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Pitt rises to No. 21 in College Football Playoff rankings

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Duke William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt kept the ball rolling on its strong season on Saturday with a 54-29 win over Duke, and the team was rewarded with a four-spot bump in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, moving from No. 25 up to No. 21.

Pitt benefited from losses by Fresno State, Kentucky and Minnesota, which saw those programs fall out of the rankings. However, Pitt, which sits at 7-2, was also jumped by Purdue, a previously unranked team that holds a 6-3 record. But evening that out to some extent is the fact that Pitt leapt ahead of San Diego State, an 8-1 team that comes in at No. 22.

The program is one of three from the ACC in the rankings, as NC State is at No. 16 and Wake Forest comes in at No. 12. That is bound to change in the coming days, though, as NC State and Wake Forest will play Saturday in a game that may well decide the ACC Atlantic.

As for Pitt, the team controls its own destiny at this point, as winning out would clinch the ACC Coastal and lead to a berth in the ACC title game. However, Pitt faces a tough road ahead, with tricky matchups with North Carolina and Virginia on the horizon. And even if Pitt wins out, it will likely need other teams to lose to crack the top 10, let alone the top four.

Pitt’s first step in continuing its climb up the rankings will be notching a win over North Carolina in a primetime ACC showdown at Heinz Field on Thursday night. The matchup will pit Heisman hopeful Kenny Pickett against one-time Heisman favorite Sam Howell. A win for Pitt would likely lead to a modest bump into the top 20, while a loss could possibly see Pitt fall out of the rankings altogether.