With the ACC Coastal Division wrapped up with Pitt’s win over Wake Forest on Saturday, the Panthers’ finale against Miami this Saturday doesn’t technically mean anything.
Win or lose, Pitt will advance to play Clemson the following week in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thanks to Virginia’s loss last week, there isn’t even any chance of another team glomming onto Pitt’s glory as co-champions.
But that doesn’t mean the Panthers are putting it into neutral and taking a nice, easy November vacation to South Beach.
The Panthers expect their full complement to travel to Miami and intend to putting everything they’ve got into earning win No. 8 against the Hurricanes, and not looking ahead to the No. 2 Tigers.
“We’re putting all our effort, I guarantee you, into this week, into this Miami Hurricane football team,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said on Monday. “I’ve already spent more time than normal on Mondays, period. I’m way ahead of where I am. We’ve got plenty of time for that next one.”
The team and Pitt’s fans are riding high right now on the heels of the program’s first outright division or conference championship. But things could still go south quickly. Pitt is a 5.5-point underdog to Miami, and will likely be even a larger long shot against Clemson.
The Panthers will get three more games, but three more losses would mean a .500 season at 7-7. That’s not going to prolong the good feelings surrounding the team right now.
“This football team doesn’t like to lose,” Narduzzi said. “Nobody likes to lose. It gives you a bad taste in your mouth, and we don’t want that.”
One of the signatures of Narduzzi’s tenure has been a season opener where his team didn’t necessarily show their whole hand against a lesser opponent, with the hopes of taking their first high-level foe by surprise with some things.
But Narduzzi doesn’t seem particularly into that vein right now. After all, at Wake Forest, in what was essentially garbage time, Pitt ran a throwback lateral to left tackle Stefano Millin for a touchdown. It’s a play that Pitt obviously used in the past with Brian O’Neill, but it was a new wrinkle in that situation, and one that Narduzzi was OK with putting on tape at that point.
“The goal was not to worry about next week or save it for next week,” he said. “The goal was to win that football game, and whatever it takes.”
Narduzzi was not asked Monday about the status of freshman wide receiver V’Lique Carter, but if he follows that line of thinking, Carter could have his redshirt permanently removed by suiting up in his fifth game.
Any thoughts of saving him for Clemson can probably be put on the shelf. Actually, Narduzzi pretty emphatically shelved any mention of Clemson and the Championship Game.
“We’re not talking about it,” he said. “It won’t be mentioned in here. … Any questions about Miami?”