Not many national media outlets have high expectations for the 2018 Pitt Panthers.
What about the local media?
Over the last two days, Pittsburgh Sports Now has reached out to various members of the local media to get a prediction on how they feel Pat Narduzzi will do in his fourth season as Panthers head coach.
Here’s a sampling of what we media members are thinking.
Alan Saunders, Pittsburgh Sports Now:
“I see a much-improved Pitt team, but I also see one of the most daunting schedules in the country. Pitt will probably win one or two of the Panthers’ five games against teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25, but the gauntlet of the schedule is going to wear on them, and I’m not sure they have the depth on offense to suffer many losses. That could make late-season visits to Virginia and Wake Forest potential stumbling blocks. I’ll say 7-5 with one good win, one unexpected loss and Pitt’s first bowl victory since 2013 to get them to eight wins in three of Pat Narduzzi’s first four years.”
Harry Psaros, Pittsburgh Sports Now:
“I think Pitt will surprise many on the defensive side of the ball. It will be a unit that will surprise many nationally. Panther fans could finally see a defense comparable to the famed days when Narduzzi was at Michigan State. A great defense will always keep a team in the game. Pitt’s season will be in the hands of Kenny Pickett and the line that protects him. Young talent is emerging at wide receiver but he can’t throw them the ball if he’s on his back. He’ll have a strong group of running backs as a safety net. Pitt is a top 25 team with a strong schedule. I’m forever the Pitt optimist. My prediction is 8 wins this season.”
Rich Walsh, KDKA-TV Sports:
”I think Pitt will be better than last year but I still think there will be more growing pains. I’m optimistic that Kenny Pickett will be a very good college quarterback but I don’t think it happens this year. Don’t get me wrong, I think Pickett will be good at times this year but I expect his play to be inconsistent…just like the entire team. I think the defense will be better and will keep them in a lot of games including the Penn State game. Just like every year with the Panthers, expect an upset win but also expect a big disappointment. I expect Pitt to finish the season 7-5.”
Larry Richert, Pitt Football Radio Network:
”Pitt’s overall improvements start in the training center with Coach Andrews and staff. This Panther team appears to be the most fit I’ve seen in the past 8 seasons. We’ll see if that translates onto the field but it’s fundamentally a great place to start.
The new Defensive Coordinator Coach Bates will absolutely make a difference. They are deep at the linebacker position. If they can get pressure up front opponents will have a tough time scoring easily as in previous seasons. They should have an improved secondary as well.
Offensively in his second season, Coach Watson will have more of an impact since he was working with a hybrid playbook that was leftover by his predecessor Coach Canada. If Kenny Pickett is the real deal, the Panthers will also be a formidable offense with two senior running backs and weapons downfield.
The senior class seems genuinely bonded to each other and the mission.
With one of the nations toughest schedules, 8 wins would be a great season and a giant step in the the right direction for the program.
Pat Narduzzi has the team believing that they are capable of an ACC championship. He has shown he can slay the dragons with signature upsets over Penn State and Clemson in 2016 – plus Miami in 2017.
Is this the breakout year for the Panthers? Again, getting at least 8 wins says yes… and in my opinion possible.“
Ryan Recker, WTAE-TV Sports:
”Unlike last year, the QB spot is solidified this season, but Kenny Pickett remains unproven. The Panthers running game is solid and can certainly provide Pickett with some support and while the defense has the look of a unit that can be very good, I think the schedule, especially the non-conference portion, will be tough to navigate beyond a mark of 7-5.”
Cory Geiger, Altoona Mirror:
”5-7…Pat Narduzzi was quoted telling fans last week, “Next time we’ll see you is in Charlotte for the ACC championship game because we’re going.”
And this is the coach who doesn’t let his players talk the week of the Penn State game because he’s afraid they’ll say stupid things.”
Bob Pompeani, KDKA-TV Sports:
”The defense is finally all Narduzzi recruits for the most part. Their play should drastically improved. They have a quarterback with lots of confidence. I see a few upsets in what should be an improved 8-4 season.”
Bob Smizik, Former Post-Gazette Columnist:
”The Pitt program is moving in the right direction but I think a difficult 2018 schedule will stunt its progress. I also think the coach and the quarterback are putting way too much pressure on the quarterback. They need to tone down their rhetoric. I think the defense will be solid and much of the success of the offense will depend on the quarterback, who is young and inexperienced but talented. I think 7-5 is the best the team can do. I will not be surprised if it is 6-6 or worse.“
Jeff Hathhorn, 93.7 FM “The Fan”:
”I’m between 7-8 wins. I would go 8 for sure but it’s a tough schedule. I think the depth at most positions is as good as it’s been in years. There are options in the secondary and linebackers and they have no QB battle. Shawn Watson also seems to have his system in place. The return of George Aston will give Pickett a check down threat.”
Francis Guarnieri, Pittsburgh Sports Now:
”Defensively, I think Pitt will rank in the top-20, with the unit resembling Narduzzi’s defenses at MSU. Offensively, Pitt will go as far as Kenny Pickett takes them. There are a few holes on offense, but none that can’t be overcome with good quarterback play. I believe this is a top-25 team with an unfortunately tough schedule. My guess is 8 wins.”
Chris Dokish, Long-Time Pitt Writer:
”8-5. If Kenny Pickett and the defense are as good as they can be, they may even win 9 and get into the top 20.”
Bill Bender, Sporting News College Football Writer:
”Pitt is our sleeper pick in the ACC Coastal and an eight-or nine-win season is reasonable if they split the Virginia Tech and Miami games in November. The balance to that is a brutal non league schedule with Penn State, Notre Dame and UCF. If the Panthers get two of those games, then they would be set up for a 10-win season.
For that to happen, Pitt must be more consistent on the road, where they are a .500 team under Pat Narduzzi the last three years. With three road games in November, that won’t be easy. We still think Pitt surprises and finishes 8-4.
While most of the attention is on Kenny Pickett, I’ll be watching running backs Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollision. They combined for 17 TDs last season, and Narduzzi’s offense is at its best when two running backs are putting up big numbers.”
Mike Vukovcan, Pittsburgh Sports Now:
“I’m going to out on a limb here and say that Pitt will have their best season since 2009. Strength will be the running game, a strong defense and a couple of the young wide receivers will emerge to become go to targets for Kenny Pickett. Pitt will finish the regular season with a record of 9-3.”