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ESPN writer predicts another 8-4 season for Pitt

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William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this offseason, ESPN ranked Pitt's 2017 football non-conference schedule the most difficult in all of the FBS. The Panthers have been 8-4 each of the past two years and despite the difficult slate, ESPN's Jared Shanker sees more of the same next year.

Projected W-L: The Panthers lose a lot of important pieces, especially on offense, and the schedule is among the toughest in the country. The defense should eventually get better under Pat Narduzzi, but the unit doesn't have the benefit of playing Oklahoma State and Penn State later in the season. The same goes for an offense breaking in a transfer quarterback and new offensive coordinator. A third straight 8-4 regular season is a safe wager.

It's hard to disagree with that. I do think the potential exists for nine wins. Youngstown State, Georgia Tech, Rice, Syracuse, North Carolina State, Duke, and Virginia all look very winnable. Pitt may not be favored in games against North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Miami but you wouldn't write them off in those contests. And while Penn State and Oklahoma State will be very tough games, after beating the Nittany Lions and Clemson this season, no one should say those are guaranteed losses, either.

Eight wins looks like a pretty safe bet to me and I don't think nine is out of the question at all.

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