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Bowl projections roll in as Pitt edges eligibility

Pittsburgh v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

With its 23-13 upset win over No. 23 Virginia on Friday night, Pitt not only placed itself in the driver’s seat of the ACC Coastal, but also inched within one game of bowl eligibility. As a result, the Panthers have been the subject of a variety of bowl projections over the past few days.

The only potential landing spot that was suggested by multiple outlets was the Sun Bowl, which was floated by Kyle Bonagura of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports. Bonagura and Palm both picked Stanford as Pitt’s opponent in a potential Sun Bowl matchup as well. Pitt last appeared in the Sun Bowl in 2008 and suffered a 3-0 loss to Oregon State. The Panthers haven’t played the Cardinal in the sport’s modern era, but they did face them in the Rose Bowl in 1928, losing 7-6.

Pitt was also assigned a decent postseason matchup by Eric Single of Sports Illustrated, who placed it in the Pinstripe Bowl with Wisconsin. There would be plenty of familiarity with many aspects of that matchup, as Pitt’s last bowl game was a 31-24 loss to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl. In addition to that, Wisconsin is helmed by former Pitt head coach Paul Chryst.

Other recent projections have Pitt in less notable bowl games, but at least two pit the Panthers against intriguing opponents. Mitch Sherman of ESPN predicts Pitt will face Cincinnati in the Independence Bowl, reigniting a short-lived Big East rivalry that has been dormant since Sept. 6, 2012. Brett McMurphy, formerly of ESPN, also predicted this matchup on Oct. 15, although he had the teams facing off in the Gasparilla Bowl. So the latest pick is an upgrade, albeit unlikely.

Bill Bender of Sporting News envisions Pitt facing Texas in the Camping World Bowl in what would be just the fourth meeting between the two programs. Pitt has never defeated Texas, but the Longhorns’ average margin of victory is a surprisingly low six points. Finally, Jason Kirk of SB Nation has Pitt in the Quick Lane Bowl, a descendant of the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit. That was the site of Pitt’s last bowl win, which came in 2013 over Bowling Green State.

At this point, it’s tough to say which bowl game seems like the most likely destination for Pitt, as three games remain on the regular-season schedule, presenting a number of variables. But if Pitt stays the course and finishes somewhere around 7-5, it could find itself on a path toward redemption in El Paso, as the Sun Bowl has played host to many ACC teams dancing on the periphery of relevance in recent years. By the season’s end, Pitt could certainly fit that description.