A sign of a solid football program is when they’re still playing meaningful games at the end of the season.
And that’s exactly the situation Pat Narduzzi and Pitt find themselves today.
With two regular season games remaining, the Panthers find themselves with a record of 7-3 and in contention to repeat as ACC Coastal Division Champions. For Pitt to earn a rematch with Clemson in Charlotte, they need to win out and then have Virginia Tech beat first-place Virginia.
All of that is very possible but it all starts this afternoon at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia.
I don’t think it’s exaggeration to say this is Pat Narduzzi’s most important regular season game as head coach at Pitt.
Disagree? Consider what’s at stake for Pitt if they beat Virginia Tech.
First off, they eliminate the Hokies and it becomes a two-team race between themselves and Virginia for the Coastal where they might have the edge heading into the final week of the season. Virginia Tech is playing really well right now and historically have had the edge over in-state rival Virginia.
In terms of the overall value to the Pitt football program they’d receive for playing in the conference title game in back-to-back seasons, well, I think that’s pretty obvious.
Winning today would allow Pitt the chance to finish the 2019 season with at least nine wins. Before you brush that off as not that important, consider that since 1983, Pitt has only had three 9+ win seasons (2002, 2008, 2009). Here’s another mind boggling statistic, in the history of the Pitt program which dates back to 1890, they’ve only had six double-digit win total seasons. The Panthers have a chance to do that by winning today, against Boston College and then in their bowl game.
The other thing that Pitt would achieve by winning today is to get themselves ranked in the national polls. With a record of 8-3 and by beating a team that’s already ranked on the road, I think there’s a good chance that Pitt would find themselves ranked in the AP rankings and the National Championship Playoff rankings on Tuesday night.
Finishing the season ranked would be another step for Narduzzi and the Panther program since they haven’t accomplished that since 2009.
While some things remain unanswered and uncertain, one thing that’s become crystal clear is that for the first time in a long time, the Pitt football program is on solid ground and that’s all a reflection of the CEO of the program: Pat Narduzzi.
Although it might have taken longer than some wanted or expected, Narduzzi has responded his critics and doubters with action and results on the field. Some might question his demeanor and the way he does certain things, but it can’t be questioned that his players love playing for him and he’s getting the job done.
Narduzzi has a realistic chance to have his highest win total since arriving at Pitt and will have won eight games in three of the five seasons.
Despite earning his reputation as one of the best defensive coordinators in the country, the solid defensive results were lacking the first few seasons and he received criticism for that. However, those results started to happen last season and have carried over to this year where Pitt has one of the top defenses in the country. The talent on defense is young and has depth so this won’t be a one year wonder.
Fans wanted higher rated recruits and claimed Narduzzi was uncapable of attracting them. While higher star kids don’t automatically result in a winning program, it can’t be argued that the more a program is able to sign, the better chance of success. Likely the appearance in the ACC Championship Game helped with this but Narduzzi already has commitments from seven 4-star recruits for Pitt’s Class of 2020. Winning will result in higher ranked players for Narduzzi.
It’s taken some time but as I’ve mentioned a couple times this season, the Pitt Panther football program is in a great spot right now and are likely headed to higher places under Narduzzi. A win today in Blacksburg will be another step for Pitt and one in which could turn 2019 into a special one.