Pitt football’s season opener is scheduled for Sept. 12 at Heinz Field, but the opponent on that date is still very much up in the air.
When Pitt announced its re-worked 2020 schedule with 10 conference foes and one non-conference opponent, Miami Univ. (Ohio) was supposed to fill that slot. But the RedHawks and the rest of the MAC have postponed their seasons, leaving the Panthers without a day one dancing partner.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi confirmed on Monday that the Panthers are still looking for a game for that slot.
“Obviously, we’re looking,” Narduzzi said. “We’ve got some inquiries. My biggest concern is the health and safety of our kids. I get concerned about these teams. Can they come in and do what we ask them to do? The ACC protocols are going to get more strict, not less stringent. I’m not sure some of the teams can do what we want them to do. I’m not going to sit here on a Friday before they get here ‘I hope they did that.’”
The Panthers do not have to play the game, but it is their only chance at a tune-up before league play. If they do desire another opponent, here are some of the options they could be looking at:
Temple: The Owls do not have a non-conference game after all four scheduled non-conference opponents backed out, including a scheduled ACC game against Miami. Temple’s first game on the docket is Sept. 26 at Navy, so Sept. 12 would be a sensible date for them to try to play a non-league game. Being in the state, Pitt could theoretically play at Temple, but a team source told Pittsburgh Sports Now that the current priority is for a home game.
South Florida: The Bulls have lost all but one of their non-conference games, with just a Sept. 16 trip to FAU left on the docket. They’ve been actively searching for another game earlier in September and a Sept. 12 trip to Pittsburgh would seem to fit right in.
The Citadel: The SoCon has cancelled its season, but the Bulldogs want to play their four non-conference games in the fall, including a Sept. 19 date at Clemson. That’s their only game on the docket right now.
North Alabama: The same applies here, as the Lions are trying to play four non-league games despite the Big South moving to the spring. They have contests scheduled against Jacksonville State Oct. 17, at Southern Miss Nov. 7 and at home against BYU on Nov. 21.
Austin Peay: The Governors also have one game left out of four non-conference opportunities, having scheduled Central Arkansas, Cincinnati and East Tennessee State outside of OVC action. They do not have a game scheduled for Sept. 12.
Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks have games against North Alabama and FIU, but neither are for Sept. 12. JSU athletic director Greg Seitz told The Gadsden Times he wants one of his four games to be at home, leaving the door open for the Gamecocks to make a trip to Pittsburgh on Sept. 12.
Florida Atlantic: FAU lost two of its three non-conference games and one league game, so the Owls have some holes to fill. Athletic director Brian White told the TCPalm recently that he’d like to get to 10 games from his current nine and Sept. 12 is an off date.
Troy: The Trojans had a Sept. 12 date with UMass cancelled when the Minutemen hung up their cleats for the season. Troy has 11 games scheduled, but seems intent on playing a full slate, going as far as to schedule a home-and-home series against Middle Tennessee State.
Middle Tennessee State: MTSU has an idle week Sept. 12, before its first two games with Troy, and just 11 games total on its schedule after losing buy games to Duke and Virginia Tech.
North Texas: Pittsburgh is a long way from Denton, Texas, but the Mean Green have 11 games and lost a Power Five buy game against Texas A&M when the SEC went conference only that they have yet to be able to replace.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have just one non-conference game left on their schedule out of their original four, Austin Peay, and Cincinnati is free on Sept. 12 with three games to schedule. Pitt and Cincinnati currently have scheduled a two-game series in 2023 and 2024, so perhaps the Panthers could arrange to move up their home game and preserve the game contract. But the Bearcats have announced that they intend that Sept. 19 game against Austin Peay to be their season opener. Can they be convinced to reconsider?
Navy and BYU: The Mids are off on Sept. 12 and have one game left to schedule before they reach the maximum of 12. BYU, meanwhile, has just five games on its slate. But those two teams are scheduled to play one another on Monday, Sept. 7. Five-day turnarounds are pretty rare in college football, but perhaps desperate times could call for a relatively desperate measure. BYU could probably stay out east instead of having to fly back across the country. They also play at Army on Sept. 19.