2013 Season Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers

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Nov 03, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver T.J. Jones (7) makes a catch against Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Lafayette Pitts (23) during the second half at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame defeats Pittsburgh 29-26 in 3 OT. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Schedule: November 9, 2013

Where: Heinz Field

Network: NBC

Hitting the home stretch of our 2013 opponent preview. Only BYU and Stanford left, but today we look at Pitt.

Overview

Last season the Pittsburgh Panthers roared into Notre Dame stadium and nearly destroyed the hopes and dreams of all Irish fans in a three-overtime thriller. In the first half the Panthers dominated the Irish in every aspect of the game as RB Ray Graham ran through huge holes in the Irish’s #1 ranked defense and Tino Sunsieri played like an All-America candidate. As the 4th quarter approached most ND fans thought all was lost, but then the unthinkable happened, Everett Golson came to the rescue. Golson dazzled fans with his legs and arm keeping the chains moving in the most improbable manner. With an assist from the referees on a questionable pass interference and missed field goal in overtime, Golson and the Irish prevailed and maintained their undefeated record. Pitt fans loudly proclaimed a “conspiracy by college football to keep the Irish undefeated”, but as an Irish fan I believe the referees owed Notre Dame for the clipping call in the ’90 national championship against Colorado, so let’s call it even.

If Pittsburgh had completed their improbable upset of Notre Dame they would have added some luster to an otherwise up-and-down season. The Panthers lost badly to Youngstown State, an FCS school, and Cincinnati in the first two games of the season but rebounded with solid wins against Virginia Tech and Rutgers. After finishing 6-6 Pitt accepted a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl to face Ole Miss who won handedly 38-17. During the season Pitt displayed excellent play on defense and at quarterback but they lacked consistent performances to win over equal or lesser opponents.

In the offseason the university decided to join the ACC which presents a challenge for Paul Chryst, the Panther’s dynamic head coach. If Chryst intends to compete in the school’s new conference he needs to immediately address the team’s inconsistent play. Unfortunately for Chryst, Pitt graduates three year starters QB Tino Sunsieri and RB Ray Graham. The team received even worse news when sophomore RB Rushel Shell decided to transfer to West Virginia. Some fans had compared Shell to former Pitt great and hall-of-famer Tony Dorsett. Chryst will return a formidable defense, but how well he develops the offense will determine whether Pitt makes a bowl next season.

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