and Narduzzi will have a lot to prove but the problem for Chryst is that, right now, expectations are assuredly higher at Wisconsin.
There's no doubt, though, that Chryst has a big challenge ahead of him next season.