The ACC released Pitt’s schedule for the 2020 football season on Wednesday morning, and the final product leaves the team positioned for success in ways it hasn’t been in recent years.
Most notably, with the rollout of the ACC Network now in the past, Pitt will not kick off the season with a conference matchup as it did in 2019. Instead, the team will begin 2020 like it finished 2019: against a MAC opponent. This time around, the opponent will be Miami on Sept. 5, and the venue will be Heinz Field. That should pose a major challenge to a RedHawks team that went 2-5 on the road in 2019.
The Panthers will follow that up with a trip to Huntington, West Virginia, where they will take on Marshall on Sept. 12. Early road trips can be tough, but Pitt is undefeated against the Conference USA team and should have a more positive experience in the Mountain State than it did in early-season visits to Penn State in Happy Valley in recent years.
In Week 3, Pitt gets Richmond in Pittsburgh on Sept. 19, and that should give Pitt one of its most winnable starts to a season in the past decade, with the FCS-level Spiders coming off a 5-7 campaign in 2019. But even the start of ACC play could be beneficial for Pitt, as the team drew Duke for its conference opener.
Historically, Pitt has performed well against Duke, as it owns a 6-1 record against the Blue Devils since entering the ACC in 2013. That includes five wins in the teams’ last five meetings. In addition, the game will be played at home. So the matchup is winnable for Pitt.
The first tough draw for the team comes in Week 5, when Pitt is scheduled to face Miami. Traditionally, Miami has fared well against Pitt, even when it hasn’t been expected to. That was the case in 2019, when the Hurricanes topped the Panthers at Heinz Field 16-12. Things won’t get easier for Pitt at Hard Rock Stadium in 2020, but Pitt should at least be able to give Miami a competitive game.
Pitt’s four-game non-conference slate concludes with a tilt with Notre Dame at Heinz Field on Oct. 17. The game comes after a bye week for the Panthers, so they should be able to give a tough Irish team their best shot on their home field. The rivalry hasn’t been kind to Pitt over the years, but it has produced close games, as seven of the last eight meetings were decided by seven points of fewer.
After that, Pitt gets into the meat of its ACC schedule with six conference competitions in a row against Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and Syracuse. Of that bunch, the home games against Georgia Tech and Syracuse look winnable, and the road trips to North Carolina and Virginia seem likely to trip Pitt up. However, the home tilt with Virginia Tech and the road trip to Tallahassee to face a reeling Florida State team currently look like coin flips.